Are You Trapped?

Are you trapped in unsettledness and don’t know it?

The biggest problem today is out of control, repressed or suppressed moods.

The solution: emotion regulation. When emotional regulation is practiced regularly, emotional fluidity causes resilience: the ability to bounce back quickly and stronger from negative experiences. Imagine being less upset when change happens by recognizing and accepting your entire continuum of emotions.

When you don’t accept your entire continuum of emotions as a normal biological part of you, it may mean you don’t feel comfortable expressing (in a healthy way) all your moods.  This broad continuum of feelings includes unsettled, soothed and happily energized emotions. Investigate what it feels like to be stuck in what we call at Music4Life a “Chronic Comfort Zone.”  There are three Chronic Comfort Zones in Music4Life’s Music Medicine Protocol.  Referencing Music4Life’s “6 Habits of Music Medicine for Highly Empowered People,” in Habit 1 Activity 3, personal emotional shapes are investigated to determine if your responses indicate entrapment in a Chronic Comfort Zone. These zones can complicate life as you become caught in a prevailing mood that represses or suppresses other emotions. There are three categories of potential entrapment that may lead to road rage, active shooter incidents, suicide, and panic attacks. Learn more about these zones in the first habit called “Zone Recognition” in “6 Habits of Music Medicine for Highly Empowered People.”

This research study investigated how music listening strategies related to mental health, wondering how people cope with negative emotion when listening to music.

Maladaptive and adaptive emotion regulation through music: a behavioral and neuroimaging study of males and females (Carlson et al, 2015)

The goal of this study is to define maladaptive listening strategies, exploring maladaptive neural responses to music and the connections between the two.  Participants (n=123, 68 females and 55 males) were between the ages of 18 and 55. Psychological tests were used to assess depression, anxiety, Neuroticism and uses of Music Mood Regulation with Diversion, Discharge and Solace strategies used. T-test results identified gender differences in emotionality and in uses of music. Excerpts from the Soundtracks dataset for music and emotion developed at the University of Jyvaskyla were used as music stimulus. Participants completed various tasks after listening to random ordered excerpts. Functional magnetic resonance imaging measured pre-frontal neural responses to music.
Study findings showed correlations between listening tendencies and mental health outcomes, particularly in response to negative affect. Using music to express negative emotions (Discharge Strategy) was related to increased anxiety and Neuroticism in all participants, and particularly in males. Discharge strategies may be an ineffective way to use music and may even be a maladaptive coping mechanism.
Females high in Diversion (using music to distract from negative emotions) showed more medial pre-frontal cortex (“mPFC” – a key area in the processing of music-emotions) activity than females using less Diversion. Using music to calm your mood and as a distraction may be better coping mechanisms and more effective in music mood regulation and its therapeutic outcome. This finding is particularly significant in clinical music therapy.
However, because this study examines neural responses only in the mPFC, it may not give a complete picture of the relationship between music mood regulation strategies and neural response to music with further comprehensive study advised also for gender differences and its correlation to variances of neural or psychological functioning of males and females.
Bottom line: the study’s findings reported anxiety and neuroticism were higher for those listening to aggressive or sad music. It did not improve the negative mood. As you continue to notice what music is appealing or music to avoid, be aware that any of your responses could be indicators of Chronic Comfort Zones. The bigger question is: can you regulate your emotions successfully? Being trapped in a Chronic Comfort Zone does not support effective emotional regulation.
Because the power of music can induce emotional responses, it is imperative that therapists are aware of and understand that self-selected music and non-musical listening strategies can impact guided affect regulation of mood disorders. Non music therapists are urged to access Music4Life’s certification trainings to more deeply understand the prescriptive nature of using music in therapy sessions.


Carlson, E. et al (2015). Maladaptive and adaptive emotion regulation through music: a behavioral and neuroimaging study of males and females. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2015; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00466





Today’s article was written by our Guest Blogger:

Judith Pinkerton, LPMT, MT-BC

Licensed board-certified music therapist

Founder/CEO, Music 4 Life® Inc.

T  702-889-2881