The Blessing and Curse of Being Finely Attuned to Sound

The Blessing and Curse of Being Finely Attuned to Sound December 10, 2018

I would be most upset to lose my sense of hearing

A fairly common get-to-know-you question is, “If you had to choose to keep either your sense of sight or your sense of hearing, which would you choose?” To be honest, I’d be upset to lose either of these senses. There is so much beauty in the world and I would struggle to not see it. I love reading and I would struggle to learn to read braille and use other types of technology to read and write. But I could still imagine. If I lost my sight now, I’ve seen enough that I could still piece together in my mind what things look like or imagine other things. I’d still know what colors look like even if I could no longer see them.

But if I lost my hearing…

Not being able to hear voices or music or the wind rustling the trees, that would crush me. Especially since sounds fuel my imagination and my ability to see things in my mind. No longer hearing any sound would be a terrible burden to me.

 

My anxiety is auditorily triggered

Too many sounds at once, too many unfamiliar sounds, being unable to make out what someone is saying to me, and like actions disorient me and trigger my anxiety. I have generalized anxiety disorder which means there’s not truly a rhyme or reason for why my anxiety is triggered; I have been able to see patterns in what triggers my anxiety, but sometimes I start to have a panic attack for no reason. This can be very frustrating! And it can be so frustrating for my family. When my kids are playing, after a certain amount of time of them hollering and having a good time or if they reach certain volumes, I have to ask them to stop and quiet down because I am becoming panicky. Sometimes the physiological symptoms of anxiety overwhelm me, too, and I’m down for the count with a migraine or an upset stomach or muscle weakness. Sometimes I’ve been fighting the anxiety all day and by the end of the day, I just collapse.

It’s funny, then, that I would rather give up my sight than my hearing since sound affects me so much, but I think that’s exactly why. Sound affects me so much that to lose my hearing would be to lose a significant part of myself. Often music moves me to tears because it reverberates through my soul so much. Often I can detect a change in demeanor or intention because I can sense subtle changes in someone’s voice very easily.

 

Sound lights up my entire being

The first time I can remember making my first major auditory-visual connection like these was when I was six years old. My class was learning how to pray the Rosary. Our first grade classroom had the fluorescent lights switched off but the window blinds open so that it was dark and calming. We sat in a circle on the floor carpet in the back of the room while our teacher taught us the prayers and the mysteries and how to move along with the beads. We were given those plastic rosaries with the beads that shone in the light and that was really something to us.

We went through the prayers. “Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name”– I imagined God with His white beard and wisdom sitting on a cloud surrounded by angels. “Thy kingdom come”– I saw a castle of gold and God sitting on His magnificent throne, with a stern and powerful, yet kind face. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”– I imagined the people of the world worshipping God in His throne room right alongside the angels who were doing the same. “Give us this day our daily bread”– I imaged God literally hand out loaves of bread to people. “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”– I imagined people climbing over each other’s fences to steal from each other but instead of sending each other to jail, the people righted their wrongs, shook hands, and climbed back over the fences. “And lead us not into temptation”– I saw two roads diverging and a little me mulling over which to choose. “But deliver us from evil”– I saw God swoop in and carry me away from a very red-horned, very scary devil. The same thing happened with the Hail Mary and I still see these images when I pray these prayers nearly 30 years later.

A more recent example of how greatly sound affects my other senses and especially my sense of imagination happened when I was on a voice chat with some people that I have never seen in person (thank you, social media, for bringing us together) and only really knew one of the people on the chat. When my friend (remember, I had not seen this person’s face yet as he didn’t use his actual picture for his social media avi) spoke, there were times I could almost hear him pushing up glasses on his nose; that is, I could hear pauses in his speech patterns that I imagined to be him fixing his glasses. While the chat was ongoing, I messaged him privately and asked if he wore glasses. Taken aback, he conceded that he does wear glasses.

 

Most things are a blessing and a curse

It often upsets me when my anxiety is triggered so heavily by sounds. I can’t always just let my children be children and make noise joyfully. I can’t always play music. I can’t always concentrate well enough to someone who is speaking to me. Sometimes I have to run away from noisy situations and get some quiet so I can collect myself. It’s hard! Sometimes I wish that I didn’t have anxiety or that it wasn’t so auditorily triggered. Sometimes I wish that sounds couldn’t make me feel so much, didn’t affect me so much.

But the flip side is that it is a beautiful gift to be so attuned to sounds and the way they are and what they tell me and make me feel. It is a gift to be so sensitive to the movement of sound. In this way, God presents Himself to me in everything I hear, and then allows my imagination to be awakened by these sounds and create more imagery and beauty. I would not be me if this was taken away from me, or, at least, I would have to relearn a significant portion of how to relate to the world. So I try to mitigate the negatives as much as possible (for me, a combination of therapy and medication has been extremely helpful) and do good with this gift I’ve been given.

There’s a song by Hillsong United called “Hosanna” and its chorus goes like this:

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

“Break my heart for what breaks yours”– that’s some powerful stuff. It means being so united with God in His Love that we feel what He feels, we see what He sees, we are pure as He is pure. Yes, this is exactly what I want. To harken back to my first post, the Suscipe also speaks of this. Everything I am is God’s, do with it as You will. In one way for me, this means being finely attuned to the sounds of this world. May I also learn to hear so finely not just with my ears, but also with my heart.

 

Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/garlandcannon/5396077914

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