The Tenor of the Tenors

directorMy heart and my head, for all the world to see

So, as I wrote in the intro to this series, the small debate I was having with myself was over the Tenors.

In male 4-part singing, there are the First Tenors (also called Top Tenors) and Second Tenors (also called Lead Tenors.) The Leads carry the melody, almost without exception, unless for some reason the composer shifts it around – it happens and it’s not common.

My dilemma, as I mentioned, was and is an age-old question. In matters that effect both the head and the heart, which leads?

This “wrong” answer to this one seemingly superficial question, is likely responsible for 95% of all of the personal issues we get stuck in.

Let’s look at the dilemma first and then I’ll share my thinking on which attribute gets “The Lead.”

I mentioned several weeks ago that I’d been working with a client who was in an almost continuous argument with her husband. She was working toward finding and developing her own identity, and hubby was finding her non-compliance with “his needs first” to be disconcerting. He was reacting with anger and trying intense manipulation.

Each week for 10 weeks, my client would report 5 bad days, 2 good days, and the 2 good days followed her “giving in” and having sex with the husband.

The bad days demonstrated a pattern of escalating fighting and game playing, and my client doing her best to pour oil on troubled water. What was clear was that her emotions were in the lead, and the chief of them was fear – fear of abandonment, fear of loss of control and fear of rejection.

When she had a breath and we simply explored the dynamics of the relationship, and stepped through what had been happening (details I’d remember and she’d “conveniently” forgotten) she’d sigh and say, “I know what to do, but I’m too chicken.”

Finally, last week, we were discussing the pervious week’s 5/2 pattern, and in the middle of doing her “I’m confused” dance, she stopped dead, screwed up her eyes, wrinkled her forehead, looked me in the eyes and said, “I have to leave my marriage.”

Now, what happened there is common.

Most people have precious little experience processing their reality. What I mean by that is that, when it comes (mostly) to inter and intra personal relationship material, there is categorization and labelling and comparison, and not much analysis.

As a counterpoint, imagine a bookshelf and a table and a stack of books on the table.

Most people conduct their lives like librarians. They see the stack of books, sigh, and begin. Their first job is to open the book to the copyright page and to find the catalogue number. Then, they get a spine card, put on the catalogue number and put tape over it, to protect it and to ensure it gets filed “right.” On and on, through the stack.

Then, they take the books to the shelf and put them into groups, determined by the catalogue number. Having done that, they stand back and stare.

“Boy, look at all those books about grief and loss. Wow. I must be a real expert on grief and loss. And I have a ton of books on failed relationships. And see! So few books on being a loveable person. Well, there you have it. We’re obviously the “failed relationships, not happy, unlovable person library.”

From there, it’s a short leap to, “And we’re the best in our field!”

Now, the librarian may even have read some of the books. But the reading is “emotional reading.” It’s reading to make sure the book is catalogued correctly. It’s reading to reaffirm the rock-solid pre-conceived notion about the nature of the library.

Soon, the librarian will start searching the remaining stack of uncatalogued books for books that – in any way – contain material that doesn’t support the purpose of the library. There is no way that a book on “healthy relationships” will ever be catalogued, let alone be put on the shelves, because there is a filter in place that does not allow for such a book to exist in this place.

And the scary part is, this library feels quite familiar and “safe” to the librarian. It may be dull, it may be boring and predictable, it may even be declared to be “not what I want to do with my life,” and yet… there the librarian sits, stays, and catalogues the library she or he created.

Let’s put this in perspective. My client is simply collecting and re-hashing examples (books) that prove (to her) that her husband is insensitive and that she’s stuck with him forever. It’s the “library” she lives in. Because she simply wants to “prove” his negativity and her stuckness, all that happens is categorization and labelling and comparison.

Now, imagine that a researcher shows up. She will not be content simply looking at the titles of the books – nor will she read “Readers Digest” versions of the text. To research is to delve deeply into the content of the books – deeply, but not emotionally.

This exploration gives the researcher an understanding of the material available in the library If the researcher is bright, she won’t make the leap that the library holds “the truth” about the topic at hand. The library, in a sense, reflects more about the person who acquired the books than about the topic itself.

And, the researcher will immediately see another thing. The researcher will notice what is missing.

My client had her “ah ha” moment when she stopped collecting and listing, and began to analyze the data available. In quick order, she realized that additional, endless examples didn’t change the analysis: She is in a marriage she hates.

We might say that the collector collects what he is interested and emotionally involved in. The researcher is interested in an endless exploration of the topic at hand. The collector is trying to build a case for a pre-existing, personal point of view.

The researcher is looking for both depth and breadth of analysis, in order to see where the datum will lead.

When either the brain or the emotions are left to their own devices, it’s like a collector.

  • The person who is “mostly emotions” reacts to situations with little insight and with much “heart.”
  • The thinker reacts from endless analysis of the same limited bank of information. They use their heads to “prove,” again and again, what they already know to be so.

In this sense, the Tenor voices might be best when always combined, with the Top voice following the Lead voice, providing “lift” to the song. And, as I noted in the first article, I believe that the Lead voice is the voice of the intellect.

Now, you could accuse me of picking reason or intellect because I’m male and males “tend” in this (YANG) direction. This may be so

But I would counter that clients, male and female, who lead with their emotions are often led into morose self-paralysis and whining. In a sense, it’s as if a channel of information has been elevated to the role of dictator.

On the other hand, the person who is all head, all analysis, is indeed “heartless.” The clarity of thought loses the personal – the felt-sense contact, person to person, and is perhaps logical yet ill-informed.

My judgement is that “brains dancing with heart” is likely the most productive position. So, Top Tenor is the heart – the emotions, and Lead Tenor is the capacity to reason.

Next week, more on balancing emotions and intellect, then a look at the Director and a week or two of discussion re. balancing grounding, gut instincts, emotions and reason.

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