Transforming Trauma Episode 042: Healing Complex Trauma Through Music with Nick Larson of Proxima Parada
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In this episode of Transforming Trauma, our host Sarah is joined by musician Nick Larson. Nick is a California-based songwriter, musician, and member of the band Próxima Parada. He uses his experiences growing up in dysfunction and working through trauma to create uplifting music that promotes healing. Throughout the episode, Sarah and Nick talk about the stigmas that surround therapy, familial and intergenerational trauma, vulnerability, reconnecting to our hearts, and the role music can play in the process of healing trauma. Nick hopes listeners feel encouraged “to give themselves permission to use music, poetry, or whatever outlet that may be, to use their suffering and trauma as fuel for creating art, beauty, and something meaningful for them.”
Nick shares what led him to writing music and using it to heal his trauma. In high school, Nick was a sports kid. But after a shoulder injury during his senior year, Nick had to find something other than rugby to occupy his time. With no experience with music, it was through a jazz musician friend of his that Nick was exposed to playing music and as Nick shares, “it awoke something in me”. Over the course of a decade, Nick went from tinkering on his friend’s piano, to learning how to play music in his college dorm, to writing his own songs — through the process, he began to feel the healing and connection music can provide.
Growing up within a volatile and unstable family system Nick describes that there wasn’t space for him to express sadness or fear. As he began playing and writing music he created a space for himself where he could start to process those emotions. “Music definitely opened up my heart and I started to actually feel things. The next thing I know, I’m using music to make sense of my experience,” Nick says.
The pair talk about how much vulnerability is required for someone to share themselves through music. Nick learned how to let himself be seen and heard by others through playing music. Despite waves of fear of putting himself out for others to hear, Nick shares the moving impact that sharing his music with others has. While Nick’s songs are very personal and specific to his own experience, he often hears from others how “his songs tell their stories.”
We hear a clip of Nick’s song, “Paying for It”, and Nick shares his experience of working through the intergenerational trauma that he’s experienced, and how growing up in dysfunction shaped him. So much of what Nick shares aligns with NARM, and Sarah reflects that what Nick describes is a process of using self-shaming and self-rejection to shut oneself down in order to survive. These adaptive survival strategies, though life-saving as children, become obstacles as we move into adulthood. Nick reports that going to therapy, and learning a new way of relating to himself, was a game-changer. Through therapy and through his music, Nick has learned how to reconnect to himself. The message of this song, Nick says, is “Yes, I am paying for what I’ve experienced… I know I’m struggling in many ways. But I’m also so grateful to have experienced that suffering, because of the ways I’ve grown.”
Nick references an important influence on his music and healing process, renowned teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, who writes, “A good gardener … [keeps] the garbage in order to make compost. The garbage, the compost, makes the flowers and fruits of the garden grow better. If we want to have the vegetables and the fruit, we must have the garbage.” Nick draws a comparison between this passage and transforming the trauma he’s experienced — and his pain, sadness, and fear — into music and his own healing.
Through the pandemic, while touring and playing shows has not been possible, Nick has focused on what is available to him, and has taken the time to write songs — more than thirty of them. Proxima Parada self-recorded a new album, “Second Brother” which will be available in August 2021. To listen to Nick’s music, you can find Proxima Parada on Spotify and YouTube and at www.proximaparadamusic.com
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Nick Larson is a songwriter, musician, and member of the band Próxima Parada who uses his experiences growing up in dysfunction and working with trauma to create uplifting music that promotes healing. Born and raised in California, Nick currently lives in San Luis Obispo.
To listen to Nick’s music: