On Mosh Pits
Heavy metal is near and dear to my heart. It is obviously a catharsis in the face of opposition and, in conjunction with the shadow, a necessary expose into the unconscious of society. One outcome of world of heavy metal is the unrelenting, passionate crowd. Like all music, it defies borders (beginning at about 14:00). And, metal is the storehouse for the sublimation of of personal aggression and anger that resonate from the construct we live in. The resulting abreaction provides an outlet that discharges societal pain that is stored deep in the recesses of the body.
(Also, I softly believe that pain inflicted by a construct is ‘easier’ to cope with than one’s pain that is historiographical. Though they are VERY close to one another, the strong root of personal pain lies in one’s developmental/medical/environmental/educational history. The resulting ACTION responds to this personal pain, whether or not the individual is aware of it. Without cathartic action, the repression of these developmental experiences can result in loneliness and fear that create incredibly isolating scenarios in one’s mind and body. Without a collective discussion in the metacognition of society through the destigmatization of mental health, the awareness of traumatic histories of other people, the magic of music etc… to share and recognize these experiences; the aforementioned fear and isolation can lead to health issues, addiction, relationship problems and even suicide. This can result in the projection of anger in areas that are misplaced, at friends, family, a pet, a teacher, your waitress… A macroscopic entity, like a heavy metal concert, produces a cogent avenue for anger. Though one’s attraction to metal is a personal response, metal itself stands in recognition of the darkness of society (shadow) and defiance of a constructed aspect of the world we live in. Since the anger is filtered through the music, it is less personal. It does not dig into the root. More on this later..)
An aspect of metal that is unfamiliar to the layperson (read:non-metalhead) is the mosh pit. Questions abound. Why would anyone do that? Isn’t that so dangerous? Aren’t there angry people who will punch you in the head? Answers to these questions vary from metalhead to metalhead, genre to genre, but generally:
Why? It’s incredibly liberating. It can provide unparalleled access to one’s own body and movement.
Danger? Not really, so long as you pay attention to your body, and other peoples around you. And also, attend to your own comfort zone. I have been in hundreds of pits ranging from hardcore to thrash to scream-o to punk to death metal… and each one is different. Each one requires different assessment, feeling and thought.
Angry people? Sure, but not as many as you may think. There are probably angry people on the subway too. For the most part, people are apologetic and so long as you mind your limbs, they mind theirs. Everyone’s happy.
If you have not been a part of one, then the experience of reading about it could be underwhelming. A sea of bodies, moving in unison produces a union with those around you. It provides physical connection to strangers in conjunction with a level of touch, literally almost all of your bodies is enveloped by series of 6-8 other bodies around you, that stands in direct contract to a world that revolves around one’s own ‘bubble’. In the culture and context of the West, your personal space is your safe haven, reserved only for the closest of connections. Meanwhile in India, good luck with the idea of personal space.
Interestingly, research has shown that the development of personal space begins around age 3-4 in the amygdala, the region of the brain that processes fear and survival. This is FASCINATING to consider in respect to mosh pits and crowds. It is worthwhile to consider how this sense of fear is established alongside in the process of child development. This makes sense to establish fear and survival mechanisms in conjunction with a time period when children become more mobile, and establish relationships outside the family unit. It is also a time when children have more motor skill development, get attuned with their bodies and movement in new and exploratory ways. This leads to a greater consideration for psychosomatic therapy, and reinforces the work of Bessel Van Der Kolk, that trauma is stored in the body. As a child develops a sense of self, body and independence, they concordantly develop a sense of fear, survival and personal space. It also reinforces Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex and the fear of castration/penis envy for the child.
This could suggest that we NEED personal space to feel safe and process the stronger emotional responses that live in the external (physical) world.
At what point during our lives as cellular organisms did we not require defenses such as these? When we little groupings of cells developing in the womb.
In a microscopic sense, a mosh pit removes one’s sense of personal space as it devolves into a cacophonous hoard of bodies, arms, legs and crowd-surfers, as one becomes one is a mere cell of the organism. The thump of drums and bass provide the rhythm to where the wave of individuals bodies form a greater mass. For some it is inviting, for some it is liberating, for some it is anxiety inducing and in the end it can be revitalizing.
In a macro sense, moshing, as a part of heavy metal and metal’s broader formation with the shadow of our culture, is the tidal force that responds to the idea of ownership of space. The idea that things can be owned is blurred and the movement of a mass returns individuals to the primitive value of dance, connection, and acts as a conduit for the spiritual, in opposition to the idea of ownership. It is temporary because all things are temporary.
We are all here temporarily, ownership of a house, land and things are all temporary. Other than the short-term effects, I sometimes wonder what the long-term effect of drilling for oil will be, effectively creating caverns in the Earth. Sometime, somehow, those caverns of Earth will displace each other on their own and SOMETHING will happen?
Mosh pits, wombs, caverns and Freud all in one post? Geez.
Metal reminds of us about the darkness out there. When observed, it can remind us to take things a little less seriously/personally and also forces us to value seeing the way things really are, within ourselves. If metal makes you angry, it may not be a good thing to listen to right before a big family gathering.
Mosh pits can also be hilarious.
Maybe we have a lot to learn from the world of heavy metal.
Keep Thinking, Stay Woke, Break Dissonance… Live Metal.