Dear Global Self-Reggers: Amelia Anisovych

Apr 18, 2022 | Dear Global Self-Reggers

Dear Global Self-Reggers,

I was incredibly moved when I saw this picture of Amelia Anisovych singing “Let it Go” in a bomb shelter. 

Ukrainian girl, 7, sings 'Let It Go' from Kyiv bomb shelter, goes viral;  Idina Menzel reacts -
(Watch the video HERE)

Like all the adults around her, I was spellbound. There is nothing I can say today that would come close to the power of this extraordinary seven-year-old.

I found this picture of a group of Ukrainians, singing in a bomb shelter during a Russian raid equally moving:

Footage of Ukrainians singing together in shelters amid Russian raids

This is such a powerful expression of the incredible resilience of the human spirit: singing, as did David, with “the waves of death swirling about him, the torrents of destruction overwhelming him” (2 Samuel 22). But why singing? 

There’s the breathing, of course, which counteracts the C02 buildup that panic produces. Then there’s the sense of social unity – the kama muta — produced by dopamine neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus. But most important of all is the fact that the auditory system is rich in endogenous opioids, especially in the lower midbrain inferior colliculus, which is the principal nucleus of the auditory pathway. When we sing, we bathe our nervous system in β-endorphins. What’s more, we trigger the release of oxytocin, which not only potentiates the endogenous opioids but strengthens our strength in and with each other.

Ever since Michael Meaney did his extraordinary research on rats, we’ve known just how important touch is. Abundantly licked rats are more resistant to stress, grow up to be less anxious, and turn out to be excellent mothers themselves when it is time to nurture their own pups. And here is where things get extremely interesting, for recent research indicates that hearing is a form of touch. 

Soothing sound waves caress the skin stretched over the eardrum, releasing oxytocin and opioids. Evelyn Glennie’s “Hearing Essay” is a must-read on this topic. Just as our children and teens need to be hugged, they need us to sing to them. To sing with them. To sing to and with each other. 

My reaction to Amelia Anisovych’s singing was literally visceral. Not just a feeling of deep empathy and hope but physical chills produced deep in my midbrain: an ancient form of resonance. And while we may not be able to sing to all those who are suffering from this genocidal assault, we must do what we can to let them know that they are being heard, for hearing is also a form of touch: one that soothes the human spirit. 

Ours as well as theirs.

– Stuart Shanker

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