Coping Mechanism: The Pianist

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The Pianist, directed by Roman Polanski, recounts the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jewish pianist, who miraculously survived the Holocaust. Throughout the movie, Szpilman’s musicality plays a key role in his survival: not only as a means of getting sympathy from others but also in enabling him to cope with the traumatic experiences he encounters. However, music did not always function successfully for Szpilman as a coping mechanism. In The Pianist, the emotional healing powers of music do not lie within music’s ability to escape into alternate, more desirable realities as a means of coping with a stressful situation. Rather, it is music’s ability to express emotions and reflect on complex experiences in order to begin to process them, …show more content…
EAC may also facilitate adaptive coping by facilitating a process of exposure, as the individual directly confronts feelings related to a stressor, which may help decrease anxiety and promote habituation to the stressor (466).
Emotional approach coping is an effective coping mechanism because the individual is “confronting” the emotions related to the stressor. Individuals need to acknowledge that these emotions exist in order to deal with them. Accessing these emotions can decrease the stress of the situation and motivate action. Ghetti also discusses how music is special in that it is able to “prompt emotional response and provide a means for emotional expression” (467). Music’s aesthetic qualities and its ability to directly impact the limbic system--nerves in the brain directly related to basic emotions and instincts--provide a means for emotional expression and decrease stress and anxiety.
In addition to being able to express emotions, artistic expression can function as a coping mechanism because it allows individuals to begin to process past experiences. However, there are also potentially dangerous aspects to using music as a coping mechanism because music can also lead to escape from reality. In an excerpt from David Young’s Aesthetic Response as Coping Behavior: An Anthropological Perspective Sigmund Freud discusses the negative aspects of artistic escape:
Freud, (1908/1933-1940) argued that although escape from reality may be entertaining and even
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