Updated: Apr 12, 2021
Psychology defines compartmentalization as a coping strategy. Put simply, it’s how our minds deal with conflicting internal standpoints simultaneously. For example, most people compartmentalize their lives Work, home, and Family, to help mentally organize daily tasks.
I believe having the ability to compartmentalize is necessary to be a happy and successful musician. But, there are some pitfalls that we should look out for.
1.) Having the ability to sort things out and disconnect temporarily keeps stress and anxiety at lower levels. It allows us to work well in high-pressure situations, particularly if something negative occurs. One thing I think we forget to do is, go back and unpack the compartment so we can deal with what's inside properly. For Example, you have a performance, and just before it, you have an argument with a sibling. Even if you can't speak to the sibling it's important and necessary to understand what happened and make a realistic plan to deal with it. situation the next time you sit to practice or perform, the situation is not festering and becoming a distraction.
2.) We use compartmentalizing as a way to keep an open mind and make ourselves available to connect with new people. If not checked, it can result in the opposite and we can unintentionally ostracize ourselves. You may come off as emotionally unavailable or unapproachable. I have made this mistake. There were times that I was so focused on the professional aspect of being a musician, that I came off cold and "arrogant". The other musicians didn't make an effort to get make a connection with me.
3.) We flex this muscle a lot when we are dealing with rejection or temporary set back. Compartmentalizing is what allows us to keep moving forward in the face of adversity. You may find comfort in going along with your daily routine. I can tell you from experience not taking time to understand what happened and learn from it, not only will stunt your musical growth but, also your personal growth.
One action I take to healthy compartmentalize is to write it down on a post-it. Sometimes it's just one word. It reminds me to open the lid and deal with the subject(s) inside. This allows me to move forward with a clearer head. We all deal with the world by compartmentalizing but keeping the containers accessible will help you be a successful musician.
What’s your experience with compartmentalization, and your suggestions for finding a balance?