The popular songs of our life are rich with associations. Listening to a song you loved in high school (and we didn’t just like our favorite songs in high school, we loved them: all passions ran high during those years), for example, can evoke memories so intense you feel you are there again: you recall exactly what you are wearing, what the halls of your school smell like, your chemistry lab partner’s green sweater, even the way the light shines through the windows and onto the hardwood floors, where you look while searching for the answers during an impromptu oral quiz in your English class. In my case, I recall with absolute clarity the pervasive scent of chocolate in our afternoon classes, which drove the nuns crazy (they didn’t know we used Hershey’s Cocoa Butter on our legs during lunch break as a tanning aid).
There is another way, though, that the popular songs of your youth have power. They can be used therapeutically.
Think of a song, for example, that you love and associate positively with the first bloom of your first love. This might be your first our song, or the one that was playing when you had your first kiss. Settle into a quite place with your laptop, go to YouTube, and find that song. Plug in your ear buds and close your eyes.
At first you will have the rush of all the associations I mentioned earlier. But if you linger a minute, and go deeper, you will also begin so sense that you can also recollect the feelings associated with those very golden memories of early love. At that time, your whole body tingled with energy when you saw your beloved. At his or her touch, you were electrified. Your eyes grew wide. Your heart beat faster. A joy rose within you that made you feel you could burst. Oh, how you loved this person! Oh, how wonderful that love felt! And you can feel those feelings again in these moments as you listen to the song. You can feel the love, the respect, the trust, the admiration.
You have just discovered that all those feelings reside within you still, and they can be tapped and brought to consciousness through the simple method I have just described.
There are a few caveats that need to be observed for this process to work.
- First of all, when choosing the song you want to use, be certain you have only positive associations with it and with the person connected to it in the moment when it was popular and in the forefront of your daily life.
- Also, be specific. Don’t think of a group you liked; instead, choose a specific song that has particular meaning to you.
- Finally, be prepare to turn it off the minute you feel anything negative. Select another song and start over, or select another time to do this exercise, perhaps when you are more free to focus on the process.
Why do I suggest going backwards in order to feel good in the present? Because when you are feeling sad or depressed, one of your fears is likely to be that you will never feel better again. Talking yourself out of feeling depressed is hopeless. The links between what you understand cognitively and the heavy sadness in your heart feel solid and impenetrable.
So I am offering you a workaround.
Using a popular song in this way bypasses the thinking part of your brain and goes directly to your emotional memories. You are able to feel once again those feelings which are tapped by a song from a time when you were unremittingly happy. You feel the love and respect and delight you felt. And when the song is over, you have unmitigated proof to yourself that you are capable of feeling happy again, because you have just experienced it. This can help reduce some of the anxiety that often accompanies sadness and depression.
You can use the song over and over to bring up the feelings you like. But once you’ve done it once or twice, you might be surprised to discover that you can evoke those feeling memories yourself, without the musical cue. You can use this ability in times when you feel overwhelmed, when you feel sad, when you can’t seem to feel a way out of a dismal moment.
You are creating a positive feedback loop for yourself, essentially, which, once created, is there at your command. It is a very powerful tool for finding your way to a happier state of mind.
Enjoy yourself. Love yourself and your precious emotional memories. Those feelings can live again.