Have you ever gotten sick and tired of the music you listen to?
“Jeremiah was a bullfrog,” “Friends in low places”, “And as we wind on down the road, our shadows taller than our soul”, “’cause I’m as free as a bird now.” “All in all is all we are!”
And the question remains why do we continue to visit the same old songs with the same old message that give us the same old emotional results?
The answer is really not that complex. It has a lot to do with what we expect our music to do for us. I have often said that people treat music consciously like entertainment and subconsciously like a drug.
What’s the Trigger?
While doing a session in the psych hospital I was particularly challenged by an adolescent patient, we’ll call “Susan”, who was getting inconsistent results with her treatment. Her parents were divorced, and her mother had remarried, and she alternated from every few weeks between the two.
The doctors and social workers were quite sure that her father who was a recovering addict, himself was triggering her, at least or at worst, actually giving her drugs.
After several admissions into, not only our hospital, but other addiction treatment centers as well, Susan approached me after group and confessed her frustration with treatment and the supplied interventions. “They just don’t understand what I’m going through.” she sighed. “They’re giving me the same things to do but nothing seems to last beyond a couple of weeks.”
Looking for patterns I asked her what she was doing that could possibly cause a relapse? She mentioned the normal frustrations of dealing with the inconsistencies of a broken home and lack of consistent family support same group of friends. After talking a little while longer I told her I would give the matter more thought.
After meeting with Susan’s counselor, social worker and doctor I could find no obvious reasons beyond a family connection of growing up with an addict for a father. But it still didn’t show how she could be so successful for short term and then start using again.
Then one day during group, Susan was talking how her father played the old rock and roll really loud when she would visit him and how her mother preferred to listen to classical or jazz, a style of music that was not played around the house when the Susan was young.
Music and Memories
Now, I know what you’re thinking but this time it’s not the style of music in so much it is the memories associated with it. Sure, rock and roll brings up its own emotional baggage with its Musical Fingerprint and lyric enticements. But this issue was personal. When this patient combined the power of music, personal memories and drug use, she got a Rehab that was loaded with high end triggers that set her up to fail.
Her relapse normally happened during or just after her time with her father. Her treatment team was relatively sure her father was still clean and sober and was making efforts to be a positive influence.
Music as Trigger
During her team meeting, she asked if she could have a recording of her favorite music brought to the hospital. The other healthcare professionals nodded and said it would be fine, but I asked, “What’s your favorite music?”
She began to list music from a different generation than her own. And though that’s rarely a problem, it is an indicator.
“Where do you normally hear this music?” I asked.
“Where did you first hear this music?”
Again, “My Dad.”
Leaning in I asked, “What were you doing most of the time when you would hear your favorite music?”
It was the music!
We now had the trigger, the antecedent to her wanting to use.
Music as Motivation
Studies show that music is a major trigger for PTSD, Addiction and anxiety but there are ways to mitigate these affects.
I met with the patient and her treatment team to help her environment become a more success-oriented place. She could still have the music she knew and loved, we just had to adjust her playlist to reduce the triggers. I broke it down into steps for anyone to follow.
These steps included:
- Become aware of any music playing around you
- Become aware of the effect this music has on your emotions
- Keep track of these emotional shifts brought on by external influences
- If possible, adjust the music if it has a negative impact
- Discover new music
- Integrate the new music into your daily activities to give it a chance to get into your memory and emotions
- Create playlists for a desired outcome rather than be the subject of the environment
- Adjust frequently and as needed
When she discharged, she had an action plan from me on how to manage her music.
A few weeks later, I got a call from Susan, stating that her rehabilitation had truly taken off and she was clean and sober longer than she ever had been before. She still could listen to whatever music she wanted she just became aware of what was playing around her and adjust as needed.
For this patient we have to discover the triggers and she was up against some of the strongest in the business music in memory. By training her to become aware of the music around her and how to adapt her personal playlist her rehab was now accelerated and on a successful track.
So, what does that have to do with you? Perhaps you don’t have addiction issues, maybe you’ve never been in a psychiatric hospital or been under treatment, but on the other hand, how are your goals and objectives going?
Do you find yourself emotionally manipulated when you should be under control? Do you find your music preferences narrow on what you actually listen to on a day-to-day basis?
Music Awareness Tracker
The first question I ask my patients is, “Do you believe music affects your emotions?”
And for those who read my blogs or listen to my podcast, you know the answer. It’s, “Yes.” Because it’s yes and it will always be yes.
If you’re still searching for answers on how you can use your music for the betterment of self and others, then it’s time to get on with it! I believe music is more than entertainment and more than they are telling us. Check out more blogs and videos here and I’ll toss you my Music Awareness Tracker, the first step to discover the hidden language of the music of our lives for free.
See You there.