The last few days I’ve had this Dolly Parton song stuck in my head. I heard it in a movie and in one listen it was latched in there. I woke up with “Here you come again…” swirling around my barely conscious mind every morning for a week, and caught myself humming it while working or driving through the city. The melody is admittedly beautiful and the range of notes is special and enjoyable, but man, if it isn’t tiresome the 14th time in an hour. I tried the usual methods to get rid of it. I listened to it a few times over the course of the day, read the lyrics to get the end of the line or the song and tried listening to some of my other favorites.
In the middle of getting my brain unstuck from the quagmire of the catchy tune and pleasing lyrics I was thinking about the other kinds of mental quicksand I effortlessly slide into. I get messages of self-doubt, criticism, shame and loneliness whipping around my head like a skipping record. “Your lack of friends shows how unimportant and uninteresting you are as a person” gets stuck in my head more often than any song, and yet I’m much slower to chase that one to the end than to open YouTube and watch and listen to a lyric video.
When your brain gets a fragment of a song stuck in its memory bank it keeps running it by you to try to find the rest. It wants closure and finality. It hopes that it can bother you with it enough that you’ll listen to the rest, remember how the song ends, or flood it with so much other stimuli that it can’t help but let that segment go. The same is true of all those doubting, hurtful, challenging thoughts that keep you from feeling, doing, and being your best. Your brain is saying “Wait, someone said something that made me think that maybe you are actually a really lame and annoying person. What was that? Is there truth to that? Where did that come from? We don’t know. It must be true. I’m going to feel sad and angry and insignificant until someone tells us otherwise.”
What a bunch of unnecessary rubbish. You can get songs unstuck, you can get thoughts unstuck too. This week I’m trying to catch those annoying and damaging little messages “stuck in my head” and find their end. I want to give my brain the truth behind the thought, then be able to forget it and move on to something else. If nothing else I resort to flooding my brain with positive and uplifting thoughts to wash out the old message.
We all know that music can move us, make us feel things more acutely and change our feelings in an instant. It’s time to start using that to your advantage more often! I have a playlist of songs that make me feel good, happy, sunshine-y. I popped one on today on my way home from work. I was frustrated, getting impatient and about two minutes away from going on an emotion fueled snack spree, but remembered how that usually makes my stomach feel. Thankfully my playlist was closer than the nearest ice cream place and I could crank one of my favorite feel good tunes.
No, music probably won’t become the cure all for your emotional challenges. You won’t be able to process every negative thought you have and manage them all in a logical way that kicks them out of your brain. But since life is a constant process of defeating the monster in your head, who couldn’t use another weapon?!