Painful music
December 7, 2006 10:19 PM   Subscribe

I have music in my collection that I like, but can't listen to. Whenever one of the songs start to play, a disagreeable feeling comes up in my stomach and my whole self is quickly disturbed. This is instantaneous and automatic. How do I make this go away ? I'd love to be able to enjoy that music again.

Undoubtedly, this is music that I can link to some bad phase I went through one year ago. Not by the songs content, but mainly because it is what I listened to back then and also because the person who made me discover it was involved. (The music isn't sad or particularly emotive, and encompasses many genres.)

This has been going on for a couple months. I thought it would stop after a while, but it doesn't, although some days the effect is lessened. I once forced myself through it, and only felt miserable for a couple days. Please help me enjoy the music again.
posted by isobar to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Time has been the only thing that's really helped me in this situation in the past. Time and not actually "listening" to the music. I find if I desensitize myself to the tunes by having them simply unobtrusively exist in the background, I'm eventually able to tolerate and then enjoy them again.
posted by ktrey at 10:26 PM on December 7, 2006

From my own experience, you write those tunes off until you have come to terms with what happened at that time.

You can either listen to the music until it doesn't remind you of anything anymore, and it's really just background noise, or you can be reminded every time of what happened, and fix how you feel about those memories.

Even today, I hear songs from nearly ten years ago, and I can remember situations with vivid detail. Perhaps your memory isn't so intense. Still, dealing with the past helps more than anything.
posted by Saydur at 10:31 PM on December 7, 2006

Go and rent A Clockwork Orange while you wait.
posted by flabdablet at 11:13 PM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

A few months ago, I rediscovered a song that used to have this kind of visceral effect on me. The first time I heard it again, I was right back 15 years ago, when it had first hit me. Right after that, it went away and now it's just another song that has a resonance to me, but doesn't make me feel anything particularly strong. Give the songs some time away before you revisit them.
posted by anildash at 12:07 AM on December 8, 2006

I have links like that, both positive and negative, with some of my music. Nothing you can really do to speed them up, as far as I can tell. Just leave 'em alone for a while, and if you discover that they're still bringing back those feelings, leave them alone again - playing them repeatedly may be self-reinforcing.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 12:12 AM on December 8, 2006

I have exactly this problem all the time, particularly with songs by my favorite band. It's like I have these intense, visceral memories (some good, some bad) that get triggered with certain songs, and the whole experience is too powerful to be enjoyable. I find I have to take long periods away from the music, then approach it again when I'm feeling happy and content enough to enjoy the tuns on their own merit.
posted by mostlymartha at 12:38 AM on December 8, 2006

I hate when that happens.

One approach is to appreciate and honor the bad feelings, using the recollection to enhance processing of them. We are not immune from unhappiness. Perhaps one day, you will love those tunes again because they remind you of how you encountered and eventually overcame that 'bad patch' of time, and they will be a symbol of your growth.

If you play an instrument, perhaps you could rediscover them by learning to play them, assuming they are the type subject to imitation. The things you found wonderful there are still there. Introduce someone else to them.

And last... your favorite songs are .000000000001 % of what you can find on-line in an hour. Perhaps considering this as an indicator that it's time to find new tunes to associate with this new, healthy period you are in will help you grow and explore musically?

Don't mourn it too much, though. I have always thought of music as kind of an auditory scenery of what we pass through in life. It's still there, but behind you on your trip. Wonderful new things await you down the road a piece.
posted by FauxScot at 5:13 AM on December 8, 2006

or: force yourself to listen to them consciously in order to re-associate the songs with better memories. Hard but do-able,a dn tends to happen naturally over time. You get your songs back.

Or just get new songs. Plenty o fish in the sea (well, not really, according to scientists, but you know what I mean.)
posted by DenOfSizer at 6:20 AM on December 8, 2006

I have had that happen to me.

I just had to make new associations with the music, is all.
posted by konolia at 6:32 AM on December 8, 2006

i second fauxscot - you need more music!

spend a few minutes every week visiting mp3 blogs. download and add songs that you don't hate to your playlist. soon you'll have lots of new faves.

here's a couple of blogs to get you started:


Said the Gramophone
posted by kamelhoecker at 6:43 AM on December 8, 2006

I'm really emotional about music too -- almost everything brings me back to the time I first heard it or whatever association I've made with it. Most of the time this is really lovely and I think it's a nice characteristic to have. It does mean that some things I have to appreciate without listening to them, though.

I agree that putting those songs aside for a nice long while is really the only thing you can do. There are some songs I can only hear a couple of times a year at most -- the artist is a former lover who won't have anything to do with me, but some of the songs are actually about me -- but it's better than punishing myself with them just because I feel I should get over it. When I hear them I get to have my moment, and then I put them back in their box and move on in life.
posted by loiseau at 7:00 AM on December 8, 2006

Listen to that song over and over again while doing something that you really love doing. The feeling will go away after a few days of doing this. I've had this same problem...
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 8:27 AM on December 8, 2006

(Look, there may come a time when you want songs that remind you of that period in your life. Don't weaken the spell by acclimating yourself to them — it may be just what you need someday.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:00 AM on December 8, 2006

Let it out: Ruined Music.
posted by shawn at 9:36 AM on December 8, 2006

Sometimes stuff that I listened to as long as 10 or 15 years ago brings up emotions about difficult stuff I was going through at those times. It's only been a few months for you. The feelings will mellow over time, and so will your musical triggers for those feelings. Listen to other stuff for a few months or years, but don't swear off those albums forever. Some day you will look back with a greater sense of peace. (Addendum if you are under 25: It's all part of growing up.)
posted by matildaben at 9:43 AM on December 8, 2006

A behavioral technique should work. As the music comes on, imagine something pleasurable -- an orgasm, being held in your mother's arms -- anything strong enough to balance the bad reaction. The smell of a rose works well for me. Concentrate on that, pressing your nose into the flower and inhaling deeply. Substitute it for the disagreeable response. A dozen repetitions should do it.
posted by KRS at 10:50 AM on December 8, 2006

The book "Feeling Good" has some good cognitive-behavioral stuff that might be useful in this regard.
posted by craniac at 10:50 PM on December 8, 2006

I can relate - music holds very strong memories for me. If there's music playing at the time a memory is being created, not only do I remember it, but I'll remember what happened during what parts of the song! Some associations have brought me to tears, and other songs have brought me to le petit mort (yep, just hearing the song) .

The trick to getting rid of the strong visceral reaction is to create other associations with the song. Perhaps put it on a cd with just a handful of other tunes (so it's a surprise when it comes on) and go for a drive. When that song comes on, pull over and start hopping up and down while patting your head on the side of the road or something. Do that a few times. Then try not to laugh when the song comes on and you recall how ridiculous you looked.

It sounds absurd, but something like that worked for me. Modify as you will - whatever works for you. The point is to do something unusual enough that you'll remember it, so if you routinely act like that on the side of the road, do something else. It will take awhile, but eventually it will work. I had done that for "Spoonman" by Soundgarden, and one day it occurred to me that the song that used to leave me shaking and tearful could play in the background without me even noticing.

But you asked how to be able to enjoy the music again. You can't - at least, not for it's musical merits alone. You've created associations which are greater than the music itself. It sounds like with reconditioning, along with making sure that you've made peace with whatever memories it conjures, would make it comfortable for you to hear the music when it comes on, but for me, I've never been able to completely reverse things where I can truly enjoy the songs again.
posted by Iamtherealme at 11:40 PM on December 8, 2006

I have this exact same problem... sort of. I had a playlist of maybe 25 or 30 songs that I used to listen to while playing Diablo II 4 or 5 years ago. To this day, whenever I hear any of them on the radio, I get Bloody Foothills flashbacks.
posted by graventy at 7:04 PM on December 9, 2006

Time helps... it took me a couple of years after one boyfriend dumped me to be able to listen to the songs that made me think of him.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:35 PM on December 10, 2006

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