I’ve Been Using Music To Amplify My Toxic Emotions
Editor’s Note: Today’s post was written by Jen Sorenson. I love this post. I’ve never been anti-secular or an only-listen-to-super-Christian-music believer, but it is true that the music we let soak into our skin directly affects our emotional health. For the rest of this month, I challenge you to be intentional with the music you listen to! Eliminate a few bands, find some new ones. And let us know how it goes! – Lauren
This summer was a very emotional summer for me. There were times when I felt completely trapped by my emotions and that they were too overwhelming to even comprehend anymore. I didn’t like this, so I did some serious thinking and came to some conclusions that have made a big impact in my life.
I realized that ever since junior high, I have been using music to affirm and amplify my toxic emotions. By toxic, I mean negative emotions that have the potential to do some serious harm if left unchecked.
In 8th grade, I fell head-over-heels for my best guy friend who didn’t like me back. I felt so much sadness, heartbreak, and pain over this first “unrequited love” — and what did I turn to? Emotional music. When I felt like it was the end of the world because this boy didn’t like me back, the music told me that nothing else mattered besides this boy and how he felt about me.
I would play my favorite songs on repeat every night as I cried into my pillow, never realizing that the music was really making everything feel more intense than it actually was. Was my sadness justified? Sure. It is sad when you’re 13 and really like someone who doesn’t like you back. But is it worth hours and hours of tears and so much wasted energy? No. My emotions might have been easier to handle if I hadn’t made them feel so much bigger with sad music.
This pattern continued through high school. When I felt lost, like I had no friends and nobody cared, I listened to sad songs that made me feel like I was right — nobody did care. I was all alone. Instead of finding constructive ways to face loneliness or turning to God for comfort, I embraced the loneliness and let it define me. Music was my primary method for this. I always wanted to listen to songs where I could relate to the lyrics, but this wasn’t really doing me any good. It only kept me where I was and didn’t encourage any growth or positive change. Instead of going out and trying to make new friends and believing that I was worthwhile and had something to offer, I became more withdrawn, and my loneliness spiraled out of control.
My husband and I had a pretty rocky start to our marriage, and by the time four years had gone by, I was starting to feel pretty angry toward him and hopeless toward our situation. As my feelings of anger, resentment, and hopelessness grew, I soothed myself by listening to angry and hateful music. Funny enough, my anger just seemed to keep growing. Was all of my anger “wrong”? No, not at all — but the way that I dealt with it was very misguided and unconstructive.
I believe that the music I was turning to as a form of therapy was actually making the feelings much worse. Turning so much to music caused me to focus far more on my emotions than on the actual problems themselves. It was always about how I felt, how I felt, how I felt — never about what was the right or wrong way to react in a situation. Angry and hateful music also amplified my selfish attitude: belief that I was the only one wronged and that I was the one who deserved apologies.
I really began to realize that angry me + angry music = more anger. Why would I ever want that? The point of feeling angry is to find resolution. Resolution based in love and hope. The point is not to increase the anger.
Music, to me, became like that toxic friend who will listen to your complaints and only tell you that your feelings are completely justified. The one who tells you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear.
In September, I completely cleared my iPod and filled it back up with only positive music that inspires hopeful feelings in me. In the car, I listen to music I never knew existed until recently. My outlook on life has changed dramatically, and my faith has grown so much. I don’t feel overwhelmed by toxic emotions anymore — I still feel sad or angry at times, but it’s like a plant that I’m not watering anymore. The sadness and anger are much easier to handle and are balanced out by so many positive emotions that I didn’t allow myself to feel before.
The other day I was feeling kinda down, and “We Found Love” by Rihanna was playing in the store. I could immediately feel my mood going further downhill. Amazing.
Maybe this is rare, and maybe I’m far more susceptible to negativity from music than the ordinary person is, but I am very thankful to have learned this about myself.
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