Music Therapy

Cuts Like a Knife! – a quick look at the music that moves you (to tears)

What a buzz kill, hey?

Why would I even talk about something like this?!

Well, if you knew me well enough, you’d know this is a very valid question, and here’s why:

I actively AVOID listening to songs that cause me to cry.

I posed this very question on my Facebook page a couple of days ago, and I had such a good response — and learned a thing or two — that I feel compelled to go deeper.

It all started because I was talking to my partner, Sarah, about the fact that I have cried several times while watching The Walking Dead. To her credit, she didn’t laugh at me 😛

Something else you might not know about me:

I’m a massive softie, and I cry at the drop of a hat.

If a song comes on the radio that has this undesirable effect on me, it’s like someone has just lit a stick of dynamite under me: I cannot change the station — or shut it off completely — fast enough!

I guess there are a few different reasons why songs can leave you drowning in your own waterworks:

1. The subject matter

Often, it’s not because you’ve personally been through what the song is preaching, or even because in some abstract way it reminds you of a past experience.

Sometimes — and apologies for breaking it down like this — it’s simply because the song is about something sad.

My sister got me with this the other night. She told me about Keep Me in Your Heart for a While” by Warren Zevon. I’d never heard of it.

30 seconds in, I was crying so hard I couldn’t even see.

It’s a song about missing someone when they’re gone, even though they’re never fully gone from your life. Even now, the lump is creeping back to my throat as we speak!

Basically: the reason these sad songs are so effective, is that they make you feel things, things you didn’t know you were upset about, and makes you more empathetic to things that other people are going through

2. The vibe of the song

Sometimes, it’s the exact opposite: the lyrics are fine and fairly innocuous, but there’s just something about it!

Take “The Rose” as sung by Bette Midler. It’s a beautiful song about love and hope:

Just remember in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snows

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love

In the spring becomes the rose”

But holy hell: THE WAY SHE SINGS IT! The way the melodies are so soft and so drawn out… I feel a fresh knife wound in my heart every time I hear it.

Oh and don’t get me started on the opening keyboard riff for “Everything I Do (I Do It For You) but Bryan Adams.

Basically: even if the theme is fairly straightforward, something as simple as a tone of voice, or a strum of guitar or even a cowbell being beaten against a rock can set you off, and will certainly take you by surprise!

3. (and it’s a biggie) You can relate to the song

Whether it is describing a closed chapter of your life, or is more simply a song that you heard, that one time you were going through something huge and painful, it’s amazing how quickly old sutures can be ripped open!

For me, it’s Coldplay – Fix You. Without getting too personal, let’s just say that it’s a little from column A and B for me. I heard it several times when I was going through a horrendous break up. Also, it was a stark reminder that I could not fix everything. I was exhausted from killing myself trying to fix everything for about five years straight.

This song came as a sigh of relief, a weight lifting off my shoulders, a little jab to let me know I’d just wasted five years of my life, and here’s the most important part:

I had to learn to rebuild myself, to fix MYSELF, before I could even hope to concentrate on anyone else.

Basically: I know that for many, having songs that make you cry is a form of release, a form of audio therapy, but personally, I’d rather those times remained buried.

Listen once, let it all out and move forward.

There are different circumstances though, and different levels of pain: people have tragically lost their young children, have suffered a terrible illness & had a long recovery, have been abused for years and finally escaped, pretty much anything!

I don’t discount anyone’s feelings. EVER. And I know everyone has their own way of dealing with the pain: I just know what works for me! 🙂

Do you use music to deal with your pain, to move forward, to remember the good times that have since passed?

I wish healing and light upon you all. Whatever works for you, just go with it and don’t let anyone tell you it’s wrong 🙂


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