How Music Powers Your Memories, Good and Bad
By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: November 20, 2013

Sometimes, I like to blast music from the ‘90s. Why? It reminds me of good times. Music can activate memories. This is one of the things that can make music so powerful. There are certain songs we hear that can take us back to particular events. When you hear “we will, we will, rock you,” do you automatically start stomping and clapping? Or how many of you hear, “Can’t Touch This” and automatically visualize those golden genie pants and start doing the “Hammer time” (even if only in your head)? Don’t lie, you know you want to. I won’t tell. And it’s hard to listen to “Stayin’ Alive” without thinking about John Travolta in that white suit. Such memories cause us to reminisce, bringing moments of happiness. I’ve seen it happen multiple times.

The passive patient who hears “Hotel California,” looks up with a twinkle in his eyes and starts singing along. And even if for just five minutes, he’s able to lay aside the pain and rough day he’s been having. But, there are some memories we’d rather not revisit. Some songs can be powerful enough to take us back to times and places we’ve tried to avoid. One example is the popular song, “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In one instance, I played this song for a group and one patient was triggered to the point that he began craving. This patient got stuck. Thankfully, with the help of his therapist he was able to use all the coping skills he knew at the time and then some. Am I saying you have to give up all music? No, but in early recovery, with certain songs you may have to “just say no.”

Using music therapy can be part of those coping skills. Want to know more? Listen to my podcast on how music therapy can enhance your rehab experience here at Lakeview Health. To help someone struggling with addiction, or if you want to stop your own dependence on a substance, contact an intake coordinator at 866.552.6557.