Most of you know that I inherited a love for music from my mother and have lately, during the pandemic, relied heavily on it as a way to center myself and be “of the moment”. I have had the blessing of hearing songs outside of my preferred genre of which I’ve become fond. Many of them are from video games I’ve never (and will never) played. Some of them are from movies I’ve never seen. My appreciation for the lyrics, the score and the people who have introduced me to them is unending.
In the past week or so, I’ve heard a previously unheard song that has, however, had a very negative effect on me. As an empath and someone who has a greater insight into human psychology than many others, the lyrics left a very bad “taste in my mouth”. Learning that the song is owned by, and was recorded by, the late Johnny Cash has made me uncomfortable as well, since country is my preferred genre and has been for the past 20+ years. On principle, I believe that the beginning lyrics to the song are very persuasive and leading to anyone who is suffering from depression and considering options to escape the pain. They go like this:
I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything
What have I become
My sweetest friend?
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
In my interpretation, those lyrics seem to almost validate that self-mutilation is okay. Maybe I’m over-reaching, but if they impact me that way, I can only imagine how they might impact someone who isn’t yet prepared to deal with healthier ways to handle depression, and who believe that hurting themselves is a way to make sure they can feel.
People who don’t possess those kinds of thoughts are not really able to understand why someone does. They cannot comprehend feeling so numbed by pain that causing themselves pain is a way to release some of the numbness. They don’t understand for some, it’s the only thing in life that someone can feel like they can be in control of. They don’t understand that for some, they hurt themselves because they need to feel punished for something they’ve said, done or simply for who they are. For others, it’s a silent but visual cry out of the fact that they ARE hurting.
My friend’s 11-year old son recently made some very vague comments about suicide and then cut himself (not deeply) with a pair of scissors. The family is deeply embroiled in a custody battle that’s been ongoing, and because this child is quiet by nature, he has trouble using words to express himself. I’m sure he also feels some need not to choose sides, though he is one of them who has a melt-down each time they go to the other parents’ home for visitation. (From what I understand, none of them want to go, but he is the one who can’t deal with it.) I would not want this child to hear the lyrics to this song!
I’ve stated, both times I heard it, in two different music themes, that I am against the song on principle. I mute it, which is all I can do. Believe it or not, I have considered bribing them with cash to remove it from their song lists for requests. Trust me, I haven’t fully let that thought go yet.
But for now, I have to console myself that it is their right to play and sing the song. But when I compare these lyrics to the lyrics from “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, which started a big ruckus, I feel like this is a song I’d fight to have removed from the airwaves.
Am I wrong????
5 thoughts on “When a song fails me….”
It’s a sad and a difficult one. Writing the song may well have helped the author to process some difficult emotions – no problem with that. Hearing the song as someone who is struggling – maybe in particular for a young person who hasn’t considered self harming before – could be devastating.
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In this crazy world right now, it’s more important than ever that we look out for each other. Thanks for understanding!
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Don’t be too hard on Mr. Cash. The song was originally written and performed by Nine Inch Nails. It was written at a time when Trent Reznor was suffering through drug addiction and depression. The entire album titled “Downward Spiral” is a chronicle to the destruction of man. Although the lyrics talk about self-harm, I do not believe the intention was to encourage the behavior, as much as it was about breaking the taboo of speaking about it. I believe he merely wanted to articulate that feeling of the greatest lows so others could understand the struggle. The last verse states that if he “could start again a million miles away, I would keep myself, I would find a way”. I think he was saying that ,if he got the chance to start over again, somehow he would manage to find a way to not be like this again. He would keep his soul to himself; he wouldn’t sell it to heroin. I get your concern over who hears the song and at what point in their life, but I also think it is important that these feelings see the light of day, no matter how hard they are to look at or hear.
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I do agree that those lyrics sound strongly like they may be about self harm. I do not believe in censorship, as I believe honesty and even blunt, gritty reality are important in art and being able to express yourself and your experiences, but there are some people who are in a fragile place or state of mind where listening to or taking in stuff like that is bad for them personally, so I would recommend they try to stay away from stuff like that.
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I agree. I don’t like those lyrics and think they are dangerous, but I fully support their right to exist. In a sense, they will exist without my ‘participation’ in appreciating them is all.
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