Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Singing a Song from the Unconscious

Skiing on a glacier in Austria some years ago on slopes (catwalks) far beyond my ability, I realized that I had been humming the same tune over and over all day. When I finally noticed I was doing it, I immediately recognized it: "Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?"

It was true that I'd been scared--from mild to wild--all day. This was back in my mostly-travel-writing days when I made a long-running specialty of writing ski stories for beginners and bad skiers. It tickled me that I was unconsciously singing the message from myself that I was trying to ignore.

Since then, I've realized many times that I was mindlessly humming something that was terribly appropriate to the moment: "I've Got a Never-Ending Love For You," and "Release Me" (think Engelbert Humperdinck), for example.

Yesterday, I noted that I'd been humming all day. What was the tune? "This Little Light of Mine, I'm Going to Let It Shine." What could be more appropriate for a writer's theme song?

So what's your theme song today?

Could be it would work better to pick one, instead of letting the song pick me. But even when the song simply arises, it's useful information, always good to know what I'm feeling.

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kenju said...

Hmmm...I am not aware of a theme song for me today, but if I had one, it would be something along the lines of a lullabye! I need more sleep.

Peggy Payne said...

I hope you're napping as I write this, Kenju. I find that a midday snooze in my office can be a great thing. Now and then it's irresistible.

Anonymous said...


Debra W said...

I have been thinking a lot about this lately, too, Peggy! I often find songs running through my head which are quite appropriate for whatever I am dealing with at that time. The songs change, but the lyrics always carry some sort of a message!

Anonymous said...

I've noticed for a number of years now that I do this too. I think it's fascinating. One recent example: I've been procrastinating about selling my house and downsizing to an apartment since my divorce, and the song that has popped up lately is "We've got to get out of this place/ if it's the last thing we ever do/ We've got to get out of this place / Girl, there's a better life for me and you."

Peggy Payne said...

Well, now that makes three of us. I wonder if this is something that everyone does. And I'd thought I was the only one.

Reminds me of when I was a kid and discovered, with alarm, that I had holes in my lower eyelids. Turned out they're tear ducts and are pretty standard equipment.

Debra W said...

This morning I had a Mr. Rogers song floating through my mind as I stepped outside with my dog. "It's such a good feeling to know you're alive!" I guess I spent way too much time watching Mr. Rogers as a child and then again with my own girls.

Anonymous said...

A brand new occurrance of this phenomenon happened to me today in the late afternoon rush hour. I went to pick up a friend after work and was driving home, tired and a little put-out. The tune "Almost There", sung years ago by Andy Williams and long forgotten, popped into my mind a few blocks away from the house.

Also, I googled "We Gotta Get Outta This Place" and discovered that it was sung by the Animals. I sure didn't remember that, and don't remember the song as being a particular favorite, or anything I've heard or thought of in years and years.

I too thought I was the only one who did this before I read your entry here.

As I was falling asleep last night, I remembered how my grandmother, when she lived in a nursing home and had severe dementia and difficulty speaking, could still sing all the words perfectly to tunes she had learned when she was much younger.

And I remembered how in the past few years, attending church after a long absence, I've noticed that the as I'm singing hymns, the words seem to trigger a lot of strong emotions at times.

Curiouser and curiouser...

Peggy Payne said...

Sounds as if Mr. Rogers was a good thing, Debbie.

And Anon, you reminded me of something else that may be related to this. Stutterers can sing without stuttering. I find that pretty curious too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peggy,
I thought of you and this post in the bookstore this week when I stumbled across Oliver Sack's book "Musicophilia." I haven't read it yet, but I was looking at his web site today to remember the title, and it says that "music occupies more areas of our brain than language does--humans are a musical species."

Peggy Payne said...

Maybe it just takes more mental equipment to sing than to talk.