Daily Archives: March 6, 2012

I’m Singing, Just Singing in the Pain

At what point does childhood fear cross over into full fledged paranoia?

I’ve recently been getting a little flack for how much I sing out loud. And I don’t mean when the radio is on in the car, but around the house doing regular, household things. My boyfriend was quick to blame the role that Disney played in my childhood for this, and I laughed and agreed and shrugged it off.

But… I’ve been thinking about it more, particularly at night when I’m walking home from the bus stop and it is dark and silent outside, and I realized that moments like that one remind me of my childhood.

I had a lot of anxiety as a child (though I didn’t know it until a very long time later), and that is one of the places the obsessive compulsive “tendencies” I have really began to flourish.

I wasn’t afraid of the dark, but I was afraid there was something in the dark. And it was always going to “get” me. Sounds perfectly natural for a child, but at what point does that become better described as paranoia? 10 years old? 13 years old? 15 years old?

Anyway, as a kid, the best thing I could think of to combat this fear (which I’m sure was actually passed to me by some character on a show, maybe Grover?) was to sing.

As long as I was singing, I was untouchable.

To a large extent today, singing is an important tool for me.

I mean, I’m no pop star or anything, but even just something a step above a hum seems to help immensely when it comes to facing things like excruciating racing thoughts, delusions, and intense paranoia.

My theory as to why this works is two fold.

First, singing aloud is something that requires confidence. Like I said, it isn’t as if I’m a particularly good singer, but I do it anyhow. Singing requires confidence, singly poorly probably doubly so! The confidence I have to tap into when I sing out loud isn’t allocated to the singing alone, once I’ve tapped into it a little bit of confidence goes a long way.

It takes the edge off the fear.

My thought that this has to do with confidence came from the fact I get some of the same relief from activities like dancing (which, again, requires some degree of confidence) and even doing silly things, like practicing a fashion runway walk. If I can muster enough courage to do any of those things, it will carry me through a dark place of fear into a lighter one.

And second, it gets me out of my head.

Singing aloud requires concentration. If I am actively thinking about hitting notes or what the lyrics are, I am not thinking about how terrified I am. You’d be amazed at how much not dwelling on a specific series of thoughts can help in ignoring the fear.

This is also why I said singing aloud is great for racing thoughts as well.

I think the idea of the mantra (a sacred word or syllable used as an object of concentration or embodiment of spiritual power) acts in something of the same way. By focusing on repeating a word or sound aloud, it frees up your mind from dwelling on many different kinds of thoughts -in this case for activities like meditation and yoga.

My personal version of a mantra is the chicken dance song. I know it might sound a little ludicrous, but when things start to get out of control in my head, I sing that annoying, chicken dance song aloud. It has no lyrics, so really I’m just repeating a set of sounds over and over again, and the result is that I can remove myself from whatever gobledigook is going on in my mind.

Music has always acted as a great outlet for me, and that is one of the biggest reasons I miss having a piano. Having a piano just gave me further excuse to sing aloud, with the added bonus of being able to focus on playing the music myself at the same time.

Anyway, this may seem like a childish notion, but it has really remained relevant through my adult life as well.