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Songs or Other Activities Bring Back Bad Memories

In my final year of high school, I undertook a course load that was extremely high. This course load, in addition to the requirement of studying for numerous standardized tests / college admissions tests made me quite stressed in the first half of senior year. This eventually developed into a condition similar to depression (though not quite at that magnitude), and I began seeing a psychologist regularly. At the time I got really into the Beatles, and I found that listening to their music was a great coping strategy. Time went on and I gradually grew out of my slump, and actually got to enjoy the latter half of senior year. However, now, whenever I listen to the Beatles, or any other music I listened to near that gloomy time, I am flooded by bad memories and emotions that take a toll on my entire day, sometimes the entire week. I really don’t like this, as the Beatles is my favorite band and I would very much like to listen to them again happily.

However, it’s not only music, but other activities I take part in as well. For example, studying calculus or biology also brings back the same bad memories because I haven’t done those subjects since that time.

I’ve also noticed that all the other music I listened to after this period is making me sad, even if the period in time was a happy one. Is there any reason in particular why this happens? Are there any strategies to overcome the sadness? Could this possibly be a homesick reaction, due to the fact that I am in my freshman year of college?

A: I admire your insight in describing this conditioned response. Just like someone who loved dogs might become afraid of them if they were bitten by one, your love of the Beatles has become conditioned and generalized to not only the Beatles, but to other music as well.

The university has a counseling center with therapists trained in untangling this type of stress related conditioning. There are several effective ways to unhook the memories, and it would be best to work with a therapist who can walk you through the process. They can help you, as Lennon and McCartney said, get your feet back on the ground.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Songs or Other Activities Bring Back Bad Memories

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2017). Songs or Other Activities Bring Back Bad Memories. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 17, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2017/02/16/songs-or-other-activities-bring-back-bad-memories/


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 13 Feb 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Feb 2017
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.