Music is a powerful thing. It makes us feel a wide range of emotions. Have you ever listened to a sad song on purpose in order to have a good cry? Why do we do this to ourselves?
As Jason Silva points out in this video, music makes room for our pain. We, as human beings, all suffer from pain, but most of us tend to repress it. When you listen to a sad song, it can bring that pain to the surface. You cry, you feel those emotions fully, and then you're able to process them better. It's a therapeutic experience.
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According to Fast Company, there are two kinds of emotions we feel when listening to music. There are perceived emotions and felt emotions. When you perceive the emotions of a piece of music, you're understanding them without actually feeling them. This is why some people find listening to sad music an enjoyable experience. It's sort of like experiencing the emotions of a song vicariously through the artist.
Interestingly, music has also been shown to help people manage physical pain. Music can reduce anxiety, fear, depression, and lower blood pressure. It's even been found to lower the pain intensity level of post-operative patients.
One key reason for this is that music is highly emotionally engaging and therefore easily distracts us. When we hear a familiar piece of music, we're often reminded of a moment from our past. Simultaneously we're taken away from our awareness of physical pain.
Whether it's emotional or physical pain, music has the power to heal us, which ultimately means we have the power to heal ourselves.
-- Molly Fosco