In the pursuit of becoming a better father, I have made the conscious choice of creating an environment that encourages my seven-year-old son and my three-year-old daughter to become better critical thinkers. In the process, I have had to change some of my behaviors in order to minimize the amount of negative influence I cast, like a looming, gray cloud draping shade over a puppy parade. Let me just say that this has been a lot more difficult than I ever anticipated. It does not help that I have a list of bad habits which can fill up a scroll that unravels onto the floor and out the door. I smoke, swear, drink, bathe twice a week on an average and the list goes on. What can I say? I’m just a regular, average guy. But what I was surprised to discover is the difficulty in censoring my children from the media sources I use as entertainment. I am especially talking about the music I listen to and the possibility of growing a dependency on it.
Don’t get me wrong. I also have to be aware of tiny, peering eyes during those occasions when I am indulging in those late night horror, slasher flicks where the bubbly protagonist somehow mysteriously manages to lose her top as she is running away from the undead serial killer. Never the less, I have a pretty easy time finding something to watch that is both kid friendly and adult entertainment. It does help that I am a big fan of silly cartoons. However, for some strange reason, I am having a really hard time changing my habits when it comes to my music preferences. I grew up in the early 90’s listening to gangster rap music and took a liking to artists such as Tupac Shakur, Bone Thugs and Harmony, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. Now as an adult, or something that comes close to an adult, I have expanded my repertoire to include artist from today’s generation. This includes artists such as YG, Migos, Kevin Gates, Wiz Khalifa, Gucci Mane and several more artists alike. Now I know what you’re thinking. “This guy obviously never outgrew his teenage years.” And, for those who are not aware of the aforementioned artists, let’s just say the music they produce is not something you would want to listen to with your grandmother around, but there is just something about this music that is so comforting to me, like chicken and waffles or biscuits and gravy in the morning.
The music that I listen to is what my wife would call “inappropriate music.” So naturally, now when I listen to anything with an eight-oh-eight bass and drum driven beat, my children are quick to yell out “Daddy, that’s inappropriate music”. Unfortunately, they are right. The good news is that the easy solution to my problem is to stop listening to rap music in front of my children. The bad news is this topic has opened up a whole different can of worms. I got into a heated debate with my wife about how although we can do our best to not influence our children with our bad behavior, as they grow up, there is going to be outside sources that are going to influence them. Since I am a big believer in education over censorship, I explained that Hip Hop music is a part of today’s culture and that our kids would eventually be exposed to it. My wife, God bless her soul, believes that exposure to this music will cause our children to imitate the actions that said music talks about and lead our kids down a spiral path, becoming violent, drug dealing, womanizing criminals, or strippers. I would rather educate my children on the topic then to censor it from them. I believe we should teach our children that this type of music is fictional and not to be taken seriously, as well as the dangers of literally imitating the Hip Hop lifestyle. I would compare it to action or horror movies. If a person is to literally do what the characters of these movies do, they would probably end up in jail or worse, dead. That is why we tell our children not to copy what they see in movies, as we should. A lot of movies are crazy! What I don’t hear a lot of people talking about, is the importance of educating their children in the music they listen to. These artists create alter egos that are similar to the characters you would see in movies. Copying what you hear in these songs will cause serious problems.
My wife thought that my point of view was all fine and dandy, but being the smart cookie that she is, she quickly rebutted with the science of music and the psychological, physical and metaphysical aspects of it. She continued by reminding me about Dr. Masaru Emoto’s water experiment and the power of words. In short, Dr. Emoto’s experiment concluded that words not only have the power to transform your thoughts, conscious and subconscious, but to also alter your physical state. More specifically, negative words can actually be detrimental to your health. After my wife won the argument, as she always does, I was left feeling frustrated and confused. I’m smart enough to know that music can change your emotions, like a sad song causing you to cry or an upbeat tempo making you feel happy and forcing you to get up and dance, but I had to find out more about the effects of music on the human body. After immersing myself in some much-needed research, I quickly found out that there is more to the science of music and its effects on the body than I was ever taught about.
To begin with, I do realize that my choice of music does influence my behavior. Some songs cause me to want to smoke while other songs cause me to get angry. I’ve also noticed that prolonged exposure to Hip Hop music makes me use profanity more often during regular conversations. What I didn’t realize was my dependency on this type of music. That’s right. I have come to the conclusion that I am addicted to this type of music. You see, during my extensive research, I came across a couple of articles citing scientific research on the correlation between the music we listen to and the chemical release of the hormone dopamine. It seems like when pleasurable music is heard, dopamine, the feel-good hormone, is released in the striatum — a more primitive part of the brain found in other vertebrates as well — which is known to respond to naturally rewarding stimuli like food and sex and which is artificially targeted by drugs like cocaine and amphetamine. In other words, it is very well possible to create a music dependency or a “music addiction” (maybe this is why I am seeing an increase of people walking around with headphones in their ears at all times while navigating through life, and certainly smartphones have facilitated such behavior).
Now you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal with that?” Well, the big deal is freely giving in to your music cravings, without restriction and practicing moderation, will greatly affect your willpower when it comes to other aspects of life. This will immensely impact the way you deal with other cravings such as sugar, nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, food, sex, social media, drugs or any other addictive substance, just to name a few. I believe this is why the monks dedicate a large portion of their day to being silent. With that in mind, I think it was the Dalai Lama who once said: “I do my best, which is moderation, and failure doesn’t matter.” Well I don’t know about you, but I know I am going to fail often, and I need all the help I can get when it comes to moderation but I also value my freedom and I find it a little unnerving not to have self-control.
These revelations have led me to be more selective and place restrictions on the types of music I listen to. If I’m not mistaken, Denzel Washington once said something about being able to find out if you are addicted to anything by trying to abstain from it for an entire week and analyzing the results. Let me tell you that I took the seven-day Hip Hop abstinence challenge and I passed the test, but it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I also now dedicate a portion of my day to what I call “living in silence” and incorporating meditation really helps! I have found that clearing my mind empowers me to be more intuitive to the world and my surroundings. With that said, I encourage anyone and everyone to practice the seven-day challenge with music, or to a broader aspect, anything that they feel they might have an addiction to.
After successfully going through the seven days, here are a few tips I found helpful in keeping me on track with my abstinence and I share it with you in hope that it may help you in your journey or aid you with staying on top of any addiction:
Apply a direct antidote: Find a mental state that is incompatible with craving. That is, focus and/or meditate on the unattractive qualities of the thing you’re addicted to. For example, focus on freedom, which is directly incompatible with the “out-of-controlness” provided by the addictive substance. Or maybe focus on the anxiety that accompanies withdrawal and on how that anxiety creeps in, even while we’re high and supposed to be having fun.
Examine the nature of craving itself: The fact that you’re craving doesn’t mean that’s all there is going on in you. Since you are aware of your craving, there must be a part of you that is outside the craving, looking in. By continuing to experience this awareness, through mindfulness or simply reflection, that part of you — the part that is outside the craving — will continue to grow. While you are looking at the craving, you will notice that, yes, it’s strong, but it is just a feeling, it comes and goes, there is nothing permanent or concrete about it. So you don’t have to obey it after all.
Use craving as a catalyst: This may be the most difficult, but it can work for some people. There is a feeling of strong clarity that comes with the onset of craving. Stay with that feeling. It is a version of your energy, your wish for betterment. Go with that momentum in a direction that’s opposite to what we normally do. Use it to strive for betterment rather than relief. Easier said than done. So are the other two suggestions. But they can work.
At the end of the day, I didn’t completely give up listening to “inappropriate music” cold turkey, however; I am more aware of its effects on me, and I did implement moderation. Without trying to sound too preachy or pretentious, if I can help just one single person do the same, I am happy to do so, and I am a better person for it.
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