The world’s worst, but most dependable, party trick

I have no idea if this is still the case or not, but years ago I remember reading something about how to cure phobias. If you're scared of spiders, you shut yourself in a closet full of spiders until your brain realizes nothing is going to happen to you. If you're scared of flying, you go up in a plane, come back down, and realize everything was fine and that you're still alive, hooray. It's a desensitization process, I guess. Or conditioning, maybe. Anyway, I have no idea if this is really how people treat these things, but now I'm wondering if it works for other weird stuff, too.

I'm having this thing where everyday I cry at least once in the car. I could easily solve the problem, but now I'm thinking that maybe if this stupid thing keeps happening, eventually my thoughtful brain will become desensitized and override my monkey brain, thus making everything fine again.

My thoughtful brain will say, "Oh, hey, this is Vampire Weekend. It's just music. No big deal. We like Vampire Weekend. We no longer associate it with driving back and forth from the NICU (FIVE YEARS AGO!!). We do not immediately smell NICU soap and worry about brain bleeds when we hear Mansard Roof. We do not think about finding the right size flanges for the breast pump when we hear A-Punk. We do not think about the Seton parking garage when we hear Oxford Comma. We rejoice in reclaiming this music for ourself once again! Huzzah, Vampire Weekend!"

The problem is, that little fantasy isn't happening. The kids think I've gone insane. Because every single fucking day I forget to delete Vampire Weekend from my iTunes. And every day when I plug the phone into the car, the first song that kicks in is inevitably A-Punk (because the alphabet is an asshole). This, of course, makes me get all teary. And the kids are like, "WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU? IS IT THE NICU THING AGAIN?" And I have to sniffle and say, "Yes. But it's getting better!" even though it's not. Then I manage to switch to Spotify where we find music suitable for rocking out, and we're able to carry on with our epic school pick-up routine. 

I'm not even sure how this music ended up on my phone to begin with. It must have been on there for years and never surfaced until I yanked a bunch of stuff off and messed with the alphabetical order. I mean, I've done a very good job over the years of ignoring it. Every now and then there would be an embarrassing moment at a store or at someone's house when a song would come on and I'd have to bolt until I could shake off the NICU memory vortex. But that didn't happen often. Now, it's every single freaking day. I know I could easily "fix it" by deleting the music and going back to the plan of just ignoring that these songs still exist. OR, I could try to face this shit down. Own it. Torture myself into being able to listen again.

So what do you think? Should I lock myself in a closet and play Vampire Weekend until I'm desensitized and empowered? Or will an experiment like that just break my brain completely? Does it negate the experiment if I take a xanax first? Why am I even traumatized by the NICU? That ended up being the least horrible of ALL THE THINGS (even though obviously it wasn't easy).

Tell me, people reading this, what have you done to overcome weird things like this? The simple answer is to, duh, get it the hell off my iTunes. But that doesn't really solve anything, you know? I'd like to be able to be out somewhere, say, getting my hair cut, and not have to turn into a crazy lady whenever one of these stupid songs comes on the radio.

Solutions: throw them at me.



I just tried to suck it up and listen to Mansard Roof. I was brave. I was stoic. I got, literally, three seconds in before bursting into tears. It's like a really amazing, really terrible party trick. And, of course, when I tamp down the hysterics it makes me laugh, which is even crazier. But come on, how can something this innocuous have such an immediate visceral effect? It's like magic. Dark, crazy ridiculous magic.

3 thoughts on “The world’s worst, but most dependable, party trick

  1. A friend of mine went through a phobia program and they started with very tiny baby steps. They also gave their phobia some kind of physical manifestation that they could mock when they were kicking butt (or attempting to kick butt, or what have you). So, maybe instead of throwing yourself headlong into the thing that is freaking you out, start with tiny steps like looking at the title of the song on your phone, or something. For her it was flying, and she would do little things like drive by the airport or sit and watch planes when they flew overhead, etc. Then she slowly upped the ante.
    Her physical manifestation for her phobia was a toy dinosaur that, if I remember correctly, she named the Dread Pirate Roberts. 🙂 When she finally flew for the first time she brought it with and made it look out the window like, “Ha! See?! I’m up here and you can’t scare me!” 🙂


  2. I have absolutely no flipping idea. I can’t listen to “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab For Cutie. It was the song that was on my iPod in my car after driving home from the worst inpatient call of my life. If it comes on the radio, I have to turn it off and hum or sing something else happier (lately it’s been “Blister in the Sun” by the Violent Femmes, because who doesn’t like that song?).
    Music is the soundtrack to our lives. Chapters are marked by particular songs – the first dance at your wedding, songs you sing to your kids in the tub. Mostly, they’re good memories. But sometimes they’re not. And I don’t think immersion therapy can fix that. But maybe redirecting your brain to a tune with happier associations (a favorite song of Ike’s perhaps?) can.


  3. I so get this. Same reason I can’t resist taking a whiff of the Bath & Body Works Stress Reliever aromatherapy lotions, because my husband used to wash my feet and give me massages with it when I was in the hospital on bedrest. I held on to my own bottles until they had become rancid and didn’t even resemble the same smell anymore. And the hand sanitizer still does it to me. People probably think I’m trying to get high, because continuously I sniff my hands after putting it on.


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