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How to get a song out of your head (and other seemingly impossible mental feats)

States of mind

At first, I was just going to write a short post about how to get a song out of your head, even though I knew it wasn’t really on topic for this site, because I thought it might be useful. As it turns out, though, it is on-topic. But first, the advice.


Recently I’ve had trouble with songs sticking in my head, most recently and horrifically “I’ve Never Been to Me” (from watching the beginning of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert–is that really you, Elrond???). Fortunately, by experimenting I found two ways I can successfully banish them. The first way is to listen to a very different kind of music for maybe half an hour or so. The second, which for me works even better, is to improvise a song in “la la la” fashion, taking care not to sing predictably. That might be more useful for musicians than for other people, but I suspect it’s worth trying regardless of your musical background.

If neither of those work for you, there are some very good additional suggestions at and .

But what does getting a song out of your head have to do with self-motivation? Only this: it makes the point that we have much more control over our mental environment than we might at first believe. Over the past fifteen years or so, I’ve gradually come to realize how much more is possible for an individual human being to do than we generally recognize. Le Ton Beau de Marot, a huge, strange book in English about the translation of a single Medieval French poem, demonstrated to me how much more could be done with language than I suspected; learning about Non-Violent Communication and Formal Consensus demonstrated to me how very much more often people with different points of view can find a peaceful accommodation than we generally believe; and my self-motivation research has demonstrated to me how much influence we can have over our own moods, perspectives, and habits than I would have imagined–everything from feeling happier by fake-smiling (try it: our brains are wired such that it actually works) to idea repair, to changing our attitudes with our body language (which is well-described in The Definitive Book of Body Language).

I’m trying not to be too Panglossian or inspirational, but there is a meaningful fact here: it appears most people are unaware of how much power they can bring to bear in influencing their own moods, ideas, and habits. It may be worthwhile to sometimes ask ourselves what kinds of assumptions we’re making about our own minds, and whether some of those assumptions would be better off banished to the limbo where I sent “I’ve Never Been to Me.”

Photo by Cayusa

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