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Anxiety and Electronic Music, a Match Made in Musical Heaven

“I’ve got what Yeats called…

(Irish accent)…

‘A fire in the head.’ I refuse to be intimidated by reality anymore. After all, what is reality anyway: nothing but a collective hunch.”  -Trudy from The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

A fire in the head that engulfs every even-keeled thought into something more complicated is a great way to describe anxiety, especially my anxiety. It is not something I regularly talk about. Not because I am ashamed, but because I do feel now looking back it was always a part of me. For so long I had it under control, well…as under control as anxiety can be, but I realized the one thing remained constant as I was starting to feel less “on fire” and more “on fleek”…music.

The power of music has been studied for years. There’s even music therapy, because Western medicine finally caught up and realized you don’t have to throw a pill at everything. (Side note: I am not against medication. I have many people whom I know and love in my life that use medication for what it’s meant to be used for. I’m referring to how quickly doctors choose to prescribe and not truly look at other ways first.) Before I go any further, remember this is from my point of view and what I’ve come to realize works for me. So before you think I’m becoming a “Karen” and trying to push my agenda on anyone, read that again. This is what works for me. And the magic elixir that takes away my anxiety and propels me into normalcy and coping…Electronic music.

Now I’m talking every form of electronic music. Synthesized melodies from the ’80s, club bangers from the ’90s and ’00s and industrial giants like Nine Inch Nails and White Zombie. Techno, trance, house, you know the beats I am talking about. Repetitive to the point where you would love to scream at the DJ to “Come on already!” to just go into another run, like a river of sound that comes into your mind and washes away all those thoughts of inadequacy, fear and anger.

Some songs have vocals, some just a constant drum beat, like the sound of your beating heart. This music saved me from feeling alone in my mind. It helped me gain confidence in the fact that I am not alone, that I am worthy of my life, and that I have nothing to fear but fear itself. I can also dance my ass off to it to keep the blues at bay. Call that one big bonus. But more than that, my brain becomes quiet. Confused? Yes, I was too. But that pounding bass actually quiets my loud and often overfilled brain.

I’ll give you an example. One of my favorite EDM artists is deadmau5. I found him by accident one day while trying to find something to listen to at work. He immediately was researched and I downloaded anything I could get my hands on. One track in particular, “Arguru,” is my go-to when I’m feeling my anxiety creep up. I’ll give you a play by play at what happens in my brain when listening to this track. It’s a seven-minute track. Immediately upon starting, the beat starts with what I call a “left/right” beat. I practice EFT tapping, or what’s called “Emotional Freedom Techniques.” When you tap, you physically tap your hands, fingers, or feet with a left/right pattern. With “Arguru,” I don’t have to physically tap the left/right, I just have to listen. It is almost as my brain is saying as I hear the beat, “Left/Right, left/right” and that’s even before the main beat kicks in.

Then a synth with what I call “layered beats” or “ombre beats” comes in and brings it back to the “left/right” but with a calming force behind it. I can literally feel my whole body relax, and usually sway to the music. I can almost compare it to awake meditation. No need to close my eyes, it’s like that sense of calm you get while meditating while being fully awake, even sitting at my desk writing. The music transforms me into a giant bubble of calming.

Another artist that does this is Nine Inch Nails. Some of you might be thinking at this point, “She is legit crazy!” but hear me out. Trent Reznor’s vocals surrounded by this industrial electronic, metal, synth sound let me get out the anger portion of anxiety that many of us don’t like to admit we have. I have a lot of anger. I am not sure where this manifests from. Honestly, I like to think of myself as a pretty positive and happy person, but over the years and after much self-reflecting, there is some pretty potent anger in there.

Nine Inch Nails takes that anger and turns it into creative energy. I can scream and sing right along with Trent, and pull all that anger and fear out and replace it with worthy energy. When I was younger, I’d go into my basement, blare “Head Like A Hole” and dance. I would choreograph these full-on production numbers. They were like snapshots of my brain and heart colliding into dance. Now that I am an adult, the choreography happens more in my head when I go down to the basement to do laundry, but it still happens. The music is what sets my caged bird of anxiety free. I’d also like to think my bound body as well.

The last artist happens to be the one who opened me up the most to my feelings and then letting them go, and that’s Orbital. The first time I heard Orbital’s “Halcyon” and the remix “Halcyon and On and On” it brought me close to tears. I did not know its meaning right off the bat. The original is a song dedicated to Phil and Paul Hartnoll’s mother who was addicted to the tranquilizer Halcion. It samples “It’s a Fine Day” by Opus III, another electronica favorite. There is something about the vocal and synth of it that just sneaks up on you.

The remix version—a song that I consider to be one of the top three songs that best describes me—is one that is very hard to get out of your head. It feels as though a wash of energy and good vibes has just be injected into your body. I bet not unlike a tranquilizer set to calm you, which if that’s the case, the Hartnolls’ succeeded at their dedication. But more than that, this song feels and sounds like hope to me. Like the hope that my anxiety, although all-encompassing on certain days and sometimes rampant, will not overtake the self I try to put forth on a daily basis.

I really I hope that I am not alone in my thought that electronic music, or whatever music genre form appeals to you, is a sanity saver. I feel that music in general should be used more in therapy, to bring forth feelings, whatever they may be, that they are out in the open, and ready to be explored or expunged from your psyche. Music is that powerful. It can make us remember with a note a movie, television show, or concert we saw. It can bring you back to your childhood, your first kiss, or first breakup. Music has the power to heal. Take advantage of that knowledge. I know I can always extinguish the “fire” in my head and fill that space with harmony and love in the form of electronic music. And who knows, maybe the power of electronic music can help you. All you have to do is press play.

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Written by J.C. Hotchkiss

J.C. Hotchkiss is a Office Manager by day and Managing Twin Peaks Editor for 25YL Site the other 16 hours of the day. When she isn’t writing of her love of FBI Agents with a penchant for doughnuts, coffee and pie, she enjoys getting lost in a good book, sipping a damn fine glass of wine among friends, chatting with her "TB's" about Cevans and Fleabag's Hot Priest, and trying to keep up with the latest cartoon craze via her 6 year old. She lives smack in the middle of the Big Apple and Beantown, so for a girl with many different interests and tastes it's the perfect place to be.

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