I love music. It’s a fundamental part of my life. I still buy CDs , even though I have a Spotify account. Not a day goes by when I don’t listen to something (and usually something from the early eighties or a soundtrack).
But lately I realised something fundamental. I don’t listen. I hear. It is on in the background. It’s my aural equivalent of a comfortable blanket – something familiar I wrap around myself as go about my day.
My partner marvels at my ability to read and listen to music at the same time. I’ve recently discovered though that I’m not fully engaged in either task. I’m alternating between reading and listening. Sometimes I have to stop reading to listen to the music, or I change the music to something else that’s less ‘distracting’. I like to think that when I’m listening to music that it’s helping me to focus and to concentrate on the task in hand. I listen to music on headphones. I share an office with my partner so it stops her from getting distracted (or incredibly annoyed) and I like the quality of intensity of the sound it offers.
I’ve also noticed that I try and do lots of things at the same time. I put on a podcast and then open up a newspaper app to read the headlines. I am hearing what is being said of course but I’m no longer listening, I’m no longer focused and I’m not learning or getting the benefit from listening. It has become sound for the sake of sound.
I’m currently listening to David Goggin’s fascinating, confronting, inspiring audiobook Can’t Hurt Me (which I highly recommend if you want another perspective on how to change your life) and after my run this morning I put it on as I was drinking glasses of water. Almost immediately I fired up The Guardian app and noticed that I wasn’t listening. I closed the app and listened. It really got me thinking about how many things I don’t focus on fully. It’s made me realise that I’m not fully present for a lot of things. So now I’ve become aware I’m going to make choices. I’m not saying that I won’t ever listen to music when I’m doing something. I’ll make a conscious decision. I wonder what I’ve missed?
Being a Cognitive Hypnotherapist doesn’t mean that I have everything sorted out or that I get it right the first time. I wrote about something similar back in August 2017 and you can read it here.
On the face of it, stopping listening to music seems rather drastic – but I KNOW exactly what you mean. Being present and doing one thing well is a real skill. I find that I now only put the radio on when I am doing relatively menial tasks – but music only. However, if I have to read or concentrate on putting some words together to create a document/letter – I turn the music off. I also do not have the radio on broadcasting dialogue (ie news, plays, articles, documentaries etc) when I am actively engaged in something else. It just becomes “white noise” and somehow creates a level of subconscious anxiety pulsating away at the back of my thinking, which disappears when I turn the radio off. Thanks for the article Brooke.
You’re right – it’s not a blanket decision. There are certain types of music that provide a suitable wall that aids concentration. Like you I am just not able to be fully present in many of those situations. Thanks for your comment.