Relationships: What Songs Shaped Your Thinking?

What Songs Have Shaped Your Thinking? by Rhoberta Shaler, PhD at Sow Peace

The beginning of the new year is a great time to be reflecting on your relationship with yourself.  It’s a good time for making positive changes.

One New Year’s Day, I was painting my front door. While painting I chose to listen to an old CD, a mix that I was given of songs that have inspired women over the last thirty years. I revved up the volume and was immediately rewarded with that 70’s anthem,  “I am Woman” by Helen Reddy.  Whoo-Hoo!  Let’s paint!

It wasn’t many minutes into the CD that the thought struck me:

Wow! These words probably made a huge impact on my life and likely colored my relationship with myself and others for quite some time.”

That caused me to listen differently to all the songs that followed.  What has been the effect? That lead me to today’s topic: What Songs Shaped Your Thinking? What songs had an impact on your relationship with yourself?

When Helen Reddy swung into “I am Woman” today, I flashed back on a day in 1973 when I was so…make that, SOOOOO…angry and disappointed with my husband and so ready to see the end of the relationship. I remember he went away for a couple of days to give us a cooling off period. I got up early the next morning and cranked up ol’ Helen and sang and danced to that song over and over.

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again. 

Good stuff! I have boundaries and I’m enforcing them. No one can put me down. That’s right, no one!  I’m standing up on my back legs and saying “Ouch!” when it hurts.  And, then, not putting my hand on that stove again.

Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain

Oh, yeah. I’ve learned a little something, and much of it the hard way. Wisdom is gleaned when information turns into knowledge.  What I’ve learned after all these years of  helping individuals, couples and teams with enhancing their relationships is that people often think information and knowledge are the same thing. I don’t think so. Information is just facts, myths and opinions. If we accept the information and apply it in our lives, it becomes knowledge for us. Wisdom is a whole other thing. It involves a journey, and often not an easy one.

Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained

The question I ask my clients is often this:  Which of those two things are you focusing on?  The price you paid? Or, how much you gained?  The answer to that question makes all the difference in the quality of your life and relationship with yourself.  How about you? What’s your focus? The “ain’t it awful’s” or the “what useful or valuable can I take from this that will make life easier?”

If I have to
I can do anything
I am strong 
I am invincible 
I am woman

So, no matter what is going on, I can face it and walk through it, the song says. That’s uplifting, but it may give the listener a sense that there is something wrong with them if they find the walking  distasteful, difficult or soul-destroying. That could be a bit of a problem. We need to be able to recognize pain, complication and difficulty. It goes with being human. Hopefully, listeners will not think this is an invitation to denial! 

You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul

This sounds so powerful, strong, and, in her words, invincible. These could be good things. Just because the going gets rough, do you forsake your dreams?

On the other hand, perhaps obstacles come along to make us more self-reflective. Maybe they come along to cause us to pause, to re-consider our “final goal” rather than dig our heels in to persist. What’s your experience?

So, which songs shaped your life? Did they set you in motion, or set something in you in stone that would be better pulverized and re-shaped? How did your favourite songs impact your relationship with yourself?

Think how many times song words have been stuck in your head, playing like a broken record. That has an influence, consciously or unconsciously. It might be time to re-visit which songs impacted you at what periods of your life.  Do they still serve you well now? Would it be better to break that old record and find a new CD that empowers who you are today, who you want to be rather than who you have been?

That’s what I thought about as I painted my door. Whether it was this song, or Aretha Franklin’s Respect, or Dolly Parton’s Nine to Five, each one I listened to had words that I accepted, rejected, or was empowered or impacted by at the age or stage of my life that they entered. Listening to this trip down memory lane really made me think.

It’s up to me to make sure that I’m singing from the right song sheet at this time of my life, and not humming some old tune that no longer serves me.

How about you? What songs influenced your relationship with yourself? What’s on your playlist?

P.S. My husband returned. We talked. It blew over.


(Lyrics to “I am Woman” by Helen Reddy and Ray Burton)

Disclaimer: All advice, insights and suggestions made here are not to be construed as psychological or legal advice. Any actions you undertake as a result of reading any article, book, video, ebook or blog post from Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, are entirely your own. Having worked with individuals and couples for more than twenty-five years, she offers her insights and opinions for your consideration only.

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