American poet Maya Angelou once wrote “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness”. It is an exquisite thing to hear a piece of music and be transported to the emotions and memories of a special time or place.

Christmas Loneliness Photo © Shutterstock

There can be a duality to conjuring past times through music, however. Our festive memories aren’t all sunshine and roses. At least one third of Australians experience relational and emotional difficulty at Christmas, flowing from financial stress, maybe a family member predictably overdoing the eggnog and going rogue, the stress of living up to expectations come Christmas lunch, or a sense of personal isolation in comparison to past years. As a result, festivities can unfortunately often give rise to feelings of loneliness. Or perhaps perennial familial tensions are stoked come December. Music that you associate with such experiences may reignite underlying emotions, good or bad, without much conscious thought on your part.

Our connection with emotion-laden memories accessible via music is made possible due to music activating our entire limbic system (involved in emotion, motivation, learning and memory processes)....

This article is available to Limelight subscribers.

Log in to continue reading.

Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism.

Subscribe now