A Mysterious Powerful Emotion - Induced by a Song

My wife is all-but homebound (except for medical appointments) because she is on a toxic cocktail of chemotherapy for a rare and awful cancer. I offer this background only to set the stage for what I hope to convey. Because of her condition, our major activity together is watching TV, mainly movies and older TV series. We find little entertainment value and much political toxicity in most recent (say, since 2015 or so) productions. In fact, Netflix productions, like those “produced” (read ‘pay them off’ for their destructive service to the left) by the Obamas, are so uniformly obnoxious that I cancelled it.

Anyway, we are currently watching “The Sopranos”. It is particularly meaningful to me because I was born in Newark and grew up in Elizabeth NJ. Both the geography and culture are highly recognizable to me. My dad, though Jewish (not Italian), had a fair number of friends who would have fit into “The Sopranos” cast. He was able to get me summer jobs through several labor unions via his connections to some of the bosses. Lets leave it at that; I have my suspicions.

So, we’re into season 3 and as episode 8 (“He Is Risen”) starts to close on the credits, in the background but with lyrics clearly audible, comes the single “The Captain” by Kasey Chambers. For reasons I cannot corral - even after considerable thought - I became so tearful that I could not contain myself. I tried to explain to myself and my wife what this is about. I just don’t know. There is something mysteriously evocative and haunting about this track; I think it emanates from the melody, the reed like quality of the singer’s voice, and the lyrics.

As the episode closed and the song was cut short by the TV app (as it always does as episode end and this is annoying if one wants to read the credits or hear the accompanying audio), my wife - unmoved - wanted to continue to the next episode. My acts of (unsuccessfully) choking back tears, persuaded her to let me find a youtube video of the single, listen to it several times, and read the lyrics repeatedly. I have since read numerous analyses of the lyrics, but none really make sense to me. Mainly, they seem to be humble and self-effacing.

I have heard this track previously and always felt moved by it. Though not an aficionado of modern music of any sort (I tuned out in the late 1960’s), I occasionally hear tracks which get to me. There have been a handful over the years, but I can only remember one just now. There have been other tracks by other artists which have touched me, but I can only remember one: “If I Needed you” by Emmylou Harris and Don Williams. As I write, I am wishing I could recall this list of maybe a half dozen tracks and put them in my phone for listening as I drive (mostly this collection is hymns, some of which definitely stir my soul - but that is in a different domain).

I am a very introspective person. Since childhood, I have had the need to understand myself, intellectually and emotionally. I endeavor to understand the context of my emotions, thoughts and actions as well. The image which comes to mind is that of looking through a zoom lens. My mental process often consists of going back & forth between a “zoomed in” and “zoomed out” perspective of my self and events surrounding me. I both take pleasure in those feelings which transport me - like this one - and fear them at the same time, lest they carry me away out of control. I am deeply ambivalent, yet this feeling makes me feel intensely ALIVE.

My response to this song, as best I can tell, resembles what is called a “grief reaction”, a profound sense of loss. I first identified this and analyzed it with the help of a therapist. Of course, we discussed many aspects of my childhood, especially unmet emotional needs. Back then, I was reading a book by a psychologist named John Bradshaw. I forget the name of the book, but in it he said an infant needs a “loving, mirroring face”.

I reacted to those words (and numerous other life situations which brought to mind that same loss) with this same intense feeling - of grief, of loss. I somehow sensed I never experienced this expression of maternal love, so essential to an infant’s sense of value (and development of his sense of self-worth). The lack of this essential expression of maternal love - at a stroke - explained my overwhelming need for the love of girls beginning in grammar school and extending well into my adult life. The feeling was one of intense incompleteness, an emptiness in me which could only be filled by the adoration of this one!

Suffice it to say, I was on the giving and receiving end of much dysfunction and hurt as I swirled through the lives of serial women/girls like a tornado; a black hole of cloying dependency. Growing out of that took years and could only have happened - as it did - through recovery from opioid addiction. In passing, I should add that the kind of love addiction (a “process addiction”) I just described, often goes together with addiction to various substances (“ingestive addiction”). But that’s a big topic - too big for here.

So, I would be glad for any thoughts as to the question of why this, and a few other tracks are so evocative of intense feeling - so haunting, for want of a better word. My response to these intense reactions are NOT avoidant. I do not seek to avoid them. I actually welcome them, again because of the accompanying sense of ALIVE-ness. They seem to be cleansing in some way. The image is of a capacitor which has released its stored up charge even as it becomes ready to store more power for the next cycle - for when it is needed.


Just listened to “The Captain” by Kasey Chambers for the first time. Had never heard that song before … but then I have never watched “The Sopranos” either. Songs are like scents/smells – they have an uncanny ability to bring back vivid recollections of times past; it is those recollections which make them very powerful for individuals.

It is frightening how much material each of us does not contact as we skim over the surface of life: so many songs unheard, so many books unread, so many movies unwatched, so many places unvisited, so many people unmet, so much history unlearned, so much human knowledge that each of us never has the time to appreciate.

CW – if you ever find the time to share your perspective on process addiction versus ingestive addiction, I for one would be fascinated.


I listened to the song too and I’m grateful—I never heard it before. Y’know, CW, it could be a hymn, it made me think of your fairly recent post about becomimg a “theist”. It could be about total yielding, surrender to,God, like so many hymns are: “Just as I Am”, “I Surrender All”, even “Amazing Grace”.
My fave song, and one that gives me the same kinda feeling you’re describing, is REO Speedwagon, “I can’t fight this feeling any longer”. Really the same theme! And THAT one could be a hymn, too.


Yes. This is one for my list. Thanks.


Hello Civilwestman,

I’m sorry I can only comment on the music portion of your text.

I was intrigued by your post, it had me find “The Captain by Kasey Chambers” on YouTube.
(link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_IIt7p_ayU )
And I can’t say it did anything for or to me. Don’t take that wrong though.

I have a vehicle that has a CD player in it, (how quaint, LOL), and it is capable of playing MP3 files. Also I have a complete collection of all the end of year top Billboard hits on my computer in MP3 format from 1946 through 2000, ( Thank you “newsgroups” ), at least until the advent of Rap.

I burned some CDs with various years, I can fit over 100 pieces on a CD, and enjoy them rather than the commercial infested AM and FM radio. (I tried that satellite service and didn’t like the DJ between every piece.)

But there are a few tunes that I have to hit the search button to move past that sort of stirs a memory from the past that was unpleasant. A few times I tried to endure it, listening to the one that “bothered” me. No good. Sometimes while driving dears fell.

Bottom line; you are not alone with a song bringing up memories both good and bad.


I find as I have aged there are more and more things that elicit an emotional response. Often for no good reason - I just start to have tears. I attribute that to simply getting old, perhaps some micro CVA’s that have changed my emotional state. Or, one could attribute that, in my case, as penance for the life I’ve had. I have been an unrepentant killer as well as savior of lives. I still hold no real sorrow over the lives I took, nor, to be honest, any real sense of personally caused joy over my wins at saving lives, of which I have had my fair share.

Music, but also movies, and at times books, evoke the same response in me. I find certain songs haunting, the Hypatia-mentioned Amazing Grace being one of them. It is infrequently sung at the churches I occasionally attend (Protestant - I go regularly to my birth religion church, Orthodox, where singing of songs is only to the degree they are in the official liturgy), and I feel that’s too bad. It is a fabulous hymn.

Another one that grabs me is “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe, a Christian group. There was even a movie out about the lead singer and his life, It was interesting. But the song moves me, as it has apparently done to probably millions as it is THE most popular Christian song of all time.


One that’s tearing me open lately: ‘Going Home’ from Dvorak’s New World symphony.

The Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World”, Op. 95, B. 178 (Czech: Symfonie č. 9 e moll “Z nového světa”)


That is a great tune and presentation - showing the notes/chords as they are struck. Thank you. One of my favorite (among many sung chorales & sacred music generally, is “Jesy Joy of Man’s Desiring”. I think in German it is “Herzleibster Jesu”. Chills, reliably.


More ;
“Ring of Fire”, Johnny Cash
"Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, Simon & Garfunkel
“Teach Your Children”, Crosby Stills, Nash & Young
“I Feel Love” BlueMan Group (pure joy!)

I will add more if/when they fill some of the holes in my memory. If you have any thoughts as to what the songs I mention may have in common - to be so evocative of bittersweet memory and tears - I would be glad to understand and/or characterize what (if anything) is common to them.


Oh god that made me choke up as soon as I recognized the music ; I mean I didn’t know what it was but knew I’d heard it before—and then the words! Yes, thanks, I think……


Could I interest you in a bit of …synesthesia?

We’e talkin’ music here, but there are certain verbal creations that do it for me, too. Thomas Wolfe’s passage where he repeats the refrain, “O lost!” And the title of his book, “Look Homeward, Angel”. Other lines of poetry: MacLeish’s “wherever the iron of English rings from a tongue” ; Frost: “But yield who will to their separation/My object in living is to unite/My avocation and my vocation/ As my two eyes make one in sight.”; Shakespeare: “Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice”, among many other lines……it was Frost, maybe, who said he knew real poetry when he heard it because if he thought of a line while shaving, it made his nascent beard stand up. The “Heiliger Schauer”, Holy Shiver! like when a dog’s dorsal fur, its “hackles”, rises….oh, thank you God for art in ALL media!


Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt”


I’ve loved Johnny Cash, but never knew this one.

Spot on and thank you.


It is one of the last things he ever recorded, and in my opinion is a contender for best cover. The video is also haunting.

There are a number of youtube videos that talk about how it came to be and interviews with Rick Rubin, the producer, who brought the original to Johnny’s attention.