Typically associated with soothing an infant, lullabies are soft songs sung to gently induce sleep or distract a baby from a background event. They’re folkloric, anecdotal, even academic (if you think of the alphabet song), and sometimes morbid (think Jack and Jill). Lullabies are almost always associated with the comfort and rescue that accompanies them. Like a command key, they are sought more for that outcome than for the tune itself. The positively triggering quality of a lullaby is anchoring. Some babies and toddlers know exactly how to behave to cajole their parent into scooping them up and singing them that lullaby, just to have that soothing experience. They understand how lullabies summon their soothe.
Most babies outgrow needing lullabies to go to sleep or alleviate fear, anxiety. Some learn to hum lullaby tunes to themselves in bed or sing when they are feeling frightful or stressed. They adopt the solution that’s been bequeathed to them: a gentle song can help passing the thing that discomforts them. From early they are handed a “solution” of dissociating with their discomfort and fear. Thankfully, we outgrow lullabies—
—or do we?
As we mature, lullabies take on different forms but retain the same function. They are the things we “sing” over ourselves when we want to be led gently into another mental space—when we wish to escape the present tense and go to a kinder mental space. We create lullabies for ourselves by forming habits that soothe and alleviate us from the accountability of taking account of a trauma or circumstance. From a music playlist to a bottle of wine; sexual daydreams and pornography to a binge on Amazon Prime —when these habits/choices become sources of bliss to defer facing the brunt of reality, they behave as lullabies.
Lullabies are used to sooth oneself or another before, during or after an intense or traumatic experience. A lullaby repeated even when there’s no trauma is usually paying homage to it or implemented as a method of precaution (I’d say programming) so that, in case anything should happen, there’s a tool of ease at arm’s length for the “victim” to auto-engineer.
Alleviating ourselves into a pacified state of being is how we “sing” lullabies in our everyday. We use things like music, TV, social media, food, shopping, travel, work and more as lullabies that “sing” us into comfort, ease, and stupor. Bad day? There’s a playlist for that. Irritable with hunger? Have a candy bar. Hurt feelings? Go shopping. Bad news? Smoke a joint. End of a hard week? Watch some porn or go to a bar. Can’t bear the thought of what that text or phone message said? There’s a pint of ice cream or bottle of red wine for that.
What’s your lullaby? What hushes the troubles around and within you when you feel you can’t bear them? What have you designed to be your buffer between yourself and life’s intensities?
Another word for lullaby is escapism: the permission you create for yourself to dissociate from whatever you don’t wish to be real for you at the moment. Pay attention: the average marketing campaign programs people to practice escapism, to lull themselves from spiritual presence of mind by making economic decisions that reward us with stuff or experiences. Commercials flash scenarios before our eyes that portray actors using products as a way of methodizing peace of mind or mechanizing their preferred [unreal] sense of reality. Others are made rich because we spend our resources soothing and alleviating ourselves. It’s celebrated and humored in our media as entertainment, watching someone make a movie’s worth of erratic decisions because of what another character in the film did to them. Many songs have become anthems that coincide with our processing relationships, self-esteem, ideas about the journey, etc.
What’s your lullaby?
As matriarchs our children’s children are relying not on the songs we’ll sing to lull them to sleep on a late night, but on our accounts from every present tense we’re presented with in our lifetimes. If we use our moments of clearest dialogue with the pangs of life to check out and “feel good” we are robbing ourselves and them of our insights of continuance and wisdom. We don’t need lullabies, we need spiritual centering and truth. We need understanding and multigenerational perspectives fixed in place that diminish the appeal of lulling ourselves into stupor when our minds are in heightened states to process truths of our realities.
Let’s discern our lullabies and practice disempowering them, choosing presence and vigilance instead so we can journey soulfully.