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The type of music you listen to has a lot to do with how you approach certain situations. After listening to a Joni Mitchell album, a colleague remarked that we have very different music tastes. She said that my tastes were too "soft" and "whiny". I explained to her that, while working, I prefer a relaxing album to counterbalance my frustration as a writer/programmer.

In fact, music has a tremendous influence on our life. From the songs used in television commercials to what we listen to for pleasure, our auditory senses are overloaded on a daily basis. If we can manipulate ourselves similar to the way commercials do, we can ease the emotional tension inherent in our daily routine. From road rage to romance, our lives can run a little more smoothly.

I have a friend who has a bad case of road rage. He can't drive more than a block without his face turning red. Children run for their lives when they see him barreling down the street in his two-tone pickup. When he's not in the car, however, he is a tolerant, respectable person. What gives?

Metallica. All he had in his car was loud, blood pumping music. It pushed his virtual testosterone level to the point of a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal. When I popped in a little Wes Montgomery, his road rage all but disappeared. He didn't notice much of a difference, but all the passengers quietly remarked at his drastic change of face.

On a larger and more important scale, our relationships can slip into routines that we don't see as unhealthy before it's too late. Once we establish a history with our partner, we also develop patterns that are very difficult to get rid of. Maybe one of you developed aggressive tendencies when playing around, such as hitting or biting. These actions are manifestations of deeper problems.

One way to counteract these patterns is to consciously go against the natural flow. For example, if you and your partner listen to stimulating music and have a contentious relationship, perhaps you should try a more mellow sound. On the other hand, if the relationship is passive to a fault, louder more wrenching music might be in order.

Don't underestimate the power that music has over your emotions. Why do you think they call certain styles "romantic" and others "fight songs"? Think of what was played the last time you were at a sporting event. Elvis Costello's "Pump it Up" is not a song that will put your infant child to sleep. Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" is an obvious choice for seduction, but you can get creative with what works for you and your partner. Sit down and talk about how certain music makes you *feel*, and you can build and personalize your own soundtrack.

Try to remain open minded and broaden your horizons in order to maintain a stimulating environment. This doesn't mean you have to radically change your life; in fact, gradually changing your environment will manifest bigger and better changes in all facets of your life. Having choices in your life enables you to approach trying situations with a plan. My friend now has only calming music in his car in anticipation of his road rage.

Our personalities are constantly shaped by the environment. Some of that is uncontrollable, but some of it can be regulated to achieve a desired result. If you find yourself constantly aggravated, tired, or depressed, change the station. Pop in a new CD. Control your environment with hopes of controlling yourself.


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