Triggers: Songs That Trigger Memories From Being Locked Up

Music has an uncanny ability to transport us to different times and places, evoking emotions and memories long forgotten. Sometimes, a simple melody or a few lines of lyrics can conjure up a rush of feelings, and for some, even trigger memories of darker days.

The Power of Melody and Memory:

It’s no secret that music has the power to tap into our memories and emotions in profound ways. Scientifically, our brains are wired to associate music with experiences, making certain songs time machines that can transport us back to the moments when they first touched our lives. For me, a song became a conduit to a past marked by challenges and personal growth – a period spent behind cold, steel bars.

The Song That Rewound Time:

A particular song served as a soundtrack to my days of incarceration, specifically when I spent time in ‘the hole’ or ‘ad-seg’ (administrative segregation, is where you go when you are housed separately from the general population). I went to the hole because tattoo supplies was found in my gen-pop cell. What kind of tattoo supplies you ask? Ha, a paperclip, indigent shampoo (I think ironically called “Maximum Security”, and pencil lead, sounds safe right? Anyway, the song in question had been a favorite long before the unfortunate turn of events that led to my time in jail. Its lyrics and melodies had always resonated with me, but they took on an entirely new dimension when I found himself behind bars, and locked away alone for 23 hours a day (1 hour to shower, use the phone, walk, etc.) Every note seemed to reflect the emotional rollercoaster I was on – the feelings of regret, anger, and the yearning for redemption. I used to pencil to write the lyrics of “Royals” by Lorde on the cold cement wall that had been painted white years ago, then re-painted to hide God-knows-what whenever needed. I found a comfort in the lyrics that seemed to speak about not coming from a rich life and being alright with it

“We count our dollars on the train, to the party, and everyone who knows us knows, that we’re fine with this, we didn’t come from money”

It all just resonated with me. Also, interestingly enough, when you’re locked up, you’d be surprised about how much you miss music and being able to look up lyrics at the drop of a hat. I had to sing the song bit-by-bit, slowly, over and over until I finally got what seemed like the whole song on the wall. Then, I sang it, over and over, whenever I felt like it. Also, side-note, that song is absolutely beautiful in an echoey, cement-surrounded, room.

Healing Through Music:

As the hours turned into days and the days into weeks, I found myself relying on that song and any others I could remember as a source of emotional healing. The memories of my time in the hole and behind bars in general became intertwined with songs from that time in my life. Some other songs that trigger me and send me through time to my dark days would be:

  • Anything HALSEY <3
  • ‘Stressed Out’, ‘The Judge’, and ‘Heathens’ by Twenty One Pilots
  • Any song on the Suicide Squad soundtrack
  • The entire ‘Memories…Do Not Open’ album, ‘Dont Let Me Down’, and ‘Closer’ by The Chainsmokers
  • ‘Sorry’ and ‘Love Yourself’ by Justin Bieber
  • ‘Ex Machina’ by Vaski
  • ‘Never Gonna Catch Me’ Skan & El Speaker
  • “I’m an Albatraoz’ and ‘Little Swing’ by AronChupa
  • ‘Hair’ by Little Mix

There’s so many more, these ones are simply the ones that I can remember off the top of my head. I am currently in the process of trying to ‘reassign’ these songs with new memories so I can heal from the trauma linked to them. I play them while doing something positive and fun.


The story of how a song triggered memories of being in jail highlights the profound connection between music, memories, and personal growth. I share my journey to hopefully share with, show, inspire, and remind others that even in the most challenging circumstances, there is potential for change and renewal. Music has a unique way of helping us confront our past, process our emotions, and ultimately, move forward with a newfound sense of purpose. So, the next time a song stirs a memory within you, let it be a reminder of the strength you possess to overcome any adversity life may throw your way.

Gold Star if you can guess the last time I was locked up based on the music.