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Addressing is a technique I use to make certain things more entertaining. I started experimenting with it when my favorite song was Whatcha Say, by Jason Derülo, but I couldn't relate to the lyrics.

The song's narrator is asking a girl to forgive him for cheating, but he's not very convincing. It seems like the rhymes got decided first and any emotions were fit in after the fact.

I hadn't been cheating on anyone when I was playing the song all the time, so the story didn't mean much to me. I only paid attention to the sample and the auto-tune tricks. But I could never really justify feeling good about a song like that; to someone else, someone who knew a lot about infidelity, things would've been different. It seemed like I was having the wrong emotions, and that if I could just hear the song the way Derülo had intended I might like it better. Then, when I played it on my iPod, as a soundtrack that was composed and synchronized with my walking, I might take the short, begrudging steps of a guy feeling guilty. Maybe I'd walk with my hands in my pockets, so nobody could grab my phone to look through the text messages.

So I toyed with various solutions to make the song seem realer. They sounded great on paper, like "I could get a girlfriend and cheat on her and apologize and play this song on the way home from her apartment and see how I felt." I bet that would've worked, actually, but I have a feeling it would've caused more problems than it solved.

Then I realized I should do the opposite and play down the specifics. Maybe I'd imagine a song about betrayal in general instead of just cheating, and make believe I was singing the song to someone I'd recently betrayed. I'd feel the right emotion then. Jason Derülo wouldn't mind if I added some meaning to his song like his managers added that umlaut to his name. He deserves to get repurposed. He's already done it to someone else. He'd sing "I was caught up in her lust when I don't really want no one else," and suddenly they wouldn't be bad lyrics; now they'd be about me and my own impulsive affairs. He'd be me, and maybe I'd be singing to my younger self, apologizing for ever thinking I'd be better off taking Ritalin. Whatever I felt guilty about at the time, that would be the new story. And suddenly the song would be beautiful.

It was settled. I'd generalize the lyrics and then pretend I was singing them to whoever made sense. Over time it mutated into what I now call "addressing."

How It Works

You can do it to just about any experience. You just have to be willing to admit that your brain doesn't always know what's good for it. And you have to OK with ordering it around sometimes.

Normally, you form opinions without really thinking about them, and a lot of the little decisions you make would seem illogical if someone else was making them. You can toy with this on a basic level; people who call themselves optimists do it when they "look on the bright side"; pessimists do it when they try to "be realistic." But the minute you admit that some opinions might be better for you than others, and that you can decide which ones to pick out, something different happens.

Addressing lets you give directions to your unconscious mind. An awful new job becomes a chapter in the memoir you'll write once you've worked your way up. A breakup becomes a vision of your ex, older now, a caricature of all the little flaws that have snowballed over a lifetime. War wounds stop hurting and become stories to feed your grandchildren's imaginations. Links start to show up between unrelated subjects.

Addressing isn't an ideology. It's not a "lens through which to view the world." It's the money to buy all the sunglasses in the shop, throw them away the instant they've gone out of style, and buy a new collection. It's the freedom to change opinions and believe them instantly. And once you've started, it's hard to stop.

Disclaimer

It's not a coincidence that I only listed examples of addressing for young people. The fact is, I haven't been old yet, and I might have different opinions on all this when I've had time to live with the ideas for years. Maybe I'll discover little flaws, and they'll snowball over time. It doesn't do any good to plan that far ahead, anyway. So if you try it out, start small, like bending song lyrics to fit your needs. Or clicking a few links to see if you can make the connections work. I bet you'll start to see ones I missed.

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