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My Friend of Misery

I absolutely love Metallica, the Black Album in particular. One of the songs that has always resonated with me, and made me consider it’s meaning is My Friend Of Misery. I’ve included the lyrics complete at the bottom of this post, so if you want to read them before I break them down, scroll to the bottom and they are there. I have also included a link to a recording if you haven’t heard the song before.


I think the reason this song has made me think so much, is that at times, I can often be a quite negative, and pessimistic person. I have a tendency to focus on what is wrong, not what is right. I have certainly evolved these days to take a more balanced view, but these lyrics still make me think about why it is that people feel the need to bitch and moan about things, and how these people want to drag others into their circle of influence.


You just stood there screaming

Fearing no one was listening to you

The child in us always wants to be heard and acknowledged. One of our greatest fears is irrelevance, and that no one will listen. I think sprucing the negative is about seeking attention, and getting people to agree with your point of view. It is sad, but true (entirely intentional Metallica reference), that you always seem to get a better audience complaining about things, rather than praising how good things are. 


They say the empty can rattles the most

The sound of your own voice must soothe you


A problem shared is a problem halved? Does sharing ones complaints have a soothing effect? I know in my case it certainly made me feel better, but only in the way that a pain killer will only numb the pain, without treating the cause. I find the empty can rattling to be an interesting reference. Empty of what? Thoughts of happiness, joy, gratitude and other such positive emotions? This is almost the opposite of the saying “if you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all”. Having nothing positive to contribute, but wanting to be heard, the only message left to scream out are one’s of complaint and despair.


Hearing only what you want to hear

And knowing only what you’ve heard


This is about perspective. Call it perception is reality, the map is not the territory or cognitive dissonance, but to put it simply, people generally look at things from their point of view, and will then gather evidence to support that point of view. Once they have made their mind up, they will only “hear” supporting arguments, and ignore the rest. One of my favourite books is Mistakes were made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. It is a quite disturbing look at cognitive dissonance and how we can evidence gather to support a point over view and explains this very well.


You

You’re smothered in tragedy

And you’re out to save the world


It is so easy to get into a mindset where everything is bad, and nothing is going right. In seeing the world through a filter of negativity, you only hear the negative stuff, and become overwhelmed by it. It is then easy to become a crusader, feeling the need to point out everything that is wrong, to all that will listen. I can get this way when I am in a negative mindset. I feel I am doing the right thing in pointing out everything that is wrong, but at the heart of it, all I am doing is seeking attention and wanting to be heard.


Misery

You insist that the weight of the world

Should be on your shoulders


In becoming a champion for all that is wrong, and looking at the world through a filter of negativity,  it does feel that all of the bad things around you rest on your shoulders. From experience, this is a very tough place to be. As the champion of negativity, more negativity comes your way.  You have gotten what you wanted….attention, but it is all negative.  

Misery

There’s much more to life than what you see

My friend of misery


This loops back to “hearing only what you want to hear”. There is so much more to life. Happiness joy and gratitude can be found in almost any situation, but if you close yourself off to everything other than the negative, you will miss out on it all.


On another note, I find these lyrics show a great understanding on modalities of understanding. People learn, and process information in different ways, some through seeing, some through hearing, some through feeling. The lyrics neatly loop through each of these modalities, making sure there is something there that will resonate with everyone.


You still stood there screaming

No one caring about these words you tell


I feel that the song here turns from describing the miserable person, to a judgement of their behaviour. Almost a third person looking in, or perhaps the same persons higher self giving insight as to their behaviour. The person is still screaming, but in reality no-one is listening. You can only hear a person complain so much before you tune them out.


My friend, before your voice is gone

One man’s fun is another’s hell


I am not sure on this one. “Before your voice is gone” could be a reference to their audience tuning out. The next line is again referring to perception, and how the same events can be viewed differently by different people.


These times are sent to try men’s souls

But something’s wrong with all you see


This is almost an acknowledgement that there is misery and negative things out there. Trying times indeed, but it is not necessary to succumb to these trials. And again, reference to differences in perception.


You

You’ll take it on all yourself

Remember, misery loves company

I take this in two ways. Miserable people tend to gather other negatively minded people. The have something in common to complain about. The other way, is that in focussing on the negative, a person will attract more negativity in their life. This is the law of attraction in action.


Misery

You insist that the weight of the world

Should be on your shoulders


Repeat       

Misery

There’s much more to life than what you see

My friend of misery


Plain and simple, this is just great advice to a person stuck in the mire of negativity.


You just stood there screaming

My friend of misery


I strongly recommend listening the the song if you are not familiar with it. The moody bass riff feels perfect for the song. I often wonder if James Hetfield’s “Friend of Misery” is a part of himself, someone in particular he has in mind, or just an observation of what he was seeing in society. Given the struggles he has had later in life, it could well be that he is talking about an internal conflict. Either way, the lyrics certainly have made me think about my own tendency to the negative, and have made a contribution to my desire to change.

Complete Lyrics


You just stood there screaming

Fearing no one was listening to you

They say the empty can rattles the most

The sound of your own voice must soothe you

Hearing only what you want to hear

And knowing only what you’ve heard
You You’re smothered in tragedy

And you’re out to save the world
       

Misery        

You insist that the weight of the world        

Should be on your shoulders                

Misery        

There’s much more to life than what you see        

My friend of misery


You still stood there screaming

No one caring about these words you tell

My friend, before your voice is gone

One man’s fun is another’s hell

These times are sent to try men’s souls

But something’s wrong with all you see
You, You’ll take it on all yourself

Remember, misery loves company


Misery

You insist that the weight of the world        

Should be on your shoulders                

Misery        

There’s much more to life than what you see        

My friend of misery
You just stood there screaming

My friend of misery

Recording

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODHhWcEdrvg

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