I Asked My Therapist: This Is How to Emotionally Prepare For ‘All Too Well (10-Minute Version)’

"Red (Taylor's Version)"
Photo: Republic Records. Adobe. Design: Cierra Miller/STYLECASTER.

It’s officially sad girl autumn. And if the cold air, fall leaves, and plaid shirt days haven’t already gotten you in the spirit of things, don’t stress: Red (Taylor’s Version) will get you there. And yes, this means that some emotional preparation is probably in order, especially if you’re planning on listening to the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” on repeat like I am. Whether you have been a die-hard Swiftie since the album was originally released in 2012 (hi, same) or you only recently got hooked on Swift with the release of Folklore, Red (Taylor’s Version) promises to be a whirlwind of heartbreak, and I can’t wait. Did I mention sad girl autumn is my favorite season?

Still, after three years of therapy, I know how important it is to take the necessary precautions before embracing complete and total emotional devastation. (It’s called growth!) So I asked my therapist about the best way to prepare for the 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” and her answers are super helpful—and not just if you’re Jake Gyllenhaal.

1. Recognize that it’s normal to get emotional over a song about heartbreak.

First thing’s first: Getting emotional about music is totally normal—especially when it’s Taylor Swift music and especially when it’s the Red album. In October 2020,  Swift told Rolling Stone that she considers Red her “true breakup album.” She explained, “Every other album has flickers of different things. But this was an album that I wrote specifically about pure, absolute, to the core, heartbreak.” (Say it with me: sad! girl! autumn!)

That said, getting emosh about the thought of a 10-minute version of  “All Too Well” is pretty standard. According to Dr. Jaime Zuckerman, a  licensed clinical psychologist (and my very lucky therapist who did not judge me for asking these questions), “Music has always been a way to express feelings and thoughts that otherwise may be hard to communicate, so it is highly likely that a song about a difficult breakup will be relatable to many people.” 

She adds, “Regardless of our differences, it is more likely than not that at some point in our lives we have experienced a hurtful breakup with a former partner.” And even if you haven’t had your heart broken directly, hearing Swift sing about it might make you feel like you have.

Red (Taylor’s Version)

"Red (Taylor's Version"

Image: Courtesy of Republic Records.

2. Accept the emotional rollercoaster.

“Anytime we experience what we consider to be an uncomfortable emotion, it’s quite normal to not want to feel it,” Dr. Zuckerman explains. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid it—and it definitely doesn’t mean you should skip the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” to keep the heartbreak at bay. TBH, I think that might be sacrilegious? 

Instead of trying to dull your emotional response to Swift’s song (which is a waste of time, not to mention, might actually defeat the purpose of listening to “All Too Well”), embrace the journey. Zuckerman explains, “While ignoring or distracting yourself from this emotional pain may offer you temporary relief, it creates more of the emotion we don’t want in the long term.” 

During your listening party, a glass of white wine or two (with ice, just like Taylor likes it) might not hurt, but it’s important not to go overboard—yes, even when you remember that Maggie Gyllenhaal probably still has Swift’s old scarf in a drawer somewhere.  Instead, “acknowledge the feeling, sit with the feeling, and let it pass on its own,” Zuckerman suggests. In other words, try to stay present with your emotions. If that means a few stray tears land in your wine glass, so be it.

3. Try exposure therapy, the “All Too Well” version.

Before listening to the uncut 10-minute version (!) or reading the handwritten lyrics (!!) or watching the short film (!!!), you might want to start by listening to the 5-minute and 38-second version you already know and love. (To make sure that You Know Who doesn’t get any revenue from those listens, I’d keep the “All Too Well” exposure therapy limited to your old CDs and iPod Nano…or Taylor’s Version, obvi.) Zuckerman explains, “Slowly reintroducing the sad song over a period of time prior to the second edition’s release is a great way to get used to the negative emotions it may elicit.”

She adds, “To expose yourself to the sadness, start small and comfortable. Listen to it in a setting that is peaceful, calming, or supportive for you.” BRB, setting up my bubble bath and candles now. Per Zuckerman, it’s also a good idea to approach your “All Too Well”-induced heartbreak in steps. “Start by reading the lyrics online, followed by listening to just the instrumental part, or listening to it at an extremely low volume and gradually increasing.” 

OK, so I’m not sure if it’s physically possible to listen to “All Too Well” on anything but full volume, but I’m game to try—as long as I can dial it up to the highest volume by the time Swift sings, “Back before you lost the one real thing you’ve ever known.” At that point, I’m going to need something to drown out my singing voice.

Getting emotional about music is totally normal—especially when it’s Taylor Swift music.

4. Keep your triggers in mind and prepare accordingly.

If a song about heartbreak feels particularly triggering for you, there’s no pressure to listen to the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” right away. (No matter what anyone says, you really don’t need to be freshly heartbroken to appreciate Red as an album.) But keep in mind that you can’t avoid all of your triggers forever. And if you are on TikTok, I can almost guarantee that this song’s about to become a trending sound. 

Just remember that, according to Dr. Zuckerman, when triggers begin to “interfere with your day-to-day life” (for me, staying off TikTok would certainly qualify), it’s time to stop avoiding them. But if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already decided that hearing the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” is worth the temporary heartbreak. So just plan ahead—and restock your Kleenex supply accordingly. 

I’m still not sure if it’s necessarily a ~good idea~ to tell your therapist that a 10-minute version of a song you already know has the potential to unhinge you, but I’m hoping that it won’t set my progress back too far. At the very least, I’m now fully equipped to face “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version)”—and the emotional baggage it’s sure to bring—without too many reservations. And, hey, if I end up sending an “All Too Well”-inspired text to my ex-fling this Friday, I can always cover it in my next therapy session.

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