Ellen came to me for voice training in her fifties. As a young girl in a school choir she was told to mouth the words.
Forty years later, while playing a game in a social situation, someone challenged her to stand up and sing a song. She left the room in tears.
This kind of trauma – and re-traumatizing – around the voice is not uncommon.
Ellen’s goal was simple. She wanted to sing in tune. As she stood in front of me in her first session her distress and nervousness were palpable.
What was important in that moment was to help her recognize that, even with the emotional damage caused by the thoughtlessness of others, she could have the voice she wanted.
During Ellen’s voice training sessions, in addition to voice work, we talked about issues of negative self talk and low self-esteem. Many people will quit when those things come to light but Ellen had courage.
She didn’t quit.
She began to experience rewarding moments and fewer frustrations. As she continued with her voice training, her voice began to change, and so did her perception of it. Or did her perception change first?
It doesn’t matter. It’s a mental, emotional and physical partnership.
Ellen was finding her true voice, the voice she was always meant to have.
What’s Unresolved Is Impacting Your Voice
Leanne came to me because she often felt panic when she had to speak in front of a group of people, and even with speaking with individuals she’d just met. We discovered the root of her panic occurred at a very young age.
This is the story that emerged.
Leanne and her mom had gone to visit a friend of her mom’s. During the visit the friend’s husband had been extremely critical and verbally abusive to Leanne. (What a schmuck, she was five!!)
Neither Leanne’s mother nor the friend tried to intervene on her behalf. (They don’t exactly shine in this story either.)
As a result of the incident, Leanne completely stopped talking. Her mom took her to a speech pathologist but did not tell the pathologist about the incident. Not surprisingly, the practitioner could find nothing physically wrong and said Leanne would probably start talking again at some point.
Eventually she did but as an adult the damage was having an impact on her career.
She didn’t quit either.
Your Voice is a Transmitter
As a fierce and feminine woman, your voice is an intrinsic part of claiming your presence and power.
As I’ve seen many times with clients who come for voice training, memories of the stresses and beliefs that mar your true voice are buried deep. You can see from these two stories that any emotional trauma can play out in the voice, diffusing its strength and impact.
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Voices act like a radio transmitter, circulating what you’re feeling to any human receiver in the vicinity. Each of us at a subconscious level constantly pick up and rapidly interpret the hidden messages and shades of meaning as we’re listening to someone speak.
And we’re good at it.
For example, you’ll know when you call a friend who is sad or depressed. Your antenna will twitch and you’ll probably ask immediately, “What’s wrong?” The words don’t always carry the feeling. The voice always does.
And it’s the same when you talk to yourself in a critical way.
Yes, it is.
Imagine how your body would respond if you speak to it as if it’s the enemy and you’re at war.
What’s important to understand is that everything you need for a full, resonant, and complete voice is built in. Learning to love your voice is as vital as learning to love every other part of you.
You haven’t “lost your voice”. Your voice may be out of balance or lack strength but all the potential is there.
When Leanne’s voice started to change, she described the changes.
“Each time I practise my voice exercises, I fall completely into the sound of my voice and into the power of my words. In those moments, I feel like I’m living the words. As I continue the practices, I am more focused and centered and I obtain greater meaning from the world around me.”
What Sara was changing was not just how her voice sounded. She changed her view of herself, and her perspective on the world. When she could feel her own power, she could reclaim it.
When she didn’t feel it, she knew what to do.
Start With Simple Self Directed Voice Training
Of course, it’s always possible to start voice training with a professional coach but you can begin to uncover your authentic voice with these two steps you can take independently.
The first step is to find a way to become aware of how your voice feels to you. Sound obvious? It’s amazing how hard that is for some but it doesn’t have to be. The key is to release judgement.
Tune into your voice and ask:
- Where is it located?
- Where do I feel the resonance the most?
- Is it comfortable or does it get tired?
- Where do I feel it’s strong and where do I feel it’s weak?
For this process, you have to get out of your ears and your head!
Your voice is something you embody, not something you listen to and evaluate intellectually.
- Play with your voice.
- Make funny sounds.
- Recite your favourite poetry using different cartoon characters.
- Sing along to the radio in the car.
And each time you’re playing, become more aware of the feeling of your voice in your body.
The second step is to find words to articulate your awareness and understanding of each experience. Develop your unique picture of what your voice is.
This is where you do engage your mind again to create a description. As you continue to play over time, remind yourself with your own words. Write them down. Keep them handy. (There’s an example at the end of this post.)
Remember, they’re your words, not someone else’s words. What words spoken by someone else can describe any personal experience? No words, ever.
As you continue to remind yourself, your experience will become natural and organic. Eventually, you won’t have to remind yourself at all but just love the sensation of having your complete voice at your command.
How does it feel when you speak this sentence out loud?
My voice sings with all the enthusiasm, excitement and wonder of a young child.
That’s what you’re regaining, the joy and wonder of a child.
I Want My Voice To Be Whole
Another client taking voice training in order to sing the blues wrote the following as her description:
My voice is a major aspect of the way I am in the world. It allows me to say what I need to say, to be heard, to hear myself, to think out loud, to help translate who I am and what I am about to others.
Like what I would imagine experiencing with a giving, loving parent, I took my voice for granted, and expected it to always be there and be what it has always been.
At the possibility of damaging it or losing the voice I have known, I felt scared, bereft, different, changed.
I want my voice whole; I want to be whole.
What if I could not laugh out loud? Sing again? Fulfill my dreams?
I will protect my voice and I will value it.
I trust my voice to never let me down.
Without my whole voice, I am still me, but not in all the glory of who I really am.
Your whole, resonant, dynamic, wonderful voice is waiting for you.