Reclaiming The Silenced Voice
Have you ever been told not to sing? Have you ever been discouraged to pursue a passion or dream by another because they told you it wasn’t realistic or possible? Have you ever felt like someone just wasn’t listening? I have heard so many personal stories of people being silenced in their lives. Often the most significant silencing happens when we are very young, and these experiences live in us for years.
Music therapist Diane Austin (2008) wrote about the silencing that children, and ultimately adults, suffer from saying, “Sometimes this silence takes the form of withdrawing into a private world. . . . Sometimes the silence is selective; some things are allowed to be talked about, some feelings are allowed expression and others clearly not. Sometimes the silence is loud; words and feelings tumbling out but fall on dead ears or are beaten down and stifled. Needs and feelings remain unmet and the voice becomes inaudible, tight and tense, breathy and undefined, or simply untrue. . . . In essence, a wounded person often survives by forfeiting his or her own voice” (p. 24). Read on...
When we don’t attend to these early wounds, often our authentic voice grows softer and softer. We continue forward with caution. Many of us decide that it is safer not to express ourselves creatively.
In “The Development of Personality,” Carl Jung (1934/1983) wrote, “In every adult there lurks a child—an eternal child, something that is always becoming, is never completed, and calls for unceasing care, attention, and education. That is the part of the human personality which wants to develop and become whole” (p. 194). Exploring the voice often connects us to this creative child that Jung speaks of as well as a wisdom energy so much larger then our own personal identity.
What is the cost of a growing culture of silenced voices? What is at stake if we keep our voices hidden within? In the essay, “The Post-Modern Healer,” Thomas Moore (2003) wrote, “I think that modern dis-ease is due to our being out of touch with the cyclical mysteries that define us” (para. 11). These natural rhythms of nature, of our bodies, are the ultimate creative mirror for us as individuals and as a culture at large. When we suppress the creative energy within us that wants expression in the world, we are suppressing our own authenticity. Simply put, keeping our voices locked inside is bad for our health!
In 2009, a seven-year research initiative with the aim to research the “enhancement of health and well-being through singing” was born. It includes the collaboration of over 70 researchers in 16 countries (AIRS, 2009). This speaks to a growing awareness of the importance of reclaiming our voice and reaffirms Ted Gioia’s (2006) opinion that “people hunger to find healing and wholeness in something so simple as the making of sounds” (p. 144). Sharing our creative visions, our inner voice, our authentic self with others takes courage when we have been silenced. We need to encourage one another. I encourage you to get vocal today. Getting vocal can happen in so many ways. It could simply be communicating something important to someone you love. It could mean singing, writing, dancing, daring to share a hidden part of yourself and let it out into the open air. If you feel shy, shaky, or unsure...you’re probably on to something.
AIRS. (2009). Advancing interdisciplinary research in singing. Retrieved from http://www.airsplace.ca
Austin, D. (2008). The theory and practice of vocal psychotherapy: Songs of the self. London, England: Jessica Kingsley.
Gioia, T. (2006). Healing songs. London, England: Duke University Press.
Jung, C. G. (1983). The development of personality. In A. Storr (Ed.), The essential Jung (pp. 191-210). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1934)
Moore, T. (2003). The post-modern healer. Retrieved from http://www.careofthesoul.net/wr_postmodhealer.htm