So much has been written on the subject of fear! Yet very few of us get to really understand it! If we did we would be free of inhibitions, doubts, illness and so many other negatives states of being and we would be able to express ourselves freely. We live in a society where fear is the norm, whether it be fear of doing something wrong, fear of how others see us, fear of losing loved ones or our job, fear of being attacked, of losing money, of not being able to pay the bills, of being alone, fear of change, of being criticised and the list goes on. On so many levels we are afraid, and those fears mentioned are just the obvious ones.
If we take a much closer look at ourselves and our personal lives, we might say on a superficial level, "I'm not afraid, I don't fear anything per say..." but is that really true?
I ask this question because in my work, week after week, I see people who are afraid of the sound of their own voice, afraid of the sound that comes out, afraid that it's not good enough, afraid that it sounds wrong, afraid that they sound stupid, afraid that they look ridiculous when they are singing (or sounding), afraid that if they take a deep breath and open themselves holding their head high, feeling their personal strength and power, someone might ask them who they think they are to be doing such a thing!
On the other extreme you have those that are afraid that they might "do" it wrong, they are so self critical that everything is perfect. They have trained themselves to swallow the feeling of self doubt and do the task anyway, but the fear continues to seep out on a physical level with tension and frustration at making any small "mistake."
I work from the perspective that our voice is the most natural thing about us. For the majority of us, when we are born we cry, scream, wail, coo, gurgle and giggle. This is how we communicate. We don't question these sounds we just "sound" them. I've mentioned this in previous blogs, but if you have the opportunity to look at a baby's stomach when s/he is crying, you will see that the sound is being produced like a type of squeeze box from the diaphragm. This is a human breathing and sounding the way nature intended. Likewise look at a dog when he barks, or a horse when she brays, the sound is being produced from the body.
I will restate that sentence, these sounds are being produced from the body, not some mystical muscle in the throat.
Our ability to sound is an emotional reaction on some level, whether we are laughing, sobbing or screaming with pain. Yet through speech and the way we are expected to speak after a certain age, we are encouraged to suppress natural emotions and not show our true feelings. We are even led to believe in some situations that it is a weakness to show emotion in our speech, hiding behind our words.
Most of us have experienced not being able to contain our emotions, whether it's being ecstatically happy about something, or so sad that our words can no longer cover the fluctuations of tone in our voice. The sensation of holding back tears is heard in the inflection of the voice and often felt as a pain in the throat.
There are of course situations when we do have to "control" our reactions as we have the intelligence to understand the consequences of situations. However we must be aware, for our own personal health and happiness that too much suppression leads to lack of sensitivity and expression. Eventually if we suppress our sensitivity and ability to express for too long, we become closed and cold. We may then look to other stimulants to help us "feel" again, whether it be our love life, sex, alcohol, drugs, food or lack of it and so on.
Some people have been forced to close down and not to feel the pain that life has presented them with, because of abuse and other despicable events and in these severe cases it is a matter of survival. Better to survive and not feel, than to die of the pain of feeling too much, and surely if we allow ourselves to feel, how will we ever forget what happened to us if the pain is there as a reminder?
For me the concept of the human body is not a rigid one. I see myself as a mass of vibrating particles being held together, just like everything else physical. You remember? This is the thing we all learnt in Physics classes at school...that everything we perceive as solid is in fact a mass of vibrating particles. This isn't hocus pocus, this is scientific fact.
So, I am made of matter, therefore if you break me down, you will eventually be able to measure the particles in my more solid parts and the particles in the fluid part of me (on average about 70%). As humans we are just matter. This means that our thoughts (non matter, therefore energy) are created from that matter and as a large part of us is made up of fluid, we can easily change and reform. Our feelings and thoughts are a product of who we are and what we experience, but nothing is concrete in the human body, it can be moved and changed.
Therefore, our past feelings, fears and experiences, if still haunting us and our minds in the present moment, must be shiftable! But how do we shift them?
Let's turn our minds back to the new born baby who screams and cries without any care of what others may think. If the baby feels a pain of hunger or wind, that pain is translated into sound and is released from the body, it also sends a signal to the mother that her child is feeling discomfort, she can then act on this signal in its early stage and solve the problem of the hunger. The baby feels better and the so does the mother as the problem has been resolved before it can escalate to something more serious. The child's voice was used to express the problem and give it a release from the physical pain....and then everything returned to normal.
As adults we might not want to scream and shout all the time, but we do need to reconnect with our ability to identify when we are unhappy, express this to ourselves and/or those around us that might be the cause of the unhappiness, and then work it out of our system so that it is over and dealt with and does not linger, causing us future pain and fear of pain.
Feeling fear is a good thing IF we can identify it as an emotion that rises within us to guide our way and show us that something isn't right. It is a temporary emotion and should be used as a guide. It is not something that we should feel all the time.
Cavemen of yore would sense something was wrong in the field, look over their shoulder, see a big bear, feel fear which would produce adrenalin into their system and give them an extra spring in their step as they legged it back to safety.
Nowadays we feel fear in the present based on past events, and we use these past events to predict how we think the future will materialise, release adrenalin, fail to act on the reason why we are afraid and neglect to burn off the adrenalin. Adrenalin left in our body causes stress, anger, insomnia, high blood pressure and so many other "unexplainable" illnesses and disorders.
So why are we feeling so afraid? That is what we need to work out. Why do I meet so many people that are afraid of singing, embarrassed by the mere suggestion that they should sing? Why do happy little toddlers sing quite naturally and at what point are they made to feel daft for doing this? Even the new born baby strings a line of gurgles and coos together when happy which is the start of the natural process of singing.
Singing is a natural and necessary action for our health and wellbeing and something we have done from birth. It helps us release our negative emotions, our pain and our fears as if we were a crying baby again.
People , or adults in particular tell me over and over that they were told to be quiet, shut up, not sing as they were deemed "out of tune." Some are afraid even of speaking their thoughts, as a critical upbringing has made them careful of the things they choose to give voice to for fear of being made to feel worthless. So fair enough, I completely understand it. But if we know that our body releases fear, tension and adrenalin by sounding with the voice, whether it's screaming, crying or laughing, these being the extremes, if we know singing can bring us the same relief as shouting, but is a more pleasurable experience, why are so many of us afraid to do it and afraid of what might come out? And WHY do we care?
The baby just sounds, the dog just barks...the human thinks and then decides if the vocalisation is good enough.
Here's a few interesting facts;
1. The inside of our mouth contains little sensors which are activated when we breathe through our mouth causing adrenalin to be released into the body.
2. A sudden intake of air, like a gasp alerts the body's nervous system to a potential problem and it also releases adrenalin into the system.
3. When adrenalin is released into your body you are on high alert. Your heart rate will increase and your breathing will become more shallow. If this adrenalin is not burnt off you will feel anxious, unable to rest, irritable, unwell, suffer a possible upset stomach, acid reflux, headaches, neck and shoulder stiffness etc.
4. Learning to control your breath helps you press the "reset" button on your body. You can control your nervous system, your mind, your heart rate and communicate more effectively when you breathe as nature intended, the way you did when you were born. Concentrate on the out breath, most people hold too much stale air in the lungs. In situations of stress, breathe out first, and then back in.
5. Using your voice expressively, like singing for example, has many proven health benefits a bit like yoga. It helps to control and calm your breathing, energising you and releasing any residual adrenalin that might have built up in your system from the day, helping you to release tension, de-stress and make clear decisions.
6. When you breathe more effectively and sing, you change your state of mind, existing in the present moment, forgetting about past experiences and fears. When you allow your body to return to this child like state you can clear your mind and relax, safely and without being afraid. Sing things you love, this adds to the feel good factor.
7. Fear is a warning sign, listen to it, and act accordingly. Then LET IT GO.
Alexandra Rigazzi-Tarling, my journey into Singing and Sound for healing body, mind and spirit of all beings.