Exploring the Healing Power of Your Own Voice
Body psychotherapist Anne L Ryan has experienced first-hand the healing potential of voice and sound
Working with sound and voice in therapy can offer new ways to process emotions and deepen the mind-body connection
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For some time I have been curious about how my voice vibrates through my body to make sound. This has led me through many paths of inquiry, the most recent of which I am still following in the hope that my personal discoveries will benefit my clients.
I have explored my voice through singing on my own as an unaccompanied solo singer, in theatre performance, in vocal improvisation and with groups in harmony and unison. These experiences have been very satisfying, particularly the sense of joy and contentment in group singing, which cannot be underestimated.
When I moved to a new village I formed a community choir so that I could get to know people and sing with them. It was so healing to work with up to 24 voices, all of whom loved to sing and make sound, any sound. I felt content relating this way with new people, and new voices. This clearly showed me how participating and creating original sound in a group is very empowering and brings a sense of unity.
This was a time where I was collecting myself after the shock of the sudden ending of my 30 year relationship. It was a very slow process. In the last five years I have been in training so as to practice as body psychotherapist who uses sound in my work. Now that I have experienced how the body holds patterns, and that when these are released, the mind has more space to be, I have become more attuned to sound and resonance as it vibrates in my body. My earlier curiosity about sound was being satisfied. I was becoming whole again, a new embodied whole.
As I learned about this embodied experience, I continued to work with sound vibrating in my body, using what Wilhelm Reich (Character Analysis) calls the 'body segments', the result was extraordinary. I felt as if a cliff was crumbling away inside my body and peace was restored. Then I learned that Bessel van der Kolk (The Body Keeps the Score) uses massage, sound and theatre work with clients who described similar shifts in the changes in their bodies.
If I tone to tune up my body using the Eastern chakra energy system, I notice a sense of shimmering just outside my skin and in my core. All of this contributes to my understanding of sound vibrating within and around my body. It became clear to me that the sudden ending of my relationship had sent shock waves through my body. My awareness of body sensation has become more acute. So much so that I found that singing and sounding helped to relieve the emotional pain running through me. Without realising it, I had started to explore the more healing aspects of vibration and resonance in sound healing. What I was experiencing was not new. If you read Music of Life by Hazrat Inyat Khan, and any of James D'Angelo's books you will come to understand this.
This raises a question about how emotions can transform the body to create healing or disease. The decades of work by scientist Candace Pert in her book Molecules of Emotion is most revealing. Her discovery in how our emotions are a crucial link between mind and body and how neuropeptides are the universal biochemical language of emotions helps to explain how sound resonating in the body can help us to heal.
By working with the body, encouraging slow movement, focusing on gentle breath work, the impulse to make a sound comes from a very deep silent place. This sound replenishes and revivifies our body's whole system. By working with this soft gentle sound again and again, it creates an emotional healing bridge between our body and mind.
So this is how I work with the body-mind relationship. My aspiration is to bring this into my work as a body psychotherapist, along with other body psychotherapy methods such as biodynamic massage, sound journeying, movement and art to benefit clients, particularly those who have experience of trauma as explained by Peter Levine in his book Healing Trauma.
My self-care routine includes daily meditation where I attune to the silence of my inner voice. By listening deeply, in stillness, I wait for the impulse to make sound. I have found that waiting for this requires deep stillness. Then, as the impulse to make sound emerges, I have been able to locate the sound that helps me in that moment to re-tune and balance my body.
Anne L Ryan is a verified welldoing.org body psychotherapist in Oxford and online