When we hear about trauma, we often think of how if affects people emotionally and mentally. We talk far less often about how trauma also affects our bodies – and consequently our voices.
I could tell you about countless singers who were bullied at school. For years, they endured cruelty. When they get older, they often think “it’s just one of these things, I’ve grown out of it”, and that they’re fine.
But when they sing (be it professionally or just for fun – or both), something doesn’t quite slot into place: They audition but never make a recall. They send their recordings and never hear back. They sing, but the audience doesn’t get into it (despite them having objectively good voices). Or they want to work as speakers to bring more exposure to their business but keep getting turned down and can’t figure out why.
The truth is: Trauma will affect our bodies for years to come, and often, we aren’t even aware of it because we think we are okay and left it all behind.
Your Body Is Your Home
Your body is your home. When it’s violated due to trauma, it will leave you with physical and emotional scars that last for years to come.
Trauma comes in many forms. Maybe you grew up in a home where you saw domestic violence regularly. Perhaps you survived an accident or were bullied by your peers during school. Maybe there was some sort of abuse.
Trauma Makes Us Play Small
If you’ve experienced trauma as a child or teenager, you may have internalised a fear of being seen. Your mind is there to protect you and will most likely have told you that you will be safe if the bullies or abusers can’t find/see or hear you.
This a valid survival tactic for a child or teenager, but it creates problems as you get older and step out into the world. It’s harder to promote your creative business and grow your (singing) career because on some level, you’re still the scared child who hopes not to be seen, and you still don’t give your voice permission to be heard.
Your body may continue to send you messages that a situation isn’t safe. For example, right before a gig or presentation, you might get stomach cramps or try to fight down a panic attack. Or you get sick before every concert, and your voice fails you.
These are acute symptoms that go away after the situation that you perceived as dangerous is over. In the example above, when the presentation is finished or the gig is over, your brain no longer thinks you’re in danger, hence your symptoms improve.
On top of this, you might also experience long-term physical symptoms as a result of the trauma or bullying, such as chronic pain or sleep problems. These can all be part of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Understanding the connection between trauma and our desire not to be seen or heard – because being invisible and inaudible is safe – is important for beginning our journeys towards healing with support and compassion.