Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, and Michael Jackson. What do all these artists have in common? They each have a unique, authentic voice that most of us could probably pick out of a lineup with no problem. It is not that each person’s voice is necessarily the most beautiful, classically trained, and polished. But each of these voices is true to itself, and cannot help but express its natural, authentic characteristics.
Each of us has an authentic voice, but sometimes that voice gets quieted or quelled by the various bumps along the life path. When struggling with an Eating Disorder, finding your authentic voice is an important part of the recovery journey. In recovery, it is not necessarily your singing voice that you are after, although you may feel compelled to sing upon discovering your true voice. Rather, it is the voice from within you that expresses your unique nature and your “self”.
What are some of the things that have quieted your voice over the years?
There can be many negative life experiences or pain that can quiet or stifle a person’s authentic voice. Trauma is a common source that interferes with a person being in touch with their authentic voice. Trauma leaves a person feeling helpless, as if their voice does not matter or does not count for anything. Over time, we internalize this idea and eventually lose touch with our authentic voice. Sometimes the confines of trying to fit into the world, trying to be accepted or loved makes it so that we losetouch with our voice, fearing that it is too much for others, or would subject us to isolation. We change our voice, disguise our voice, until eventually we don’t even recognize it to be our own.
In terms of an Eating Disorder, the authentic voice of the individual eventually gets replaced by the harsh, critical, internal dialogue of the Eating Disorder. Our loving, compassionate, kind and forgiving voice gets overpowered and overshadowed by the cruel and domineering voice of the Eating Disorder. As such, it is important to reclaim our voice through the recovery process, and part of that is as simple as quieting the Eating Disorder voice, so that we can listen intently and start to hear our authentic voice come through.
How do we get in touch with our authentic voice again?
You may be thinking that you never knew you authentic voice, so how could you get in touch with it again. Actually, our authentic voice is and has been within us all along. We hear it often in the most difficult moments of our lives, when we feel alone, or are confronting strong emotions, fears or concerns. It is the voice that guides us, and gives up hopes, it tells us that we are going to be OK. That is what our authentic recovery voice sounds like.
To get more in touch with that voice there are several things you can do:
Artistic Expression- Music and Art, in virtually any form are powerful means of beginning to be in touch with our authentic voice. Listening to or experiencing the Expressive Arts is a great way to allow the authentic voice within you to come out. At some point, you also may be compelled to create it as well. In our Expressive Arts therapy group at Cielo House, we value this aspect of recovery and know it as a pathway for self-discovery for many of our clients.
Mindfulness and Meditation – Meditative practices, including Yoga, self-reflection, spending time in nature, basically any intentional opportunity to quiet the mind in some way, is another means by which the authentic voice can be found. If we quiet ourselves, the voice will find us.
Writing – That act of writing creatively, or journaling, writing poetry, just about any form of putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard are ways to discover your authentic voice. Carve out time with a blank page and just go wherever it takes you. The things that make it onto the page likely contain pieces of your authentic voice.
Communication – Open, honest communication with others, especially talking about the tough stuff in life are ways to express your authentic voice and solidify your awareness of it. By communicating honestly your voice actually starts to show up, and you will be amazed by the strength and power it can have if you let it be expressed.
Your authentic voice is not just your literal voice, it is a concept referring to the way you see yourself in the world. It is your point of view, your philosophy, the contribution of your unique, irreplaceable self to the world. Through recovery you will discover this voice, and it will not be just of benefit to you, but to everyone around you as well.