“I couldn’t have heard what I thought I heard, could I? Words curled up on my tongue, paralyzed. I just stood there, locked up, unable to respond. I walked away flustered, replaying what had just occurred over and over again.”
Fairly often I hear narratives similar to the one above from friends and from clients who come to our Center. Have you ever had an occasion where you lost your voice? Perhaps there was a time you experienced great discomfort with what someone was expressing to you, which in turn caused you to measure your words so carefully your voice dissolved. Or... Possibly you were bestowed with the “honor” to be a peacemaker in your relationships. You learned to ignore your own voice in an effort to avoid and/or resolve conflict. Did you ever convince yourself it was the “safest” option to silence your voice in order to soothe the anxiety that accompanied any thought of speaking what lay heavy on your own heart? I recognize occasionally we all need to opt out when our voice is not worth the energy required in certain relationships. Whatever the reasons you may have silenced your voice, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Dr. Mario Martinez reminds us that wellness goes beyond battlefields where illness is defeated to expanding the healing fields of wellness and discovering a deeper knowledge of what’s most important - feeling valued and understood.
A universal lie lingers, seducing some of us into believing that if we silence our own voice people would like us more. Truth be known, many imprisoned thoughts and feelings that we suppress are stored in our bodies and psyche effecting our health on a cellular level. Dr. Candace Pert, a neuroscientist, referred to our molecules of emotion as being the intercom system of our bodies. These emotions inform all the cells about how we are responding internally.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting an all out rant of expressing everything that is upsetting you. All meaningful relationships experience occasional disruption where we don’t feel heard or understood. On the contrary, I propose utilizing a practice of mindfulness… placing your attention on what you notice occurring in your body when someone has been reckless or insensitive, hurtful or when boundaries have been violated… a “tuning in” when your body feels tense, your heart races, your jaw or fist are clenched or dis-ease is palpable. These are all warning signs providing you with valuable information. Some of you have heard me preach ad nauseam, these critical next steps….. Pause. Listen. Then gently inquire, “am I willing to sequester my true feelings yet again?”
Silencing your voice in order to stay small is an experience that can be felt in the body. Like the buildup of plaque in our arteries, if not paid attention to, can cause health problems over time. I encourage many of the people who come to our Center to explore all areas that cause anguish in addition to the stress that comes with cancer.
I won’t bore you with my own life’s experiences where emotional stress caused the arrival of various physical ailments. The culprits during some of those times occurred when over and over again I swallowed my words, kept the peace at all cost, or withdrew into silence. The combination of these behaviors pooled inside me, creating an environment for anger and resentment to live. Where these emotions reside, wellness can be compromised.
Today, I am still a work in progress on stretching my voice, taking risks to speak my truth in spite of the butterflies fluttering about in my belly. I encourage our Wellness Within clients to aim for wellness in the presence of their cancer. There are many spokes on the wheel influencing wellness. Honoring your voice is one that will surprise you in experiencing emotional wellness, which in turn has an enormous influence on physical health.
A few months ago a dear friend gave me a book about honoring voice. The author, P. Lighthorse, suggested various questions to help facilitate awareness to what may be holding your voice hostage. Here are a few great prompts from her book Prayers of Honoring Voice that may assist in stretching your own voice:
What do I come up against when I consider taking a risk with my voice? What do I have to gain by keeping quiet? What are the benefits of advocating for myself and others?
Blessings for wellness, Pause, Breathe, Proceed, Patti Founder/Executive Director