Voicing Emotion & Music Therapy for a Healthier Mind and Body

Music therapy, and use of the voice in particular, can be an ideal outlet for emotions of all types. Voice can combine multiple modes of expression. When we verbalize our feelings and put them to words, our voice lets us speak up and communicate what we feel. Developing a confident and strong voice when we talk about our feelings helps us value our own emotional experiences and needs, and demands a similar respect from those we communicate with about our feelings. Musical expression can also utilize the voice in a manner that is less verbal and more emotive, helping us experience and express things that cannot be put in words. Prayer, mantras, and chants can be aspects of spiritual practices that let us process feelings in relation to something greater than ourselves. The voice is even a form of physical expression. Speaking and singing relies on the breath, which is a physical act produced by movement of the diaphragm and even the entire core of the body. Getting this physical process moving can loosen the grip of tension-producing emotions like anxiety, or unsettle emotions like sadness that create a weight in the belly.

It is likely that at some point in our lives most of us have, either consciously or unconsciously, suppressed an emotion instead of releasing or expressing it. Sometimes this means holding negative feelings inside ourselves, where we fixate and ruminate on them, causing them to grow and become even more painful and difficult to deal with. Other times, we try to deny or ignore a feeling, shoving it deeper inside ourselves where it ends up taking root more firmly. This type of emotional behaviour can be motivated by any number of things, including fear of conflict, failure to value our own subjective experiences, or even simply being too busy to process every emotion fully. While we may get away with suppressing the occasional petty irritation or unreasonable pang of jealousy, sooner or later suppressed feelings will return to haunt us in some way or another. Sometimes it is as straightforward as picking a fight with your partner over something minor because you’ve been suppressing a more significant fear or frustration about your relationship. Other times the suppressed emotion might mutate, such as when insecurity turns to jealousy, or hurt to anger, making it hard to locate the original cause. Suppressed emotions can even impact physical well-being in ways that range from general tension in the body, tooth grinding, and stomach aches to more severe, even debilitating, psychosomatic conditions. For many of us, this can even be our habitual approach to dealing with our emotions, and expressing and releasing feelings in a healthier manner is something that has to be consciously learned.

Expressing emotions does not have to mean “dealing” with them, as if every negative emotion is a problem that needs to be solved, fixed, and made to go away. Sometimes talking through the same emotion repeatedly, examining it from every angle, is just another way to hang on to it and nurture it as it grows larger and harder to manage. Healthy expression of emotion helps to release and let go of the negative feeling, whether piece by piece or all in one go. Sometimes this process will also lead to practical changes in your life and relationships, but the process of feeling and releasing negative emotion in a healthful way is beneficial in and of itself. This can look different for different people, for different emotions, and for different circumstances but it always involves recognizing and acknowledging the emotion, allowing yourself to feel it as a real, but transient experience, and letting it leave your body in some way. Emotion can be released from the body in any number of ways, such as through naming and verbalizing it by telling someone, through artistic expression such as writing or painting, or even through physical expression such as yoga or a workout.

Finding a variety of methods for processing and releasing emotions is important for holistic well-being. Your voice can be a powerful and versatile tool that facilitates numerous modes of expression and emotional release.