The Mind-Voice Connection

From an evolutionary point of view, human communication relies heavily on oral interaction. People speak and listen, attempting to understand each other by combining the content of speech, the tone of voice, volume, emotion, and speed of diction with body language and facial expressions. Our voices play an enormous role in how we exist in the world, and define not only our outward communications, but also the way we process, express, and explore things internally. These two areas are deeply interrelated – our external expression and communications may shape our internal feelings and understandings of the world, while our internal dynamics may impact our relationships, communications, outward appearance, and so on. The intrinsic link between outward expression and internal processing is a major aspect of what makes the voice such an incredible healing tool.

Literally and metaphorically, the voice is often associated with empowerment. Phrases such as “a voice for the voiceless” and “the voice of the people” illustrate the symbolic link between speaking and power. When someone is described as not having a voice, this is synonymous with not having a say, or not having the ability to influence, educate, or contribute to a conversation. Though there certainly are cases where voices of oppressed groups are systematically silenced or ignored, the focus of this article is on the effect of perceived power and that perception’s relationship to the voice.

When we feel powerful, it is easier for us to use our voices in assertive, peaceful, and authentic ways. It is easier to ask for what we need, be clear about what we do not like, tell our stories, and be open about our feelings. It is easier to be honest.

When we do not feel powerful, we are too afraid, frustrated, or disillusioned to use our voices authentically. It is harder to be honest, and easier to use sarcasm, name-calling, guilt trips, or blame games. When we do not feel like we are having any impact in a conversation, or when we are afraid of the consequences of honest communication, we are more likely to react with agitation than if we feel we can meaningfully bring change.

Because these perceptions of power exist in a reciprocal, interrelated relationship with the voice, it is possible to use the voice as an empowerment tool. By practicing authentic expression and verbalizing honestly our challenges and successes, we have the capacity to start feeling more powerful, and, in turn, facilitating future authentic communications. Whether through everyday interactions, singing, spoken word poetry, or other vocal exercises, our voices allow us to realize our power and tear down obstacles that stand in the way of our own understandings of ourselves as capable, important individuals.

The Sacredness of the Human Voice

Oral traditions, mantras, recitations, sacred syllables, confessions, calls to prayer – voices are intrinsic to countless religious practices the world over. Even outside religious contexts, the voice is understood to be sacred in many of its everyday uses. Speaking our truths, making affirmations, telling stories, and singing lullabies are some of the ways (among many!) in which our voices bring into conversation our memories, emotions, values, personalities, histories, and cultures. Our voices serve as connectors between our pasts and futures, between our ancestors and our children, between our inner and outer selves, and between each other.

The deep connections that our voices allow us are incredibly important; it is not something that should be taken lightly, or taken for granted. The importance of an intimate conversation, the power of saying “I do,” the togetherness felt while singing in a choir – our voices are vehicles that travel between each of our inner selves. They can reach out with love, convey sadness – even reveal things about ourselves we may not know until we say them.

The voice is a creator of realities – it impacts how we feel, how others feel, and how we see ourselves and the world. It is a tool for learning and teaching, building up and tearing down, reaching out and cutting off. It is a vital to creating health in ourselves and peace in our communities, and should be seen and treated as such. What we vocalize and how we vocalize is of utmost importance – the choices we make have the potential to change lives and families and worlds.

Through careful practice, our voices can be used to grow our hearts and touch the hearts of others. When we recognize the sacred power of our songs, our words, our speech, and our silence, we may also recognize that there is no way that the voice may be used unproductively. Our voice is our truth. The sound is only ours, and its effects are only ours also.