Our voices are our identity. They can help us communicate through speech or song. Voice can display mood without words, as well as create works of art that tell a story or convey an emotion. Voices can be controlled, but things can also influence our voices outside our conscious control. Consider trauma, especially from past experiences, and how it could turn up later in life affecting the voice…
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT CHILDHOOD
We know that negative experiences as a young person can influence our psychological states and physiology as we reach adulthood. We know that individuals who develop insecure attachment styles may have had traumatic experiences in childhood that may influence vocal characteristics especially in people who identify strongly with their voices like singers do. According to Monti et al 2016, attachment styles are influenced by the relationship between us as children and our primary caregivers. They are influenced by how close the caregiver is to the child, how secure the child feels, and how affirmed and nurtured the child feels.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR VOICE?
If you have developed an attachment style that is insecure, it can persist into adulthood for you as it is internalized and carried on in social and emotional relationship activities as an adult. Insecure attachment can also influence physiological responses in our health and body conditions as we become adults regarding how we regulate ourselves during stress. This means that our brain is influenced by our attachment style and psychological factors like emotional trauma can influence muscle tightness in our larynx and vocal cords. Anxiety, like stage fright, can influence our breathing which affects our voice. The feeling of shame can also be part of stage fright if people feel a bit of humiliation in front of others, feel exposed, or feel a sense of worthlessness. Basically, voice as an instrument is central to our sense of self which is influenced by attachment styles and trauma history.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
Just as vocal practice and training experience helps strengthen variability of vocal techniques and development of voice as expression, stress or negative sense of self can negatively impact voice abilities. We tend to dismiss vocal changes by blaming current happenings like, “My throat feels sticky from allergies today,” or, “My voice is not its best today because I’m tired.” We should consider that beneath that vocal change in the moment there could possibly be something that is “deeply rooted in emotional issues” (Monti et al 1016) that might need a closer look and some attention given to it.
SHOULD YOU SEEK A CARE PROVIDER?
If you feel like voice issues have persisted past 2 weeks without improving, it is recommended you seek an evaluation with an ear, nose & throat physician or laryngologist with videostroboscopy (a slow motion video exam of your vocal cord anatomy) to evaluate the voice production physiology. If you’ve been advised to seek voice therapy at this exam, it’s important to be honest with yourself and your speech-language pathologist so that your entire body and your mind are taken into consideration when formulating goals for voice rehabilitation. Voice is whole body and whole person, and when we know ourselves, we can heal.
- Monti, E., Kidd, D. C., Carroll, L. M., & Castano, E. (2016). What’s in a singer’s voice: The effect of attachment, emotions and trauma. Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, 42(2), 62–72.doi:10.3109/14015439.2016.1166394
About the Author: Kristie Knickerbocker, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and singing voice specialist in Fort Worth, Texas. She evaluates and rehabilitates voice, upper airway disorders and swallowing at her private practice, ATEMPO Voice Center, and lectures on voice science internationally. She is a classically trained mezzo soprano with a minor in vocal performance from Texas Christian University. She is a member of ASHA Special Interest Group 3, Voice and Upper Airway Disorders. She has collaborated on and authored multiple peer reviewed published research articles about her community-based voice specialty clinic. She continues to develop a line of instantly downloadable voice assessment and voice therapy materials on TPT or her ATEMPO voice center website. Follow her on Pinterest, on Instagram or like her on Facebook. Kristie is a founding member and co-owner of The Confident Clinician Cooperative and mentors on voice, upper airway, business and private practice through www.confidentclinician.com.