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Giving Voice: Transformational Tool

by Jill Rakusen(more info)

listed in sound and music, originally published in issue 61 - February 2001

Years ago, I thought my most exciting work was as a researcher and writer, doing pioneering work on women's health. I never imagined that anything else (let alone singing) would prove to be even more exciting – and important. Yet through the challenge of illness I was forced to dig deep, and through that made the discoveries that led to Giving Voice (GV) and its continuing development

GV combines my background in health with my musical training, and with my ongoing training with New Light/ Lightsearch,[1] (this involves a form of daily meditation and regular silent retreats, plus the use of unitive kinesiology, and enables me to develop more unitive awareness on all levels (this is discussed further elsewhere).[2]

Participants in a Manchester Giving Voice Workshop
Participants in a Manchester Giving Voice Workshop

About Giving Voice

Giving Voice (GV) is a uniquely holistic approach involving the strategic use of sound and song, developed by Jill Rakusen over the last 12 years. Similarities with neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and yoga have been noted[3] (though GV is more holistic – according to the definition in The New Our Bodies, Ourselves[4] – and more fun). Anyone can learn to use it to promote their own health, healing and intregrating process on a daily basis, regardless of their health status or (dis)abilities. It's a tool that can promote ease, harmony, transformation and unity – within and between people and groups. As with all tools, it requires active participation. It's not very productive for anyone wanting to be a passive recipient. It enables us to address our true needs at any one time, whether mental, emotional, physical, spiritual or (more usually) a combination); to play a full and equal role in our own process (and, during groupwork, in that of the group). It offers a model for how we can be in the world: free but responsible, active but at ease, peaceful yet vibrant…increasingly aware of our part in the whole. It can enable us to (re)discover wonder, vitality, joy and delight, and our ability to foster all this; to 'reprogramme' our attitudes and beliefs (even if unaware of them), to reassess our priorities, to experience an ever-deepening understanding of what it means to be alive, to be creative, to be.

Potential Uses

GV has been described as a 'key that unlocks and opens doors'3 – to understanding and awareness (both within the individual and beyond), and to improved communication with self and others. Major transformation can ensue, involving integration, greater self-responsibility and true creativity. GV can facilitate ease with change, a stronger sense of self, and an increased willingness to acknowledge our own Truth, rather than settling for a grey and dismal inner landscape. Through it, we can access and harness our inner strength – which is at the root of all true confidence and self-esteem – and support ourselves through life.

I know, because I use it, live it, love it. At first I had no idea of GV's potential. But the awesome responses from others forced me to accept this reality, and to honour it with all the integrity I could muster. It took a while to get over the shock.

GV has since developed apace, and been offered in a wide variety of settings involving a very varied range of people.

Perceived ability and disability are irrelevant. Claims of benefit include: people with physical problems (e.g. back pain, cancer, MS, ME, high blood pressure), stress, intractable emotional difficulties as well as people searching or simply wanting more out of life.[2],[3],[5-9]

What's Involved?

Everyone who's experienced GV finds it very difficult to describe, including me. It involves a mixture of noise and silence, movement and stillness, reflection and sharing, occasional tears and much laughter, all with a particular kind of, and quality of, focused facilitation.

Planning in advance is inappropriate, because each individual and group is unique, with their own specific requirements. The facilitation involves my following the process – which of course requires that I truly honour the process within myself, continually being open both to being in the moment, and to a changing process. My daring to function like this frees others: 'My trust in the process comes from witnessing your trust in it for yourself. You're so open about this when you're running a session…'[7]

Rather than being gruelling or full of pain, GV perhaps reflects what Matthew Fox, founder of Creation-Centred Spirituality, has identified as the route to wisdom: the experience of awe and delight.[10] Nonetheless, any pain can get dealt with: 'I came with a silent scream, and I've just realized it's gone: I SANG IT OUT!'[3]

No screaming or 'emoting' had occurred: the emotion was transmuted through the process, and slipped away. Had this been the objective, we would have got in the way of the process and thereby served to prevent it from developing – a truth known to many spiritual traditions. Such is the kind of problem associated with limited, and limiting, goals: attempting to address issues directly, without taking into account the broader (whole) view can paradoxically ensure that we fail to achieve them. Thus, as will be seen below, GV can help people deal with addictions – but not by focusing on them directly.

Other Reported Effects

A day of GV, open to anyone, elicited responses to anonymous questionnaires such as:

  • 'Helped me to be more at ease with people';
  • 'A great sense of well-being';
  • 'Contact with greater depths of being';
  • 'Centredness';
  • 'Very moved';
  • 'I feel more joyful and very nourished in a way that nothing else does for me!';
  • 'Connected';
  • 'More energized and at peace';
  • 'Feeling at one with the universe'.

It is common for effects to continue long after an event.

Remarkable gains were reported following a day for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, including experiencing joy for the first time. Two years later a therapist wrote, 'The powerful impact of this [day] is still spoken about…'.[9] A participant commented: 'For the first time, I felt the real me coming up. I couldn't believe it!'[3]

A more recent six-session course for survivors of abuse produced interesting experiences[6] (see table).

Experience Percentage of Participants reported Comment
Peace 100%

In 82% of instances, these experiences were unusual.

Some participants were surprised too by their intensity

Feeling empowered 82%
Increased confidence/
self-esteem
82%
Feeling energized 73%
Joy 64%


Typical comments included:

  • 'I overcame some of my resistances…I feel more able to cope with my difficulties.'
  • 'I gained much clarity and understanding…I experienced soothing and calm – almost despite myself…I couldn't get over that. It made me think.'



    Perhaps most importantly, 91% had begun using GV beneficially themselves, e.g:
  • 'GV is a powerful medicine for depression. Riding through negative feelings is a new experience';
  • '[I try it] all the time…in various situations: very useful/powerful';
  • 'I've discovered a way to influence my mood…a revelation';
  • 'GV before sleeping…[is] particularly helpful';
  • 'It helps with letting go of pain and hurt…'.

Knock-on effects reported by others include:

  • overcoming creative blocks9 – 'I've started painting again!' (following a GV evening class);[3]
  • addictions – a 40-a-day smoker reports: 'I've finally managed to stop smoking!!' (following a residential course);[3]
  • effects on relationships – 'I've found it easier not to get so irate with the children' (evening class);[11]
  • loss of weight – 'I've lost weight for the first time in ten years! – I no longer feel the anxiety that led me to eat inappropriately';[3]
  • improvements in chronic sinusitis (after an evening celebration);[3]
  • hearing – 'I can now hear the top 12 notes of the piano – I couldn't before! (after a number of sessions);[3]

Some people find it productive when I myself Give Voice:

  • '[It] healed my toothache!' – following a performance at Sheffield Humanistic Psychology Conference);[3]
  • 'a revelation' – following a performance at Holmfirth Mind/Body/Spirit Festival.[3]

Because of this I was persuaded to make a tape, which has since become a transformational tool in itself:12 'Listening to [the tape] is like a balm inside. It's very healing.'[3]

As GV is very much a self-help tool, it requires self-responsibility.

And along with self-responsibility goes great potential for self-empowerment. It can, however, take a while to take up this responsibility:

Score (self-reported) Pre-course Post-course
(1-low; 9=high)
Self-confidence 4 7
Self-esteem 4 7
Perceptions of esteem felt from others 2 5

 

Case Studies

Case Study 1

Problems: Has 'incurable, life-threatening auto-immune liver disease' and background of abuse. Takes powerful drug to keep liver function under control. Living on constant tightrope between dangers of the disease and dangers of the drug. Recognizes abuses self by 'not giving myself time to do things I know will help me, and trying to do too much'. Recognizes has power to affect how she feels – e.g. through meditation, dancing, singing, but isn't doing it, and is feeling very low. Sees NHS consultant regularly and healer every 1-2 weeks.

Joined six-session GV course: Attended only two sessions because of her illness; managed daily 'homework', sometimes involving GV worktape, and used opportunities available for occasional facilitation.

During the course: 'There were plenty of tears before the course and during homework for the first two weeks. I came through that and felt much better for it. Now I am more energized, empowered and joyful – all unusual' (big improvement in empowerment, tearfulness and joy scores). Knows that she can build on what the course offered by doing GV every day: 'I don't intend to stop doing this because I enjoy the experience.'

Two months after: 'A lot of negative feelings have been transformed…My emotions are more stable, my self-respect has improved, I value myself more and I feel more confident in general….' 'This course has helped me cope better with [my] illness…If I feel depressed, I soon feel better [with GV].'

Eight months after: Is still using GV, and is dancing and meditating again. 'Now I'm stronger, happier, more peaceful, have more energy, and get more out of life. GV has certainly helped me a lot.'

Case Study 2

Problems: With eating and sexuality. Sexually abused as a child/teenager and afraid of men. Difficulty expressing negative feelings; relationship problems with partner. Had sought help 'to no avail'. Wanted to learn a new way of being. Aware abuses self a lot (strict dieting). Currently doing guided imagery (monthly), yoga and tai chi (weekly). Attended all sessions and used occasional facilitation opportunities between sessions.

Attended two short GV courses: During latest one (six sessions): 'I am practising sharing the thoughts that come into my head, at the risk of making you angry with me' (shared some negative feelings by letter); from another letter: 'I don't need anybody. I can prove it! My body is larger than life.' Later: realizes this is bravado and doesn't want to be cut off from her body any more. Liked 'Body Song' (specially written by JR for the course), which facilitated this awareness, and offered a way through. Did homework every day, though as is often the case with something new, it took a while to learn how to do it. Found 'Time to Be' really helpful, just listening to it. Hasn't felt like singing it yet. Later realized initially she didn't believe she had a right to the facilitation that was on offer; felt had to do everything on her own.

Realized was going through a process of learning how to allow herself to be supported, including by song.

After the course: Recognized was able to move through difficulties using song as a tool. Found the course 'invaluable'. 'I feel I have moved on; become more alive…Allowing 'negative' feelings to come out seemed to release me of them and any hold they had on me…The support enabled me to stand firm in the face of criticism…I feel stronger now [and] more trusting of other people. I don't feel afraid any more: I've learnt to let go of fearful habits and replaced them with habits that help me move forward…[GV] helps me to express and nurture myself… [instead of smoking and drinking to relieve stress, now uses other means, including 'listening and bring to mind the songs' she'd learnt]: 'this also enables me to feel more powerful.' 'I feel less frustrated, less tearful and getting to sleep is less of a problem…Feeling joyful and empowered is a new way of feeling for me.'

The Future

There is a wealth of anecdotal material on Giving Voice, and data from questionnaires. It is hoped that before too long, funding will be available for some in-depth prospective research, perhaps with community or professional groups or with people with specific needs – e.g. facing disability or life-threatening illness. Anyone interested in facilitating this is welcome to contact me.

In the meantime, Edward Bach[13] among others has recognized that to discover and accept our uniqueness and individuality is the route to wholeness. Developing GV has been a profound and humbling experience, challenging me not only to accept my own uniqueness but to honour it, and the part it can play in facilitating others to accept theirs. My training with NL/LS is awesome. Since it informs all my GV work, it would be surprising if the potential of GV weren't awesome too.

References

1. New Light/Lightsearch, 76 Parkville Road, Withington, Manchester M20 4TZ (tel: 0161 445 7199).
2. Coniam S and Gibson L. 'Giving Voice' with Jill Rakusen. Journal of Contemporary Health. 34-35. Summer 1996.
3. Unsolicited written communication and questionnaire dossier on Giving Voice. 1988-2000.
4. Phillips A and Rakusen J. The New Our Bodies, Ourselves. Penguin. Harmondsworth, UK. ISBN 0140252894. 1989/96.
5. Rakusen J. Giving Voice at Kirklees One World Festival. Sound HEALTH Consultancy (report submitted to Kirklees Metropolitan Council). 1995.
6. Rakusen J. Preliminary Report on 'Survivors Give Voice!' – a Course for Women. Sound HEALTH Consultancy (submitted to Calderdale and Kirklees Health Authority and Kirklees Metropolitan Council). 2000.
7. Healey R and Rakusen J. A Conversation about Giving Voice. Cahoots. 73: 24-33. October 2000.
8. Eberhardt-Hall D. Another Emerging and Developing Story. Bright Skies. 3: 7-14. 1995. (Available from Sound HEALTH Consultancy).
9. Waters J. A dynamic account of a workshop held at Westminster House, Warrington on 25 March 1994. Internal paper for North West NSPCC.
10. See for example, Fox M. A Primer in Creation Spirituality. Bear & Co. Santa Fe, USA. ISBN 1879181274. 1996; and Fox M. Creation Spirituality. Harper & Row: San Francisco, USA. ISBN 0060629177. 1991.
11. Rakusen J. A preliminary report on a creativity course. Internal paper for North Manchester Health Authority. 1988.
12. Rakusen J. Songs for Universal Peace and Healing (audiotape). 1997.
Available from Sound HEALTH Publications @ £8.50 inc. p&p. (This includes Jill's 'Song About Finding Peace' which is being distributed worldwide as an aid to promoting peace – contact her for details.)
13. Bach Edward. Heal Thyself. CW Daniel. Saffron Walden, UK. ISBN 0852073011. Latest edition 1996.

Further Information

Further information about GV is available on the websites of the Health Development Agency (www.hda-online.org.uk, under 'reviews of good practice') and of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, www.culture.gov.uk or from SHC on tel: 01484 665642, 2 St Mary's Square, Honley, Nr Huddersfield HD7 2BA. Jill can be contacted by e-mail on: jill@sohealth.demon.co.uk

Comments:

  1. Caroline Thorpe said..

    Giving Voice is now has its own website www.givingvoicefoundation.org.uk and is a registered charity.


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About Jill Rakusen

Jill Rakusen is an innovator whose work in the health field has been acclaimed for years. Her Sound HEALTH Consultancy (SHC), offers an all-embracing, truly holistic approach to the whole person that she has been developing for many years. Giving Voice, which is part of Sound Health, offers courses (including residential courses, distance learning and individual sessions) performances, and the facilitation of communal events.

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