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Moving Voice... Authentic Voice Work

by Adrienne Thomas(more info)

listed in sound and music, originally published in issue 120 - February 2006

Introduction

Authentic Voice Work utilizes the innate power of the voice, in combination with the body's energy systems, to bring about change, transformation and release. The work is based on a series of exercises which involve making sounds, and sometimes movements, in each of the seven major energy centres of the body. The most distinctive feature of this process, however, is my ability to hear what the voice is expressing from the unconscious without any attachment to aesthetics (clair-audience). This ability has developed and grown over a number of years and I now call it intuitive listening. It enables me to pinpoint, quickly and accurately, the core issue in a person's life at the time of the session, by means of a series of images which come into my mind, rather like an inner slide show or movie. Sometimes the images are contemporary and literal, for instance seeing someone as they were as a child in a particular situation. Sometimes they are symbolic or metaphorical in their language, and contain archetypal images such as dungeons, towers, animals or medieval knights and maidens. These unconscious elements in a person's inner world hold great power and can give guidance and help if we can interpret clearly what they represent. I make no great claims for this. I believe we all have intuitive abilities and that they can be developed given the right circumstances.

Clarion Call

Authentic Voice Process

The individual human voice is full of information. It is a primary means of expression and communication, a barometer of emotions, feelings and states; an individual expression of who we are. When resonated and released, it can also be a vital tool of transformation and healing.

The very act of allowing unacceptable noises, loud or raucous sounds to be released, can be extremely liberating for many people. When these emotions have been acknowledged and expressed we can then move on to access and release strong and beautiful sounds which are connected, authentic and truly expressive of the core self which is inevitably a powerful and creative force.

In my experience of Authentic Voice work the majority of people are about 25% 'wounds' and 75% health and energy. The wounds have to be acknowledged and integrated but the healthy, strong elements also need to be 'given voice' for real integration to happen. People are often well acquainted with what is not healthy in them, but they frequently need great courage to release and acquaint themselves with their core strength. This can be the most challenging aspect of the work for some individuals who have to face the question, 'Who am I if I am not my wounds?'

Answering this question involves a willingness to accept the changes which will inevitably occur following such an experience. We need to be careful not to push too far, too soon in this process. I once waited a full 15 minutes in silence for a woman to come to the decision inside herself that she really wanted to move forward. To witness the release of energy and personal power, the sense of 'bigness' which follows this realization is a true privilege.

The initial individual intensive session (which takes about three hours) normally begins with some basic relaxation and breathing techniques. Together, we then go on to work with seven exercises beginning at the top of the body and working downwards in a journey through the energy system. People are invited to make a sound, and adopt a particular movement or posture in each of the major energy centres. The sound and movement may change and develop as the person works with the exercise, and I actively encourage this as it aids the process of contacting and developing an individual's own intuitive abilities and trust in themselves. During this process, I listen to the quality of the sound and intuitively tune in to what the voice is expressing. I then feed back what I have 'seen' and heard (sometimes the images are accompanied by words) and together, we work towards an understanding of what is blocking their life.

Case Experiences

In one instance I saw a big old fashioned kitchen full of people talking very loudly and gesturing at a small boy who was crouched in a corner. An old woman who I took to be the grandmother was saying, "For goodness sake, leave the boy alone!" This was in essence this person's whole childhood experience. He had never felt 'heard'. His Grandmother was the only person who ever tried to connect with him. As a professional singer, this was a big issue. Once we had accessed the energy trapped in the small boy, expressed some of his frustration and understood that fears of reprisal for 'making a lot of noise' were irrational in the present, he was able to sing out with a full and rich voice.

In another instance I had a very vivid image of a big house with a barn and horses, evidently very wealthy witsh two very distinguished looking people; very straight backed and proud, but giving off a sense of implacability which was almost sinister. The second image was of a beautiful girl in red dress being forced against the inside wall of the barn against her will by a wild looking gypsy man. The sounds she made were desperate and compelling and outside the barn stood a circle of old women in black. Although nothing was said, there was a sense in which they were witnessing the just punishment for wrongdoing in their culture. This was what would happen if a woman went against the norm. The woman was in fact Colombian, and said that the whole picture was an exact if symbolic representation of the situation between herself and her family. As we worked to allow the woman in the red dress to express herself, she came to realize that this woman, her authentic self, was in essence pure and innately trustworthy and good. This gave her the strength and courage to understand that her feelings of unworthiness were not based in fact, but had been defined by a very strong cultural tradition from which she needed to free herself.

Very often; the 'oppressor' has been internalized; absorbed into a person's energy system, and can show up in many ways. During one session with a rather beautiful but restrained woman, a very upper-class lady in twin-set and pearls appeared in my mind, looking very disapproving. This was the woman's grandmother who had exerted quite a strong influence on her as a child and was still, in a sense, watching her every move, judging and criticizing her. Once separated out in this way and named 'Miss Twin-set and Pearls' she began to lose her power. As we worked with the disapproved of child, who was in essence a wonderfully wild and strong character, Miss Twin Set became an ally, ready to give counsel rather than judgment and loosened her grip.

The extent to which the 'Oppressor' can be internalized was shown by a man who, on reaching the heart area, began to cough up phlegm. This went on for about 20 minutes, using up three whole boxes of tissues. He then recalled that his father used to come and sit by his bed at night when he was a child, and lean over him, muttering threats and obscenities. It was as if the very essence of his father had been soaked into his chest where it had formed a thick mucous in his lungs. We both shed tears of joy as he was able at last to breathe deeply and freely, released from the internal tyranny which had plagued him all his life.

Occasionally, the imagery which comes to me is richly symbolic, beautifully vivid and full of medieval archetypes. A French woman with whom I worked recently had a rich heritage. In the initial sounds I heard the word Huguenot, and saw her on horseback wearing a breast plate, carrying a sword and shield. This was in fact her ancestral line and she admitted to being very 'armoured' in her emotions, but further work revealed that there was a wound beneath the breastplate which was leaking energy like an untended wound leaks blood. As a woman of intense passion married to a rather cold man, she felt wounded and unaccepted at a very deep level and had, she felt, no place to put all her intense sexual energy. As we began to release and integrate this energy, I saw a vast army gathering behind her. The image was so vivid that I could hear the snorting horses and the creaking of their leather saddles as they began to move slowly forward, then gather speed as she released deep and powerful sounds. In her case, her ancestry was very potent in her life; very close to the surface and held the key which could liberate her full potential as a strong woman… a warrior. The knight might also symbolize the 'Rescuer within' which has to be summoned in order to free our personal power.

Profound Effects of this Work

It is important to note that the work can also prove unsettling, and the changes which occur need time to become grounded and assimilated. I therefore ask people to come back for a minimum of four one hour follow-up sessions so that we can really integrate and ground the changes begun in the initial session.

Many of the people who come to me for this work are in their middle years. This echoes strongly for me Jung's theories of 'individuation' when we finally and totally separate from our parents at a profound level, and turn to face the second half of our lives as integrated beings. He was also of the opinion that this is a sacred journey towards a deeper spiritual awareness and awakening.

The work also of course benefits people whose primary focus is the voice itself. They may be aware of blocks and restrictions in their bodies and feelings, and wish to work to release the full potential of their voice for professional reasons.

Although I originally trained as a dramatherapist I don't regard what I do as 'therapy', although I will employ therapeutic techniques if necessary. I prefer to think of it as a process of release and integration. I am profoundly grateful to have been able to develop this work and to accompany so many courageous and creative people on their personal journeys.

Comment from Voice Expert Derek Gale

I rarely accept invitations to do voice work even from eminent practitioners in the field, but eventually I gave into Adrienne's persistence and agreed to give her a couple of hours.

I was so pleased that I did so, because her work proved that a hoary old man like me still has plenty to learn and I was deeply moved and impressed by Adrienne's work. So much so, that I did what I rarely do and recommended her widely.

She is my opinion someone who has the ability to contact an individual's psyche and soul through the voice, which in my experience is a rare talent. Many claim to be able to do so, but few actually achieve it. For the first time in over forty years of practice I find myself endorsing another practitioner. Derek Gale can be contacted via derek@galecentre.co.uk

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About Adrienne Thomas

Adrienne Thomas completed a post-graduate diploma in dramatherapy, did individual training with the Magdala Opera Trust in Nottingham and began teaching and leading voice workshops in clinical, educational and community settings. She worked with voice combined with movement and energy before moving to live in Lisbon, Portugal, for six years. During that period, she toured Australia and California giving performances and workshops as well as doing a number of workshops and individual sessions in Portugal, Spain and England. She returned to the UK last August and now lives in Brighton. In addition to individual work, she runs one-day and weekend workshops as well as week-long retreats in Europe. She is also a singer/songwriter and performer and is writing a book about Authentic Voice work. Adrienne may be contacted on Tel: 01273 330 302; Mob: 07981 226 568; adriennethomas48@yahoo.co.uk; www.adriennethomas@naturalvoice.net; www.thevoiceproject.co.uk

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