Speaking in Tongues
– well, speaking about tongues as a matter of fact: I’m writing Chapter 5 of my next book and have got to the bit about relaxing the tongue.
When you speak the tongue can be a terrible liability, always poking its nose in (wrong metaphor shurely?) where it’s not wanted. The tongue is enormous, stretching right back into your throat, and it has a life of its own. As soon as you get nervous, it pulls back or bunches up in the throat. This affects the vibration of the vocal cords, and tenses the throat which in turn inhibits your breathing, which affects your voice, which affects your whole state of mind and ability to think. Powerful, the tongue… and for free expression it must be relaxed.
But here’s the dilemma:
As soon as you even think about the tongue, it becomes too big for your mouth and turns into a monster. The tongue moves involuntarily in response to your thoughts; it cannot be successfully operated in all its subtlety by the conscious mind. Thinking about the tongue as a problem only makes it worse – much worse.
The answer is to use your imagination to focus elsewhere – on what you want rather than on the seat of the problem. In this case, imagining a wonderfully broad open channel for the sound from low in your body right up through your neck as if there were no tongue can be a brilliant strategy.
This is an example of how ‘imaginative’ rather than ‘cognitive’ is so powerful when you are talking about any change.
The talented young conductor of my choir understands this well. He never says in that well-practised condescending voice many conductors adopt, “Sopranos, we are little flat, aren’t we?” Instead, he seduces us into a different mood or diverts our attention to something different and achieves the result he wants without ever asking for it by name.
The best coaches do this brilliantly too. A change of state brings something entirely new into the equation for the client. The voice is one of the means a coach uses to facilitate this state change.
Oliver Burkeman in an article this week points to the negative results that arise from focusing on the problem. For example, research indicates that ‘No Smoking’ signs increase smokers’ craving and make them more likely to light up as soon as they can. Likewise, dieting puts your attention on what you want to stop and you find yourself obsessing about food all the time. Which is why he says,
‘Sometimes the best solution to a problem is to forget you had one.’
Ah, but how do you do that? One way is to focus instead on what solving your problem will give you – a lighter more joyful life, glorious tuneful song, a free expressive voice, whatever it might be. Imagine that outcome and take on its state of mind – its feeling, thinking, body shape and sensory experience – and enter into it fully.
When you think about it, this stuff is pretty relevant to much of the disaster obsessing and cognitive ‘shut-the-stable-door-after-the horse-has-bolted’ fixing of today’s world … So, maybe try this with a problem:
- What do I want instead of this?
- What will that be like? (experience this fully)
- How can I bring some of that (experience of 2.) into the here and now?
By the way, no, I don’t usually mention the tongue when I’m voice coaching …