Your Voice is Waiting to Find You, by Rachel Moore, MFTI
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” —Carl Rogers.
I climb the two stairs up to the stage and face my community college classmates. The piano accompanist begins to play and I look down and realize my hands are shaking. I try to make them stop. I can’t make them stop. I start to sing the folk song each of is taking turns performing. I hear my voice tremble along with my hands. I make it to the end of the song and prepare to receive my voice instructor’s comments.
He tells me my singing sounds “affected.” I assume this means I was too “folksy” (It was a folk song, after all).
“No, no,” he says, “quite the opposite.” Also, he tells me: “You need to get out of your own way.”
These comments seem vague, but I work on it. When I perform a different song later in the semester, my instructor tells the class: “You have just heard Rachel’s true singing voice.” I feel happy to hear this, but unfortunately I don’t yet know what it means.
The next year I decide to advance my musical education and enroll in the Applied Music program, which includes weekly one-on-one voice lessons. My new teacher chooses a short Italian song for me to work on. She suggests I use hand gestures to act out the lyrics when I perform it in front of my recital class.
This time my hands no longer shake uncontrollably, but my “acting” is jerky and unnatural. My classmates respond warmly, yet I can tell they are also confused by my performance. Honestly, so am I.
I listen to recordings of other songs my teacher has proposed. One of them stands out. It’s a French aria from the opera “Samson and Delilah.” When I listen to it I feel like I’m in the middle of a sonic soufflé — it’s sweet and dark and rich and airy all at the same time. I want this to be my next song. I study it alone for hours in the school’s practice rooms, as well as meeting weekly with my voice teacher. Surprisingly, I never tire of it; the more I delve into the aria, the more interesting it becomes.
Then, one day, I know I’ve got it.
At my next lesson, I perform the 8-minute aria from start to finish in a small practice room. My teacher accompanies me on piano. My voice is resonant and I feel strong — I’ve come a long way from that first folk song. By the time I am done singing, we are both in tears.
My teacher looks at me and says, “You could sing that on any stage in the world.”
I agree, and I also feel complete right there in that small room. I don't have to go out and prove myself. I have found my voice, and no one can take it away from me.
That afternoon at work one of my colleagues notices I am glowing. “What happened?” he says, “Did you meet someone?”
“No,” I say. “I’ve been singing!”
* * *
A decade later, I haven't become a famous singer. What I am now is a pre-licensed therapist who helps other writers, artists, and musicians overcome distress from anxiety and trauma. One of the ways I do this is with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy.
Interestingly, EMDR involves a lot of “getting out of your own way.” Sometimes I hear my clients say they don’t know if they’re doing it right. I explain there is no right or wrong with EMDR. Our brains usually know how to heal themselves if we allow the process to happen.
I also understand how difficult it can be to let go of control and feel vulnerable. Being authentic takes courage, and the rewards can last a lifetime.
Rachel Moore, MA, MFTI, has been practicing at the Therapeutic Center for Anxiety and Trauma for more than two years. Rachel will begin a new 12-week Artist’s Way Workshop therapy group in San Diego in February 2017. She also facilitates two ongoing drop-in groups — Coffee & Creativity and Write in the City.