E053 - Why you lose your words (and what you can do about it)

communication safety transform your voice trauma patterns vocal liberation Aug 31, 2023

Do you have a pattern of losing your words? You’re communicating and then suddenly you become a little thick-headed and you start losing track, and the words stop coming out. It's like you become stupid, frozen, wooden, or just clumsy when you're expressing yourself.

A lot of people have this pattern, and I've worked with a ton of people who lose their words. If this sounds familiar to you, watch the video below or keep reading.

It can be incredibly debilitating, especially as you may be a clear and effective communicator when you feel safe with close friends or family. But as soon as you find yourself in a challenging situation or in a group situation or a leadership situation, you become thick-headed. You become clumsy expressing yourself. You may even forget what you were saying and lose your place, or not really even remember what you were talking about.

It can be a kind of crazy, dizzy, somewhat dissociative feeling. And it can wreak havoc in your work life, your professional life, and your family life. It can be career-limiting for the person involved and can lead to them developing long-term patterns of not speaking up, because they don’t feel it's worth the risk of humiliating themselves.

So let's jump in: What can you do if you lose your words? The first step is to understand the nervous system aspect of this. I'm going to do a little bit of polyvagal theory here, so just bear with me—if this is your issue it's really, really helpful to understand this so that you can get a grip on it.

Ultimately, there's an anxiety response going on in a system that loses its words like this. If we're feeling comfortable, calm, regulated, in our bodies, chilled when communicating with others, we're in what's called our ventral vagal nervous system. This is the lovely, juicy place from which we feel safe to connect with others. It's a magnificent state, and ideally we should be in our ventral vagal all the time.

However, if you have the kind of communication pattern that struggles around others, you will experience a ramp up into anxiety, into fight or flight. That's your sympathetic nervous system switching on and glucose flooding to your muscles: you become tense, you might be sweaty, your heart rate's up, your ability to think goes down. So you can already see that being inside the anxiety response is not the ideal place to connect with people or win friends and influence people!

Now beyond this, the special extra bit is that some of us will then flop over from this sympathetic nervous system response into what's called our freeze response, which is an in-built mammal response. We move from our sympathetic nervous system—fight or flight—into freeze, which is a special state designed to help us when we're effectively helpless.

Imagine a lion chasing a zebra, and the zebra thinks about fighting for a second. It weighs up the odds and thinks, "Hell no, I'm going to run!" So it starts running, the sympathetic nervous system fires, its hyperventilating, its heart rate is up. If the lion catches the zebra, the zebra may fight for a little bit, but it will stop struggling at a certain point—you can see this in nature documentaries. The zebra is not dead yet, but it has moved into a freeze response. This is nature's pain-relieving, numbing state.

In the freeze response, our body is pumped full of pain-relieving chemicals. We may feel very helpless, numb, and dissociated, maybe a little bit dreamy. And this is where tongue-tiedness affects our communication systems, and we can't think or express ourselves properly.

I’ve found that a lot of people have freeze responses embedded in their communication system, lodged right in there. So it’s very important to recognize that this is a nervous-system state, and we need to get out of the freeze response. We need to get out of the fight-or-flight response, too.

So our first step is to recognize what's going on and to regulate our nervous system using breathing, tapping, and any other tools that work for us. We have to become experts at regulating ourselves out of freeze and fight-or-flight states and into ventral vagal calm. Check out my tips on self-regulating in this earlier blog and video.

The second step is to decondition the pattern. For better and for worse, you’ve developed a lifelong relationship with yourself, and sometimes this causes you to clam up and lose your words. Along with losing your words, you may experience shame, remorse, self-judgment, and/or fear—all reinforced over time. These patterns may have started late in your life, but they generally originate from our childhood and school years.

We want to decondition this pattern, because it's a negative clump of experiences, emotions, thoughts, and beliefs about ourselves. We want to start dismantling this clump of emotions—if we don’t, this wiring, this patterning, this reality inside us will just keep happening, and there we’ll be, tongue-tied over and over again.

I use deconditioning tools like EFT and some cognitive processes, and you can also work with your support practitioner if you have one–or follow my YouTube channel, or work with me if you wish. But whatever way you go, decondition the pattern. Don't let it render you incoherent and feeling remorseful afterwards.

The third step is to dismantle the shame pattern afterwards. Most of us, when we've expressed ourselves poorly, go into a remorseful, self-judgmental, embarrassed space. It's a horrible feeling in the body—"Ugh, I'm the worst." But that state is part of what keeps this whole cycle going.

So as soon as we express ourselves less optimally, we need to get into doing some deep work to forgive ourselves, like, "Hey, I just rambled a little bit." Or, "Hey, I lost my words. But I’ve got some trauma. I don't always communciate perfectly, but I totally love and adore myself as I am." We've got to get out of that "Ugh, I'm the worst," and into a place of self-acceptance and love. So clean up afterwards, clean up the shame hangover.

On that note—and I keep repeating this—work across the timeline. I teach this in my Radiant Voices process: a huge component of dismantling this pattern is dealing with ramping anxiety before you have to speak. There's something going on in your body: you are calm and then you get more and more tense in the lead up to speaking to a partner or in a business meeting or at a presentation or client meeting or whatever else it might be.

So don't let that anxiety ramp. Don't arrive there frozen or frightened. Do some work to get grounded, aligned, present, heart-centered, so that you arrive like a little ball of light, like your grounded best self.

If it’s your pattern to arrive frozen or already crumpled up and ready to run out the door, just know that this is a self-expression trauma pattern that is stuck in your system. But it doesn't have to be stuck in your system. You can clear it.

If it seems unbelievable to you, have a look at some of the testimonials on my website and read about people who have changed this, who took the steps and did what they needed to do to clear this.

My heart goes deeply out to you if you have been stuck in this, but please know that you can do all the things. You can gather your confidence and communicate with clarity.

And that's the promise of this work: everyone has the capacity and the ability to overcome this kind of patterning and express themselves with heart, with authenticity, with clarity and authority, all in a way that feels yummy in their body.

In this work, the promise is that we can feel safe and confident and a little bit juicy in our own skin when communicating with each other, when delivering a speech in front of a hundred people, or just talking to the internet with no idea who's watching. We can just be ourselves and feel safe, and do all the things and see what happens—and not have to be perfect.

Whichever way you go in this, I'm sending a huge amount of love and wishing you the best possible day.