E030 - Shut Down Voices (What to do if your Voice is "Too Little")

vocal liberation waking up Sep 14, 2020

Do you speak too little, or does your voice shut down in social or work situations? Is your voice unreliable, so when you're triggered or emotional it lets you down? Do you hide online - in your social media or online presence? If any of these resonate, you may have a "too little" voice – enjoy the blog or watch the episode to learn how to uplevel your voice!

Well, hello there. Welcome to this blog about "too little" voices.

What are we talking about here? We're talking about the voices that shut down at parties. We're talking about the voices that hide online. We're talking about the ones that disappear or freeze during an argument.

Are you one of those? Do you know some of those? Do you have some of those in your family? So we're going to be talking about what I'm going to call a polarity of voices. Last week's episode was about "too much" voices. Today we're going to be talking about "too little" voices. And there is of course a continuum all the way between the two. And many of us have got hybrid voices where we're sometimes too much. And then we shut down, we're sometimes too little and maybe sometimes we're just perfect the way we are.

As always, I welcome a lot of commentary and thank you for everyone who sends in emails, just sharing their journey with their voice of being too much, too little or shutting down, shutting up and then waking up.

So let's begin. We'll start with some characteristics of "too little" voices. One, and this is really probably one of the primary ones, is too little voices hide in some shape or form, there's some hiding or anxiety about speaking. And these voices often don't speak. So let's just say socially, they might find themselves at a party, really just receding into the background or feeling sleepy or feeling alienated. And so there's a feeling of unsafety when around groups of people. Now this affects different people in different places. Some might feel okay socially, but then at work they're not confident. And some people are okay with groups of people in a work environment, but they're aren't okay socially. So each person's got their own special little nuance in this.

And from a neurophysiological point of view, you could say, they've got a dysregulation in their ventral vagal nervous system, which governs social engagement. That's "my sense of safety, when I'm with you". When I walk into a room, do I feel this kind of... tension, and trepidation and fear, or do I feel like it's out-breath ah, I'm with I'm with people, this is beautiful.

Another place that too little voices hide is online, and this is especially noticeable. Now, one of the things you can tell very frequently is, a very difficult to discern profile pic of that person, or very few posts or very few things that are personal. So in other words, a lot of shared posts, but you'll never see a photograph or very frequently, photographs of views and scenery. And it's not to shame that voice, it's just to say, these are some of the characteristics of hiding because I don't feel safe being seen in the world.

And sometimes this will include, and this is true for all voices, actually, self-judgment and a loathing of one's own face. In other words, too lined here, I'm getting too old, my face is too fat, it's too skinny. It's too much this. and yeah. And then there can be some real self hurt in that. Let's call it that.

And we'll talk about some of the remedies to this. But a huge factor with too little voices, is a sense that their voice is unreliable. In other words, sometimes it works and sometimes it really lets me down. And sometimes it shames me and embarrasses me. So when there's a lot of heat in the building or charge or when I have to stand up in front of a lot of people or when I have to stand up for myself, my voice often becomes blocked and emotional and I can't get the words out, and I can't find the words. Even the words will disappear and I'll speak gibberish. And then I'll feel very ashamed afterwards. And that sense of shame let's say is accompanied by, perfectionism. Can be a big thing with too little voices. In other words, I really don't want to speak because I can't get it out right. And it's a fear of making mistakes. And that perfectionism can go right back into, you could call it trauma history or developmental wounding, of "if I'm not perfect, if I'm not acceptable, I'm not okay". And there can be anxiety in that perfectionism, like I always have to have everything perfectly composed and my posts need to be perfect. I'm not allowed to like, just let myself be seen, look I'm another messy human, just living my life. No, hello, I'm fine. So and there are beautiful remedies for that too. And really meeting and getting to know the inner critic, that's got kind of an iron rule over the self-expression and beneath or within that in inner critic. The anxiety and fear, that occupy the body. And even beneath that, the wounded parts, called the wounded inner children, wounded parts that are just terribly afraid. And believe that if they are aren't perfect, that there'll be ridiculed or rejected, and just all the love in the world will just disappear, because a child full of love will just play and be a fool. And as adults being a fool is mortifyingly scary.

And here's a word that, sometimes people don't recognize, it won't resonate, but it's often in voices and that's shame. So shame, you might not recognize the flush of shame in your body. I know exactly what it feels like. I sometimes used to describe myself as a "shame baby". In other words, if that was a thing, other people get super anxious, I would have this kind of inner shame, and it's like this flush of a horribly sick feeling inside. But the way it manifests is in exactly a shutting down of voice or disappearing or hiding. And if you're not familiar with shame inside yourself, and yet you find yourself hiding, I would suggest really looking at the emotions and the feelings. It's very easy for us to project our shame outwards. In other words, what'll happen is if you're posting online, or as you consider posting online, you like me or like any other human might play movies of a particular friend or certain friends or loved ones judging your posts and telling you, "Oh, that's a bit crap." Or is that really you ? Or just judging you? And so that's a way that we can externalize our shame. In other words, if we must use an image of someone else, to not have to face up to, this is how we actually feel inside. It's not that friend who thinks that. It's me.

So there are a lot of physical sensations that accompany this feeling. And when one is doing somatic work. In other words, really learning to feel into what the body feels like, as these emotions are happening. One can become incredibly in tune with the kind of the flash of feelings and sensations and emotions as they pour through the body. And of course this is going on all the time, but a lot of us are very dissociated from our body. So physical feelings of a "too little" voice can really feel like a throttling or a closing of the voice. You might find your chest pounding, or like a weight on your chest, a huge area for feeling it is also in the solar plexus, just below the ribs, and down into the stomach. So you might feel roiling or numbness or fear clenching your solar plexus or activation of some kind. And you might find your hand shaking, all kinds of things going on.

So another characteristic with too little voices is, that they often struggle with boundaries. And so what this means is having a solid no, or even just being able to say, "You know I don't like that." So someone says something to you and you just can't find it in yourself to say, "You know what? "No, sorry, just stop right there." And one of the great telltale signs that one has a boundary issue is, if you often suffer irritation with people and resentment, resentment is a key indicator. When you're feeling resentful is often when you haven't said, "No, please stop doing that." And they carry on doing something, but because you've never said no, or said I don't like it. Your boundaries are getting transgressed all the time. But no one's got a hope of meeting your boundaries because you won't express them.

But please understand you have my sympathies because, I remember five years ago even saying sometimes it feels like my boundaries, which should be solid are like wet spaghetti, like where is that boundary? And it's a real learning area for me.

So and we're going to talk about some of the effects of not having boundaries, but what out for that trigger of irritation or resentment. I'm a bit irritated with this person. What that really means is that, you're not expressing your boundaries and at some level you're probably quite angry.

And so I'm going to say another characteristic within too little voices, is that often anger is suppressed or sublimated. So what happens is it's not unacceptable for me to erupt or let things out or be messy. 

And the anger is felt as this deep discomfort and irritation and anxiety below the chest really, most of the time, sometimes in the chest, but usually it's suppressed down here. So often a "too little" voice won't even know that they're angry. They might feel a little bit irritated, but it's more like they've got a mental narrative going on about that person. I'm a bit irritated and dunno, why did they do that? And there's a lot of justification arguing going on. So what's actually happening is downstairs in the lower parts of the building. There's actually some rage there, that maybe wants to be met.

Within a traumatology landscape, you might say, so the traumatology landscape of just describing the four F's of a fight (that's the person who fights),  flight (leaves the building), Freeze (those that freeze) and Fawn (those that are very nice, even when they don't actually want to be).

So from fawn point of view, too little voice will always be peacemaking and like I'm fine. And we always be saying the nice thing, because it's way too scary to say how you really feel. And the freeze response will often as a "too little" voice, if there's conflict, well literally the whole body will freeze and nothing will come out. I definitely have had a freeze response in my body during my life, where if I was being... If I was receiving anger, my whole body would go into a freeze. I didn't know that at the time, I just knew that nothing would come out. I thought that that was maybe the right thing to do. And then the a flee response will really be, either withdrawing, or even leaving the relationship. 'Cause it can't express itself, and it's so stuck. So you might have, and you might have a hybrid between these like a flight freeze response or a flight freeze and fawn response, as all of your coping mechanisms when there's conflict. Yeah, so this is how it goes, but we could work on it. We'll talk about that more.

So some of the effects, you know, one of the hard things about, having a too much or too little voice or a hybrid voice, like this is, it's a just to face that it has effects in the world. On the one level to have a too little voice means that you hide and often you hide your light. You don't show up in a big way in the world because you're too scared to really put it out there. See, often these voices have got incredible gifts and incredible sensitivity, but they're basically just hiding and hoping that the world will discover them, which just doesn't really happen. And so I feel it's an incredible waste of genius and a beautiful human who is playing small. And I'm want to say that withdrawing, which is often a part of this withdrawing and not being seen and not expressing, can often have catastrophic effects in relationships, because if I'm unwilling to express my boundaries and say how I feel, it's impossible for me to feel safe in a relationship. Brene Brown speaks about this really clearly. It's actually impossible or pretty much impossible for us to have true compassion and true connection without boundaries.

So in other words, what a "too little" voice and most voices will do when relationships fail with other human beings, we'll blame the others, it's their fault, or it's his fault or her fault. And actually the "too little" voice's inability to stay in the conversation or have the boundary that is often a creator of dysregulation in the relationship too. And so often the "too much" voice will get the bad rap as the aggressor. But and the "too little" voice will be withdrawing and moving into itself and feeling like the victim in the situation. And this is a hard thing to say, but I'm just going to say it outright. See how, how this lands for you. That actually a "too little" voice, the one that doesn't speak & that withdraws, can be a perpetrator too. It's not just the fighty voice, that's the perpetrator by withdrawing and not showing up. That's also its own kind of perpetrating and acting out in the relationship. And it's very easy for a "too little" voice to feel like the victim in the situation, and not see its own blind spots.

And of course not speaking about stuff and not getting the boundaries, make sure guarantees that stuff will stay stuck. And hurts will just rankle and fester and stay inside. And ultimately can destroy relationships. And this is not to shame, but it's really... It's just to ask us those of us with "too little" voices to show up and face our own role in this crazy story of life and not just point fingers at others saying that you're the problem. And again, we're not making ourselves into a problem, but we're owning up also to our own dysfunction or dysregulation in our voice. Hope that made sense.

So and quite a curious thing about this, that one might not look at with our "too little" voices is inauthenticity from fawning. Now that's just being too damn nice, to just not saying anything, and not speaking when you actually feel something, there's an element of, I'm going to say lying to it, just not showing up authentically.

And you know, we're again, we are all in this together as humans clumsily waddling around trying our best to work this stuff out. So no one gets to be perfect in this. And no one has to feel bad about this. This is just a journey of us waking up and owning up. On the one hand, we are glorious and full of light. And on the other, it's a short and extraordinarily complex and bizarre life that we're going to live. The short life. And it will be full of joy, but showing up for our weird shit is also part of it. And lying and inauthenticity might be part of, a "too little" voice's journey. And the crazy thing is with the a "too little" voice is that it's really difficult for a "too little" voice to get their needs met, because they're too afraid of expressing them. So let's get into expressing.

We're going to talk remedies now, because this can all change and evolve. And we want to grow our voices just like we don't want to stay stuck with our developmental wounding for life. So... remedies, I'm going to say vocal liberation work. And this is a summary for showing up for your voice and vocal practice every day, it might start with humming, it might involve doing scales or mantra chanting, and some singing, is part one of it, bringing energy to this space, to liberate the stuckness, because the stuckness is not just at a mental or an energetic, or at a wound level.

It's in our neurophysiology, in these under utilized vocal cords. So we need to bring energy, bring life to them, and learn to love them and have a vocal practice every day. If you're a too little voice and you want to improve this, showing up for vocal liberation exercises, is just a great idea. So journaling is good, so you write some of the stuff that's rolling around your head.

Consider therapy or counseling, or some kind of form of talking, but at a somatic talking, we say body-based trauma counseling or therapy to really begin to work with the material that would otherwise stay stuck in your head and never exit your lips. I do have a belief that practices that break the mind, body "barrier", if you like and allow them to meet each other, like tapping and TRE® are really essential, and really fantastic tools. I work with both, for helping people liberate their voices. And both have beautiful effects on this.

Learn boundaries is another one. That's something you can practice, so when you find yourself with resentment or irritation you know that you're not saying something, go ahead and practice it. First, write what you would say and then walk around your bedroom or in your car and practice. "No, John, I don't want to fax that contract for you." "You can do it. I'm busy." "No, John, I can't fax that contract. I'm busy having coffee." "No, John, I'm too busy to answer my pager. I'm not going to make that beeping stop. Sorry." Anyway, and so on, I got a little stuck there using nineties things like pagers and faxes. But learn and practice boundaries. It's an awesome thing to do. And as I said, it's almost impossible to feel safe in relationships unless you're willing to express your boundaries.

So there are huge strengths as well in a "too little" voice. I know we've been hammering on some deep kind of weaknesses, and some of the challenges of a too little voice, but too little voices are often very gentle, are often very kind. I'm going to say very empathic. So one of the things that our too little voice will often learn to do is really read other people and adjust to them. And it's one of the journeys of these empathic voices to learn to sit more deeply inside themselves and have boundaries so that they can feel what's going on without getting kind of taken downtown by it. But too little voices are often peacemakers, and they feel safe to be around. They're usually not aggressive, but at the same time, they will be wanting to learn how to show up more authentically. But, yeah, I'm just going to say safe and gentle would be the best way to describe it. And sometimes nurturers and sometimes highly creative. So as with all of these things, we're all just working this out together.

If you identified with this, let me know if you've got a too little voice in your life. Yeah, please share this blog with them, and as always just share in the conversation. Let me know what landed.