I believe everyone is called to express something over the course of our lives, what I call our Voice.
The singing journey isn’t just about improving your singing or vocal expression — it’s also about getting more connected with who you are as a person, what truly resonates with you, and how to express that in the way you live your life. And working on your voice and expression supports this in so many ways.
We live in a world that’s very focused on being positive, and we’ve been conditioned to show our best side, to believe that we’re supposed to always be upbeat and happy. Thus when we get triggered and negative emotions arise, we tend to suppress them, or distract ourselves from them, instead of allowing ourselves to feel them and get in touch with what we truly wish to express.
Sometimes even when it comes to our musical choices, we may end up picking upbeat and positive-sounding songs over the sad ones, for fear they bring us down or make us feel like crying.
One reason why we don’t want to look at negative emotions is we fear we’ll end up dwelling on them and get depressed. It’s a valid fear; however there’s a misunderstanding here. When we don’t allow ourselves to express the emotions that arise in us, the emotion continues to linger, even when we stuff them down. And dwelling on them happens when we do feel the emotions, but we don’t fully explore what they are about and release them.
The truth is that emotions will eventually run their course, but only if there is a direct outlet to express them.
This is where singing to express and release emotions is useful, because channeling them through a song doesn’t allow you to dwell on the emotions and keep them inside.
Secondly, a song only lasts a few minutes. We often believe we need a lot of time to express our emotions. But if you were to sing the right song and channel 100% of your emotional state into that performance, it would be done in just a few minutes.
Thirdly, singing is a creative act, in that you’re creating a performance, even if it’s just for an audience of one (i.e. yourself). By channeling that emotion through singing the right song, you’re transforming that negative energy into something creative, and creative energy is what forwards our evolution and growth.
Fourthly, our emotional side has its own “brain”, which isn’t the same as our intellectual one. We live in a world which favours and develops our intellectual intelligence more than our emotional one. Thus most of the time when we get emotional, we use our intellect to process it, and end up not understanding what’s happening. But if we were to allow ourselves to express that emotion, it activates our emotional “brain”, and thought we won’t intellectually understand how it works, the process of expression will bring clarity once the emotions are released.
Also, sometimes with the right song, a resonance with certain lyrics may bring about an additional awareness around your emotional state.
In one of my recent singing videos, I performed “The Path of Thorns” by Sarah McLachlan. When I first heard this song a couple of weeks before, something about it resonated with me. (Well, it’s a heartbreak song, so I guess most people who have been through break-ups can relate to that on some level lol.)
I started to learn this song, and part of my process was to listen to it on repeat, and sing along with the lyrics. And as I practiced, I gradually recalled a relationship from many years ago, one I had believed was going to be The One. In reality, it was probably hands-down the most dramatic, on-again-off-again romance I had been in. We were so wrong for each other, and even when it wasn’t working, we refused to let it go.
After four years with him, I finally managed to end it, and I know I’ll never get back together with him ever again. Yet there was still some part of me that couldn’t fully let go of the relationship, and I couldn’t really understand why.
As I sang “The Path of Thorns” and reflected on the relationship, I allowed myself to feel and release the emotions that surfaced, things I had never been able to express to him, or even acknowledge to myself.
I performed the song a few times to myself, channeling the frustration and sadness that he was a certain way, and how difficult it was for us to be together. And the more I sang, I also began to realise that I had held on so tightly to my idea of how I wanted our relationship to be, how I wanted him to be, that I couldn’t truly see or accept him for who he was. And a part of me was also blaming myself for not seeing the reality of our relationship and getting out of it a lot sooner.
I won’t have arrived at these realisations if I hadn’t sang the song over and over. It was through the process of singing the song and allowing myself to expression the emotions, that I started to gain more clarity about my feelings toward that relationship.
It’s taken me many years to get used to feeling and expressing my negative emotions, and even so it’s still difficult sometimes. It takes a lot of practice and willpower to override what has been ingrained in us, but it all starts with giving ourselves the permission to go there.
So when you listen to a sad song and it brings up negative emotions, or it “speaks” to you somehow, resist the temptation to avoid listening to it. Set aside time to play the song on repeat, listen to it and sing along with it, and get in touch with your emotional state.
Part of our growth journey as human beings is about allowing ourselves to be with our emotions, and to express them through our voice, so we improve our understanding of ourselves. Plus with singing we’ll have healthy and creative outlet to release negative energy.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a “good” singer or not, the whole point of the process is to sing out and express what is hidden within.
It may be strange or difficult at first, but the more you try and allow yourself to do this, it will get easier over time, and you’ll develop a deeper and more authentic connection with yourself.
And if you would like a safe space and coaching through this, get in touch with me at maryannloo.com/singing