On the Power of Talking
Dear quarter lives,
It blows my mind how those very things we do everyday hold within them all the power we need to transform our lives. And it is not just about what we do, but how we do it that creates the lifestyle we end up living. And so with one of the most everyday things of all —talking — we hold within us, within our very own voices an immense amount of power. And that power in itself is neither good or bad, talking in itself is neither good or bad. It is the intention behind our speech that makes that power serve a beneficial function or a destructive one. Each and every one of us has their own unique voice, and voice isn’t just the actual sound we make when we speak, but it is how we speak, how we put our words together, the intonations we make, how we pause, how we laugh or giggle at the end. And so it becomes that our voice is an expression of us, of our soul. And that expression is sacred. It is holy. And the reason it is holy isn’t just because of its beauty, although I do believe the most sacred and divine sounds of all are in themselves an expression of beauty, like all the sounds nature makes, the trees rustling, the birds chirping, the humans laughing. These are all sacred. But they are sacred not only because they are beautiful, they are sacred because they remind us that we are connected. That we are never alone. That we are accompanied by other beings, by nature herself in this experience of life. For the primary function of making a sound is for it to be received by another. We make sounds to communicate. To send messages. What kind of messages we send, that is up to us. Many messages we send are indeed unconscious. We send cries of help through our voices. We send pleas for love. And sometimes, we send signals of fear too. Just like birds warning their own of danger, we too send warnings to other people when we perceive danger. That doesn’t necessarily always mean what is a threat to someone is a threat to everyone. And that is where our listening can really help us filter out and know what rings true for us and what doesn’t. And so you see, talking is a responsibility. It has the power to influence those around us because we are literally sending whatever is within us out into the world using our voices.
And because we can hear our voices as we speak, we are also reinforcing whatever is within us using our speech. Unless we consciously choose to do otherwise. So when we decide, for example, we want to practise being less judgmental, we need to practise that using our voices, using the very thing we use every single day to make those judgements heard. If we decide we want to take on the habit of recognising the silver linings when things don’t go our way, then we must refrain from complaining when things don’t work out. If we want to be less hard on ourselves, we must refrain from expressing to our friends what we think we should’ve or could’ve done. If we want to be more forgiving of our impressions of men, we must refrain from making generalisations about them. So you see the point. Whatever it is in our life that we are intending to address, one of the best ways to address it is through our speech. Talking is one of the most powerful enforcers of our thoughts. We literally give a voice to certain thoughts over others through speaking. So speak wisely. Speak with awareness. Be conscious of how what you’re saying might impact another.
This magnificent healing power of talking is not just bound to the everyday, for one of the most healing tools available to us today is talk therapy. Going to a professional of some sort to talk, in order to express and give voice to all that you were unable to give a voice to. This is one of the reasons talk therapy can be very powerful. But again, it is a very fine line between complaining and giving a voice to our grief and that is where our own awareness plus that of the therapist is key, because if all we do is go to therapists because we want to complain about our life, then here we are just using speech to reinforce what is already inside of us, rather than using speech to empty what is inside of us. And often when we find ourselves unable to stop complaining, it is usually because we feel we have no control so we try to voice our feeling of powerlessness. Complaining happens when we feel we can’t do anything except complain. It is when we feel all we can do is use our voice to say “Help me, please. I feel it is out of my hands.” Complaining stops when we realise it is in our hands again. Our instinct to complain is actually spot on in some ways, because when we feel we have lost all power in a situation, we remember we have our voices, so we use them to speak, but the part that needs a little tweaking is how we choose to use our voices in those situations where we feel powerless. And often in those moments we perceive ourselves powerless, it is better to stay silent. It is better to quiet our outside voices so we can hear our inside voices. And even though our instinct might be to scream instead of to stay silent, it is ironically this act of silence that reminds us again of the power we hold within our very own vocal cords. And then, we know how best to use our voices. Silence nurtures the talking part of us. Just like a muscle would need to rest after a workout, we need to give our voices some time to rest as well so that they can best serve us and not break in the process.
Though allowing oneself to fall silent can often prove to be a very difficult task. Our voice after all is a very powerful representation of our power, so how can we surrender our power without feeling powerless? I suppose that is the lesson we learn from mastering our silence. And somehow when we make peace with our powerlessness, we regain our power once more. For a very long time I thought that surrendering in any way, shape or form made me weak. Now, many years later, an older and wiser quarter lifer, I can confidently say that I was very very wrong. If anything, to surrender is an act of great great courage. But of course there is always the danger of mistaking one’s own passivity for surrender. The wisdom of course, as the infamous serenity prayer declares, is in knowing the difference. The serenity prayer, as originally written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, goes something like this:
‘Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.’
And that very insight is expressed in how we choose to use our voices in those moments we are confronted with change, whether it is the daunting task of changing a situation ourselves or that of accepting a situation that changes us. I, myself, know that much of my healing has been done using my voice. It has also been done for the sake of my voice. As a young child, I wasn’t talkative at all. I was told I was shy and that fixation on my shyness and quietness made me very conscious of using my voice. I became afraid to speak because when I did speak, all I heard were the flaws. All I noticed was that it wasn’t perfect and so I was terrified of other people noticing those imperfections too. I felt that there was something wrong with my voice. I felt let down by my own voice and grew extremely frustrated by my inability to speak well. My sentences often, and sometimes until this very day, will abruptly stop mid sentence, be discarded and replaced by a new one. But I realise now as I write this, that this is MY voice, my own particular way of speaking, and even if it is not perfect, it has nonetheless, helped me heal, it has carried my story up through me and out into the world. And for that, I am eternally grateful to my voice. I am thankful for my ability (and sometimes lack of ability) to express myself. Because I realise I do love to talk, but only when I’ve fed my voice the silence it so craves. You see, sometimes, we need to rest from speaking, not only to nurture our voices, but to be able to listen to what it is our inside would like to communicate to the world. So be generous with the rest you give your voices, and it will be sure to repay you back in spades.
With love and always for peace,