Gut Voice, Head Voice and the Hand that Stifles
By Crystal Neill
Years ago, as many of you know, I lived in an abusive marriage (which, I obviously left). After I left that situation, I went a little bananas. I’m not going to lie. I did stuff I look back now and go, “Oh man…probably not the best ideas ever.” The three years following my divorce I quit my solid job to help start a church in North Portland, I also drank a lot, partied a lot and put myself in really stupid situations. I loved the freedom I had outside of that marriage. I knew because I had cut off ties to my ex-husband and was in control of everything I was doing, I was “over it”. I was better. Like, “Hey, I’m no longer THERE, so I’m fixed!”
Even years later, I refused to step on a scale, look at my whole self in the mirror, go after the things I wanted, treat others with respect and allow myself to be treated with respect. I also was lonely and stifled while wearing the mask of “everything is OK”. Because, well, hey, I was no longer living IN that marriage. Yet, even though I was no longer IN that marriage, I continued listening to others’ voices that echoed the voice of the abuser. I was also leading people at another church, when I probably shouldn’t have been. I needed time to figure out what my real voice sounded like outside of the stifling abuse I continued to place on myself.
It was like I had been singing from my head voice and not my gut voice, you know? Have you ever taken voice lessons? If so, you know what I’m talking about – your head voice is the voice you use when you aren’t using your center to project from. Your gut voice is when you project from your center. It actually sounds different.
When we project just from our head voice and neglect our gut voice, our true selves, our true voice can’t be heard. Those things that stir in us from our gut – our life vocation, our real truth, get distorted. Our voice no longer clear, we end up just sounding like T-Pain. Who the hell knows what that guy sounds like, for real?
For me, I was not only using my head voice, I also had this hand over my mouth, stifling anything that tried to come out. Try to say something with a hand over your mouth…not easy to get your point across or for people to understand you. That’s what not facing our shit does to us. It puts the hand over our mouths and stifles our voices.
We all have people that have “put their hands over our mouths” so we couldn’t be heard. Instances, circumstances, roads we have chosen or roads we haven’t chosen, that have put its hand over our mouth. We end up accustomed to the hand being there. When we finally pry the fingers off our face, we slap our own hands over our mouths and continue to stifle the gut voice dying to get out.
Who does the hand over your mouth say you are? Write one word describing who the hand says you are at the top of your page.
Next, write subsequent words in a column describing everything it says you are or are not. Use all of your senses to explain this.
For instance, my word at the top of my page is “Worthless”.
This? This is the song we learn to sing from our head voice, with the hand over our mouth. The tune is so catchy, it becomes the tune we function through. It becomes our song.
I had to learn to not give into the hand over my mouth (whether it was my own hand or someone else’s), keeping me from projecting my true, gut voice. I got professional counseling. I had to really, I mean, REALLY look at my shit. I had to take ownership of what was mine and let others take ownership of theirs. I had to give up control of making everything look “right”. I had to give up control of other people’s actions. I had to give up control of making sure everything looked like it was in place. It wasn’t easy. It was terrifying. I had to give up “showing well”.
I had learned to project through the hand over my mouth. I had learned to breathe through the hand. When you have a hand over your mouth and are screaming your words, then take your hand off your mouth and scream your words, you realize you don’t have to try so damn hard to be heard. Breathing becomes a little easier. You learn to dodge the hand when it is coming toward you. Trust what is true. Trust your gut voice. Use your gut voice. When we don’t use our voice, life becomes lonely and unbearable.
Loneliness doesn’t come from being alone or by yourself. It comes from not being able to communicate who you truly are – what makes your heart beat, live out your life vocation. Being stifled, leads to being self-ostracized. It leads to silence, when there is a song needing to be projected from your gut.
Loneliness doesn’t come from being alone. It comes from not being able to fully express yourself to others. It breeds a life that is scary and feels hopeless.
There was a situation where a man was pondering what to do about people he loved that were enslaved and he happened upon a bush that seemed to be burning, but not burning up. He was confused and as he looked at it further…a messenger from God spoke from this plant (no, this is not my endorsement for burning reefer). Surprise! It’s Moses.
God told Moses his voice would be used to end the slavery of the Israelites. Moses argued with God. They went back and forth about it. They really do. You can look it up.
10 Moses raised another objection to God: “Master, please, I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer.”
11-12 God said, “And who do you think made the human mouth? And who makes some mute, some deaf, some sighted, some blind? Isn’t it I, God? So, get going. I’ll be right there with you—with your mouth! I’ll be right there to teach you what to say.”
Moses’ situation was terrifying. He was in a space that seemed helpless – his people were enslaved. He was one man, with a stutter. He also was a man that apparently saw and spoke to burning bushes – probably not the best way to go about getting people to follow you or your God. He wasn’t the most articulate person and had problems with public speaking. He was scared to death to open his mouth. If you know anyone that has a stutter, you know stress makes it worse. Imagine what Moses must have been thinking and feeling. He REALLY didn’t want to do it.
But, because Moses knew God has his back, Because he knew God supported who he was at his core, because he knew God didn’t care that he stuttered and stammered and was unsure of himself, because God needed his voice.
Moses’ voice was used to liberate an entire nation.
This stuttering, stammering man’s voice was used to liberate an ENTIRE NATION.
Still yourself. Meditate on what your gut voice is trying to say. What is screaming inside of you that can’t get out? What is it God needs to use your voice to do?
Think of one sentence. Got it?
Place your hand over your mouth. Keeping your hand tightly over your mouth, scream, as loud as you can, the thing that is trying to get out.
Take your hand off your mouth.
What was that like?
“…I’ll be right there with you—with your mouth! I’ll be right there to teach you what to say.”
What was that like?
Did you feel stupid? I did the first time. It’s scary to take the risk of using your gut voice when others may not. BRAVE.
Like we did before, write one word describe who you are without the censorship of a hand over your mouth. What is the purpose of your voice?
Your Inclusion brings
Breath from the
Joyful tree tops.
You Gather at the river.
No one is left out.
Fill your Table!
These are our Psalms. Like King David before us, these are the psalms describing our pain and our liberation. This last psalm we wrote, is the one from your gut voice. The one that can be trusted. Even though the previous one may sneak in from time to time, this is the one to come back to time and time again.
Our gut voices were created to shout light into the darkness, bring liberation to ourselves and others. Our gut voices were created to make people laugh, bring joy in the midst of heartache, to bring freedom where there is not. This is way more exciting shit than the loneliness and self-hatred the other voice brings.
Your voices are lovely and powerful and deserve to be heard. We need your voice.
If anyone would like to project and tell us who they truly are, without the censorship of the hand over their mouth, using their “gut voice”, we would love to HEAR you. We would love to appreciate you. We would love to celebrate your voice. Feel free to leave your Psalms (and any comments for that matter) in the comments below.
You deserve to be heard.