I went to a singing workshop about a month or so ago. It was brilliant. The idea, of course, is that when you sing you use all the muscles of your core, those ones deep down that you didn’t know where there, to support the sound. What I didn’t realise – and what makes perfect sense when you think about it – is that if the muscles then remain tense, you can’t take a decent breath. The key to breathing, I was told in big capital letters in a follow-up email, is release. Loosen those muscles, just for long enough to take a breath. Let them go. That will allow me to take in the breath I need; that will reduce the painful tightness of anxiety in my throat; that will make me a better singer.
Interesting though that is, this is not a blog post about singing – well, not directly, anyway. What the trainer’s comments made me realise, though, is this: if release is the key to letting go of tension and being a better singer, it can also be generalised that release – of a different kind – is the key to letting go of tension and being a better person. How inconvenient.
I acknowledge that I am a control freak. I don’t necessarily need to try to control others (although my ex had something quite different to say on that topic) – but I am a person for whom self-control is important. Basic. Holding myself in check. Keeping my emotions – especially those darker emotions of which I feel ashamed – under tight restraint. Thinking – usually – before I speak. Keeping my thoughts and, more importantly, my vulnerabilities, to myself.
One of the most challenging things I’ve had to learn in living with PTSD is that I can’t control everything when it comes to my own experience. I can’t stop my hands shaking when anxiety edges into panic; I can’t stop my throat tightening painfully with the scream, or the words, or the tears I can’t utter. I can’t stop the flashbacks, or the memories which come more quietly but no less painfully with their steel-capped boots. I can’t stop the nightmares. I can’t always control the reaction of my body or my mind to what happened to me, and I can’t always control who sees my vulnerability.
I have to learn release. I have to risk releasing that tight grip on my own rigidity. I have to risk that people will see my flaws, my darkness, my scars. That they then might not like me. That I might get hurt in that. Because in releasing control and allowing myself to be vulnerable, I reveal darkness – but I also reveal light. Releasing my shames also allows me to claim my own worth.
I’d like to be a better singer, and so I’ll try whatever techniques might help me in that. I’d like to be a better person, too – and isn’t it a neat little coincidence that two manifestations of the same concept of release are what will help get me there.