I write this to begin the discernment between Play, fear and anger and the fine line that it is to young developing minds. To re-wire the brain for a discernment between the two for the reclaiming of play, enjoyment and singing with freedom.
I also write this because I often hear students say that they just want to ‘let go’ and ‘just sing’ and they don’t know why they can’t and so a deep self criticism sinks into them. There is also a great deal of ‘self-help’ courses and so on that advocates for this ‘just do it!’ kind of carelessness which further breads the inner self-loathing.
For singing to be enjoyable it requires a healthy relationship with play, relaxation and trust. To sing freely requires, you guessed it, freedom. Which brings us to take a closer look at the experience of play in one’s past history and what the relationship was like at that time.
The ability of the lack thereof to play and be in the moment is set in childhood and begins with Mother and infant. The attention and smiles of Mother playing with the baby develops a trust within the baby which, if not injured will develop over time on the playground with other children.
The playground – the ground of play and trust that is a development which sets us on a course for relaxed success in adult years. We have an epidemic of anxiety, depression and trauma that just seems normal these days for people to be on medication and be diagnosed with some sort of mental illness.
I digress. I am writing this for the love of singing and the uncovering of what is in the way for students and myself. I have written much over the years about the forthcoming injuries that teachers, parents and other children have on the precious play experience in music.
In Jill who was told she couldn’t join the choir because she was too loud in the choir and Brian who could join if he stood at the back of the group and mouthed the words. All of this is a growing experience that is to be learned from if it is held in the right light. There hasn’t been the ‘right light’ on this, like ever.
What is quite intact in our society is Competition. Competition is Play’s dark cousin and doesn’t leave a lot of room for play, relaxation and enjoyment. I prepare a number of students for singing competitions much to my chagrin as I don’t believe they should be competing with their friends with the sound of their voices which is so personal and unique to each one of them. It sets of a life of pitting against each other, but I suppose school in general prepares much more of this.
Play is a natural instinct that occurs inside of the moment with no goal or purpose in mind, none, whereas it’s quite clear what competitions goal is, to win. I am not saying this is a bad thing I’m just saying that there is a spectrum of balance here which is lacking in it’s fullness.
The other aspect of the child’s psyche that gets developed within this play-danger-competition paradigm is the warrior. The part of us that comes in to protect and fight for our rights in every way. Over the years I have noticed two kinds of people who see me for voice lessons; the over developed warrior and the frozen warrior.
The over-developed warrior voice – pushed and over worked (the belter)
The frozen warrior – struggles to get sound out
Neither is wrong but only needs the inquiry of the singer to look at where they are living on the spectrum of dark and light – play and competition and danger.
When competition has no balance of collaboration and play then it can get locked into the warrior energy as the only identification with a person. I see it all the time.
The person comes in and immediately I can see they are locked and loaded to sing! The opposite side of calm, relaxation and playfulness having left the building a long time ago.
Then there’s the other side, to be fair, that enters the room with the frozen and crippled warrior fully functioning and identified as ‘this is who I am.’
One side is applauded and awarded and the other is shamed and blamed.
When the warrior has locked out the collaboration of cooperation and play then relationship between two people is at odds. Hence the state of the world today.