For many of us, it is difficult to find our own true voice. In some cases, we may not even be letting ourselves realize that we have lost our voice or that, perhaps, we have never developed our own voice.
Finding ways of truly expressing ourselves with love, passion, strength, and confidence that actually reflect our true feelings can be painfully hard. It is particularly formidable when doing so goes against the habits we have come to adopt in order to fit into our surroundings and to feel safe.
During my life and my years of practice as a Jungian analyst, I’ve seen how this journey into awakening one’s own voice can be so challenging for women and, to my surprise, for men as well.
Chapter Six: Finding Our Voice from our recent book, Into the Heart of the Feminine, explains how and why having our own voice is so important to our own growth and authenticity. The chapter outlines a map of this journey and conveys how this journey towards finding our own voice necessarily calls us into a deep personal transformation.
So I would like to share a few selections from that chapter with you:
Over the years, I have become convinced that seeking transformation is the Divine Way. Transformation is the theme not only in myths and fairy tales but also in all the mystery religions. One of the oldest of these mystery religions was the Eleusinian Mysteries in ancient Greece, which became the grandmother of the Western mystery religions and Western mysticism. These mysteries were secret, but they grew out of the myths and tradition of the grain goddess, Demeter; her daughter, Persephone; the descent into darkness; and the returning transformed.
The Greeks believed that going through these mysteries-which consisted, in effect, of enacting and experiencing the myth-would transform them in this life and the next. Jungian psychology sees these stories and myths as rooted in our collective unconscious, where-if we can pay attention to them, experience them, and make them relevant to our lives-they can also transform us. I find it reassuring to remember that transformation is one of the two fundamental aspects of the Great Mother.
Although our journeys into transformation often seem to begin out of feelings of hopelessness, pain, desperation, or rage, we must remember that as we follow them, we will discover that joy, appreciation, and gratitude are just as deeply enfolded in our lives. Joy, appreciation, and gratitude cannot themselves be the goal of our seeking. When they are, they seem to get in their own way and distract us from the deeper purpose we are pursuing. Yet the path of transformation releases these very things to us as we pursue it, and they will support and enrich our efforts.
One of the deepest longings in my early life and young adulthood was to be heard. I wanted to speak and have people listen, pay attention, honor, and understand. As I have worked with women over the years, I have come to believe that one of our greatest longings is to have our own voice. I was surprised to find that young men longed for the same thing-or rather, longed for their anima, their feelings, and their values to have a voice. The Death Mother and the patriarchy have silenced the voice of the feminine so drastically that in far too many cases, we cannot hear it within ourselves. We need to recover our voice first, so that we can hear it and then speak it. (In this chapter, I use the structure of a Venetian fairy tale “Silent for Seven Years” as a symbolic map for this journey.) It became my personal guide as I recovered my voice, and then it became helpful to many of the women and men I have worked with. I believe that you may find it helpful as well.
At first glance, the heroine in our story seems to be faced with an impossible task. If I tried to translate this scene into the everyday language I grew up with, I imagine it would sound something like this: “There is nothing you can do to resolve this problem, because to even try would be so awful and painful.” In my experience, the dominating atmosphere of the Death Mother affects us like quicksand that silently devours anything that moves with life and enthusiasm. It does this in a methodical, strong, unchanging way. But here is the dilemma we often face: Everything looks good on the outside, yet if we look beneath the surface, we are being constantly tortured. And if we take action, we know we must face the fear of an uncertain outcome.
The only thing that can transform the deadly pattern shown here is silent but active determination on our part, being capable of facing the fear that we may lose the life we have become accustomed to. Silence is an important element here, because talking about our deep inner journeys and struggles, unless in the container of an analytic or therapy situation, can work against us; be a distraction; invite other people’s judgment, projections, and interference; and cause us to doubt ourselves. In reality, losing our life in these circumstances is more likely to mean losing our illusions as we transform this deadly pattern into a new life we couldn’t have set as a goal to achieve.
We are all left to wonder if there is an easier or better way than this cruel and brutal manner. It seems that there are no easy paths, no effortless roads to get to a place of authentic and genuine transformation. The process teaches us that if we can have such troubles with our mothers, our families, and ourselves, we need to accept the brutal and cruel realities of life; yet enfolded in this background are our great potentials for creativity, love, and joy. We can arrive at this position through our dedicated inner work. And if we are having trouble believing in ourselves, we must search for a good analyst or therapist, one who is not caught in the patriarchal web of trying to “treat” us or get us back to “normal,” but one who understands transformation can lead to a life beyond normal. It can be difficult to find someone with the psychological wisdom necessary to create a relationship that gives you what you need and helps you find the support within yourself for the next steps.
It is painfully hard to find a way of expressing ourselves that is both feminine and strong but not tainted by harsh characteristics of a negative animus, who is often the “son” of the Death Mother. A man can also have difficulty learning how to integrate and express his anima, his feelings, and his values without having them contaminated by his inner critical witch, fostered by the Death Mother. The course of the next step in our inner development depends upon the continuous choices we make in transforming ourselves. The world we live in pushes us in a direction dominated by one-sided patriarchal values. We must dedicate ourselves to cultivating our inner development like a delicate, beautiful flower and protect it from the surrounding pollution.
This ending of the fairy tale journey is not simply a rosy conclusion in which everybody is happy forever after. It is the well-deserved accomplishment of an inner transformation. The young woman’s hard work brought about an integration of her personality and created a new foundation for her future. This is what the work and the journey to find our own voice is truly about.
One of our greatest longings is to have our own voice, one that speaks of our greatest values with strength, clarity, compassion, and understanding. I want a voice like that and more. I want a voice that can also speak with authority, tenderness, love, joy, sorrow, anger, respect, and humor. I want a voice of my own that expresses the fullness of who I am. And I believe, my husband believes, and the people I have worked with believe that gaining this voice is worth every step in the struggle.
Painting above: The Musician Girl, Osman Hamdi
Articles by Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris, Book Excerpts and Resources