Personal Narratives: Power of Voice

Posted on May 13, 2016

This week we flip the switch from the devastating impact of trauma on a person’s narrative of themselves, relationships, and the world to how we can help clients rewrite and take control of the story of their lives. To start this exploration, I want to examine the power of a person’s voice. Verbal or written expression is something I think quite a bit about as a both an aspiring speaker and writer.

In my work, especially when I speak, I pay close attention to not only what I’m communicating but how I communicate the concepts I’m trying to explain. Trauma in the form of child abuse, homelessness, domestic violence, war, and exploitation are hard topics to sit with for long periods of time especially knowing many in the audience have experienced trauma in their own lives. In describing the devastation of trauma, I know I always need to hold the light of hope that no matter how dark the situation might be and always reaffirming the possibility for transformation if the right variables are set up.

As part of my own growth, I have sought out people whose voices carry passion and wisdom. While wisdom can easily be accessed through journals, books, TED Talks, trainings, and other medias, it is this passion that is rare in my experience. This passion has the power to motivate, connect to the core of the listener, challenges core beliefs, and brings real change to the world’s problems.

I obsessively seek to pull knowledge from wisdom. I actively search and follow those who can connect wisdom to passion. One place where I find this combination in abundance is with client’s who have survived their own personal hell and transformed this suffering into strength and wisdom. I treasure the opportunities I get to sit as a student at the feet of these teachers whose story and resiliency contain a type of wisdom that is not found in many books.

As a student, I have paid deep attention to the power in the voice of these heroes. They have no problem speaking from their soul as every word has meaning and power. I sit in awe of their stories and journeys out of hardship and into the life they could once only imagine.

One of the most powerful things I find about this voice is how starkly it contrasts to those I’ve worked with who are stuck in their pain, suffering, and whose life has become a continual fight for survival. In this reality, the voice lacks power, passion, and much life at all. I could almost hear the spiritual and emotional death which Joseph Campbell described in the words and tone of these clients.

Yet, experience shows, that from this death can come great strength and wisdom. Those that have successful journeyed out of their hell often have a passion to give back to those still struggling. In the presence of these people, one can’t help but to feel a tremendous since of hope for all people.

Over the next several weeks we will explore how to help clients find their voice as part of their transformative journey. I want to provide space in the comment section for you all to tell stories of those that have inspired you with their passion and wisdom. Who has inspired you?

10 responses to “Personal Narratives: Power of Voice”

  1. Erin Dupuis says:

    I look forward to this series, Matt! Thank you for putting the spot light on our heroes and their unique wisdom. My recent inspiration comes from a client I started working with a couple of weeks ago who manages several mental health diagnoses which has included hospitalizations for suicidal ideation, as well as managing some debilitating and stigmatizing chronic physical medical conditions. I have never seen someone track their depression and anxiety in such an objective and matter of fact way, while dealing with chronic pain, putting one foot in front of the other – making appointments and meeting goals – while “knowing” that he will probably check himself into the hospital in a couple days to get the support he needs to make through another dark walk. He shows up, we cry, we joke and we talk about hope, and find yet more resources to help him feel connected to more of the people he wants and needs in his life. I walk away with a heavy heart yet fulfilled by our work, companionship and inspired by his life, wisdom and fortitude. Bless his soul.

  2. Philip J. Malebranche says:

    One example of inspiration for me is a person who became a physician despite a disability. The training is rigorous, I came to understand, but her struggle was compounded by regular pain and the discrimination (for many reasons) of peers and others around her. Her case made me reflect earnestly on her life and effort and success, and that helped steel me for my own challenges. I’m grateful.

  3. Rainey says:

    Hi Matt,

    Great blog. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Philip J. Malebranche says:

    She may yet be an unsung heroine.

  5. Philip J. Malebranche says:

    Other examples also come to mind: the one-armed Major League Baseball player that I read about as a young person; Helen Keller, whose autobiography I read many years ago; Louis L’Amour’s autobiography that portrays one with little education who travelled much and followed his thirst for reading and writing stories. Martin Luther King, Carson McCullers, the writers of the Proverbs: these are some of the other figures of inspiration in my life.

  6. Philip J. Malebranche says:

    Mr. Nelson was our soccer coach at Nyack High School, in New York State. He was a hard-driving, and successful, North Carolinian, but we called him “Chooch.” I had started comparatively late playing that sport in school, but I remember him saying in practice, one day when teaching us to dribble, something like: “Learn to touch the ball [with our feet] as if you’re making love to it.” It may have been odd for young boys (inexperienced in lovemaking) to hear that, but we probably got the idea. Chooch wanted me to tryout for the track team, later. His suggestion was ill-received: I wasn’t interested and couldn’t get myself to follow-through. Later, I realized his wisdom: track would help me in soccer. That regret lasted, though, as a point of reflection, as did the idea of making love to a soccer ball. Intimacy may be a metaphor for excellence or skill or competence. Another lesson from soccer–for someone who never made the varsity team: passing the ball away from your goal is acceptable, unlike in football. There’s no penalty for losing yards. A team may go backwards to prepare for offense and a score. That idea also helped in meeting challenges and having a strategy.

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