If you’ve been visiting Third Factor regularly, you might have noticed that I’m writing articles about how Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities (OE) manifest in the voice—whether in strength or vulnerability. In my first piece, I explained how your voice is a barometer that can indicate something is out of balance in another area of your life. In my second article, I offered advice on how you can empower your voice, by regulating your OE’s in the field of emotions. In this concluding piece, for those of you who identify with imaginational and/or intellectual OE, I will focus on tips for the mind.
Step Back From Your Thoughts
→ Intellectual OE
→ Imaginational OE
Do you overthink and analyze a lot? Are you carried away by many thoughts at the same time, taking you in all different directions? Do you take big mental leaps and lose your train of thought? Does the whole process seem unstoppable? This is the primary challenge for people with intellectual and imaginational OE: excessive thoughts. If you’ve ever tried to control your thoughts, you’ve probably found that this only seems to make more arise. Your voice reflects this: your speech starts to speed up—maybe so much that people can’t follow you anymore. Your focus shifts towards your thoughts and the content of your message, and away from your voice and its delivery. Stepping back from your thoughts can help to slow down your speech.
Let’s take a closer look at what thoughts really are: electrical pulses, created in our mind and manifested into language or images. There’s not much more to it than that. On one hand, these thoughts can be useful: they help you create, organize your life, and get things done. However, even positive, creative thoughts can be a hindrance, if ten or twenty overwhelm you at the same time.
In order to identify less with your thoughts, it might help to be aware that your thoughts are not who you are, nor do they represent objective reality. Your thoughts are impermanent. They come and they go, providing you with the opportunity to choose which thoughts you act upon and which to let pass by. The bottom line is not all thoughts are equally important; you don’t have to believe what you think nor take your thoughts too seriously.
Choosing to identify with only your most salient thoughts goes a long way to calming your mind and your speech. But how do you step back from your thoughts in a practical way?
As a voice coach I practice a type of behavioral therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). One of their approaches is to do exercises that separate verbal and cognitive processes from your experience of the world; they call this approach ‘defusing from thoughts’.1 Through these exercises, you can learn to experience how words exist separately from their meanings, and how to develop an observer view, where you look at the content of your mind as something separate from yourself.
I’d like to invite you to try a defusion exercise.
Take a recurring thought that’s not helpful in order to get things done, like:
“I am never going to be able to do this.”
Write this sentence down. Look at it written down and experience what it is like to look at the words. Also, experience what it is like now that the thought exists outside of yourself. Then, write down the following:
“I am having the thought that I am never going to be able to do this.”
Look at this sentence, and observe if your relationship to the thought has changed. Finally, write down:
“I notice that I am having the thought that I am never going to be able to do this.”
How did your perception of the thought shift during the course of the exercise? This is one way to learn how to look at your thoughts, rather than from your thoughts. If you manage to do so, you will find the right words to express yourself clearly, intuitively and take people along with your enthusiasm, without losing your connection to them.
When you’re talking rapidly and unclearly, you’re probably doing so to express the large volume of thoughts running through your rapid mind. As you start practicing with defusing techniques, you might discover that you have the choice to let certain thoughts pass by without expressing them. This creates more time and space to determine the essence of your message and deliver it at a slower pace.
As a complement to practicing defusing techniques, I suggest recording yourself, slowly reading and articulating various written passages. Be sure to take pauses during points and commas, then play this back to yourself. Evaluate your voice while listening to the recording and notice if your speech is as slow as you perceived it to be while reading. This exercise can help to increase your awareness of your speaking pace.
If you’re also applying the emotional awareness techniques discussed in my previous article, you might realize that your voice also speeds up when you’re experiencing certain emotions. If this is the case, I suggest going back and reflecting on those feelings as well.
Show Your Enthusiasm and Engagement to the World
→ Intellectual OE
As we’ve already discussed, if you have intellectual OE, you may find it important to say things exactly as they are and have a tendency to focus on the content of your message at the expense of its delivery. Although you try to be specific when articulating you message, somehow, it often seems to lack impact.
I’d like to let you in on something here: although you hold the truth in high regard, the majority of people are not moved by factual information. If they were, my guess is that people would not deny anthropogenic climate change nor a round Earth. People are moved by information that resonates with their values, fears, and beliefs; whether it’s factual or not matters less. In this respect, you can learn from those who ground their message in something other than facts.
What are you passionate about? What makes your heart pound and your tail wag? When you speak about something that you value highly, share the passion you feel in the way you speak. Don’t focus so much on facts—those won’t stay with people. Even if you’re not sure that your story is one hundred percent correct, don’t start questioning yourself—you have already shown that you value the truth, so you’re unlikely to deviate too far from it. Focus on the delivery! What your audience will remember is your engaged and inspiring enthusiasm.
Work with a Voice Coach
In my articles about regulating OEs to empower the voice, I haven’t delved into specific voice exercises. My tips here are intended as a starting point to explore how overexcitability affects your voice and to figure out how to make changes, if you decide they’re merited. This advice is best used as a complement to standard vocal training. For instance, if you feel that you have no control over your pitch, you can do exercises for intonation and word stress. If you are talking too fast, tripping over your words, or generally speaking unclearly, you can practice articulation, tempo, and rhythm. If you feel your voice is too soft, you can learn to use resonance and projection to make your voice stronger, without pushing from the throat.
While there are online tutorials and courses available for breathing and voice techniques—I even offer an online speech training course myself—you’ll definitely get the most out of these exercises if you work face to face with a speech therapist, voice coach, singing teacher, or other vocal professional. Without accurate direct feedback, you might practice techniques incorrectly or apply them inappropriately, leading to ineffective results or even potentially causing harm.
Once you have developed self-awareness and located the problem, it can also be tough to make changes without a reliable source of feedback. That’s what a voice coach can offer you. Unlike a speech therapist who is trained in identifying and treating disorders, a voice coach is someone who works with generally healthy people to improve some aspect of their voice. Ideally, this professional would have some knowledge of psychology and understands how the voice is connected to thoughts, emotions and other aspects of the self.
1 S.C. Hayes, K.D. Strosahl and K.G. Wilson (2012). Acceptance and commitment therapy: The process and practice of mindful change. New York: The Guildford Press