“Why Should I listen to you?” “Because I have a voice!”
Though it is a movie filled with many great lines, this exchange between Bertie and Lionel in the King’s Speech was the one that stuck with me the most. If you haven’t seen the film (and I’d highly recommend that you see it if you haven’t) it’s about king George the VI before and at the beginning of his reign as he worked to overcome a stammer. King George, or Bertie as he was often called in the film, was the sovereign of the United Kingdom and the dozens of other countries that made up the British Commonwealth and yet the most powerful reason why he should be listened to was not because of his crown or title but because he had a voice and it deserved to be heard.
I’ve been thinking about the power of people’s voices for a while now and watching this movie brought it back into the forefront for me. We all have our own voice and with it can bring our thoughts, feelings and inner selves out into the world. A person’s voice can be an incredibly powerful mechanism for change within our world. Speeches made by leaders and teachers can inspire people or rally them to a cause. They can spread fear and hatred too.
The power of people’s voices is not limited to leaders and public figures, each of us have a voice that is significant and that can impact our world in our own way. Sometimes it’s sharing a new idea or new perspective. Sometimes, it’s taking a stand for something that we believe in, or with a friend in need of support. Sometimes, the power of using our voice is in sharing with those around us how we feel and what we value so that they can know us better and we in turn can come to better know ourselves.
It can be hard sometimes to feel able to use our voice openly and honestly. Whether in a public setting, as was the case in the movie, or in other aspects of our daily lives, sharing our inner voice with the outside world can be a terrifying prospect. Fear, whether from abuse or violence, or judgment and stigma can act to silence people’s voices and keep them hidden. Power and privilege can also play a significant role as those who are marginalized by society or seen as different may feel as if their voice is not wanted, not being heard, or even that they no longer feel that they have the ability to use it.
Being mindful and respectful of people’s voices is often a central theme in therapy. Creating a safe space for clients to feel that they’re able to use their voice freely and openly is a key component of successful therapy work. Sometimes this is about balancing different client’s voices throughout the therapy session and sometimes the key is being aware of our own voices as therapists and the amount of space that we take up within the room.
Something that I’ve learned is really important to remember is that you can’t give someone their voice or find it for them if they feel that it is lost. The other part of it is that you can’t voice it for them as part of the whole idea is having them voice it themselves. In therapy it can be difficult sometimes when talking with someone who is having difficulty finding their voice, or finding the courage they need to use it. Acting out of caring or desire to help we can encourage and support but sometimes it’s not something from us that’s needed. Sometimes one of the most powerful ways to encourage someone to use their voice is to not speak at all and allow the empty space to linger invitingly until they feel ready to take that space as their own. Though it can be hard, especially as a new therapist, to trust the process, it is a truly awe-inspiring experience to be a part of. Seeing people give voices to thoughts and feelings that they have kept hidden from others and sometimes even from themselves reminds me of why I chose this career in the first place.
Politics is another area where the power of people’s voices is a common theme. In Canada here we arenearing the end of a Federal Election and as someone who, probably somewhat foolishly, spends a fair amount of time following Canadian politics elections can be pretty exciting for me. In between elections, governments continue on much as they always do and as one citizen in a country of over 30 million, my voice doesn’t have much say in the matter. At election time however, I feel like my voice is given its chance to wade into the fray and say my part. Own my own I can’t change the country but I can add my voice to those of my fellow citizens to remind those we elect that we all have a voice, and in a democracy it’s those voices that hold the power.
For those who have not already voted, I would urge you to make sure and vote on Monday (May 2nd). Not just because of democracy, or civic responsibility as has often been said(and rightly so) but because you each have a voice and it deserves to be heard.