The two most important phases in our lives and how they affect our voice and ear

A professional article by Iris Hammermeister - Part 1

The phase model of Bodynamic
The more I have studied Bodynamic, the more I understand how important security is in our lives. While I knew that our first contact and bonding experiences have a significant impact on our voice, I was able to learn how all of this affects our anatomy through Bodynamic.

The first stages of life have a strong influence on our musculature
I have always paid a lot of attention to anatomy, especially in voice training. I directed my focus very much on the fascia. What I had somewhat disregarded were the muscles. However, during my first Estill Voice classes, I realized that they play a central role in singing and speaking. I learned a lot about the anatomy of singing, but I also realized that my muscles, which are responsible for singing, were sometimes doing too much or sometimes not enough. My much work on my voice, body, mind and soul, seemed to have had no effect on my muscles, because my compensation patterns were still reflected there. This surprised me a lot, but at the same time it showed me how strong the influence of our bonding and relationship experiences is on our musculature. This is exactly what Lisbeth Marcher has investigated in her body-psychotherapeutic method – Bodynamic. She has continued the work of Wilhelm Reich and has devoted herself in particular to developmental trauma. For this purpose she has divided life into 7 phases. In this article I focus my attention on the first two phases of life, the Existential and Needs phase. These two phases have a strong impact on our musculature, especially concerning our ear and voice. Lisbeth Marcher studied 126 muscles, grouped them into muscle systems and assigned each muscle to specific phases, including developmental themes. She found that our muscles, react either hypotonic or hypertonic, that is, either have too much tone or too little tone.

I will discuss the polyvagal theory with its correspondence to the musculature in the next part.

The Existence Phase
The existence phase begins in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy and lasts until the 3rd month. This phase is about being secure. Provided we feel safe and welcome in our mother’s womb, our primal trust is formed during this time. We feel connected to ourselves, have the ALONE feeling, experience our body as home, are completely there and in the HERE and NOW. There is no feeling of separation. You could also call this phase symbiosis with yourself. Our soul inhabits our body completely. This secure BEING is therefore inherent in us and actually a normal state. However, very few people experience this and later in life they are always looking for fusion and union, basically with themselves. However, when we have not felt welcome and safe, survival strategies begin very early (in the womb of the mother). Most people have never had the experience of security, feeling rootless and without solid ground under their feet. This also means that the soul does not really inhabit the body and is rather outside the body. Depending on what experiences we have had, this affects our middle ear muscles. We already start hearing when our heart starts beating.

There are 2 very crucial and important muscles in our middle ear. These are the stapedius muscle and the tensor tympani muscle.

Image: © Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany

The stapedius muscle often responds to early survival strategies by becoming flaccid. However, it ensures that the eardrum is tense so that we can filter out sounds, especially voices, well. It is responsible for frequency. Since we can’t filter properly, there is a flooding of sounds. Some people also talk about highly sensitive people. This means noise for our system and constant stress.

The tensor tympani muscle is responsible for transmitting sound to the inner ear. Its exact function is controversial. It is assumed that the M. tensor Tympani causes an increased tension of the eardrum and thus an increased reflection of the sound. Thus, sounds are muffled and the ear is protected from too intense sound stimuli. This means that it is responsible for volume.

The really exciting thing is that there is a counterpart to these two important middle ear muscles in the laryngeal muscles.

For the stapedius muscle, there is the equivalent of the external muscle system of the larynx, which is called the cricothyroid or ring-shield cartilage muscle system and is responsible for pitch (frequency). It is concerned with the tension of the vocal folds, just as the middle ear is concerned with the tension of the eardrum. We form the falsetto via the cricothyroid muscle system.

For the M. Tympani there is the equivalent for the internal muscle system of the larynx, which is called the Arytaenoid muscle system (Stellnorpel muscle system) and is also responsible for the volume. The arytaenoid muscle system is associated with the chest voice.

In order to train and balance both muscle systems, it is necessary to train the chest voice separately from the falsetto, and later bring them back together.

Now we are already in the middle of the 2nd phase – the need phase.
The need phase is dedicated to the individual. This is about perceiving that I am an individual and being treated as such. If there are already survival strategies in the existence phase, it is hardly possible to switch to the need phase. That means the development or unfolding of the individual is not possible. Exactly in this switch the skin binds itself to the nervous system. So it is about skin boundaries here. Who am I and who are YOU. This happens in the 1st month until we are 1.5 years old. If our needs are not adequately satisfied, we can not perceive ourselves as an individual or are treated as such, the I is not formed. In spirituality one likes to call it EGO, but this ego contains the HUMAN BEING. It contains what we FEEL, THINK,… our potential, our brought abilities, our visions,… and in it we find our divine spark. I assign this phase to the voice. It is very much about self-expression here, which also distinguishes me from the others. This is where culture, diversity, creativity, creativeness,… This phase has a very strong effect on the musculature of the vocal function. It is about truth here, about authenticity. An authentic voice is only possible when all muscles are balanced and back in relation to each other.

Our life is designed for self-regulation
Self-regulation has to do with resonance, a living organism, a circle. We cannot self-regulate in the first 2 years and do so through our mother or caregiver.

Interrupted resonance / connection
If we have already developed survival strategies in the existence phase, there is an interruption of connection to our soul, also to our body. If our soul does not feel welcomed by our body, it does not stay there. In parallel, there is an interruption of our ear, our hearing, because the hearing is responsible for the contact to ourselves. This is where the interruption of the resonance between ear and voice happens, so that not only can we no longer hear ourselves properly (inner voice), but we also cannot access our voice and feel, for example, that we are singing against glass walls.

However, our culture is not at all designed to train or empower individuals. Even vocal pedagogy is not about allowing a voice to experience its own individual sound.

For me, these first two stages are not only the lost expression, the lost connection to the voice, hearing and ME, but this is where illnesses, especially chronic illnesses, which often show up years later in life, already develop.

Even spirituality very readily bypasses the ME and thus the HUMAN BEING.

Due to the interrupted connection in the first two phases of life, we forget who we really are and our mostly spiritual search begins. This is not a coincidence, because it shows me that it is part of our life’s task to forget, so that we can start on our way home and remember who we really are.

Back to our origin
So the journey goes back to our origin to the first phase, the phase of existence where our life began. We get there when we form our I, unfold our individual and learn to say YES to ourselves, finally to welcome ourselves. If we succeed in this, we are already on the way to our divine core, we feel safe and secure and at home in our body.

How can we DO this?
My experience is that it is only possible through the body and the musculature must be involved. When the middle ear muscles and the vocal muscles are in the same tone, our autonomic nervous system is completely regulated.

Involving the inner ear, especially the vestibular organ (organ of balance), which is connected to every muscle in the body, I am currently developing voice work in which the vocal muscles, middle ear muscles and inner ear are balanced. Through altered hearing, the muscles are brought into balance and there is a feedback between the ear (self) and the voice (expression), but also between body and soul and all organs, because the larynx is connected to all organs and functions in the body.

In doing so, we not only free our voice, but also our SELF, unlearning compensation patterns and regulating our autonomic nervous system. Ultimately, we create the conditions for optimal vocal function through a balanced muscular system. Our voice contains only frequencies that we can hear. Therefore, LISTENING is a central aspect in voice training or voice development, because through the feedback with the ear (hearing), the sound of the voice changes and becomes free.

This approach combines art, spirituality and healing
We still separate art from spirituality, but also from healing. The original purpose of the arts has always been to express the divine spark. For singers, this happens through their voice and the divine spark is found precisely in this first phase – the phase of existence – where our life began. So it is a return journey, a journey home, a journey to our origin.

This approach not only unites art, spirituality and healing and reminds us of the origin of the arts, which is the oldest healing art, but also connects body, mind and soul. It reminds us of our true nature and lets us come home. This is possible even for people who have never experienced a regulated nervous system or security in their lives.

The ear, in conjunction with our voice, is an unbeatable regulator and liberator of our true self.

© Text: Iris Hammermeister
© Image Header: Pixabay
© Image Musculus Stapedius: Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany