The following possibilities for our resistance to change have been freely adapted from Ethan Kind's "An Alexander Technique Approach to Singing Technique" by my colleague Justin Petersen. I've seen every single one of these issues in my studio, and have dealt with some myself. The sooner we can come to terms with our blocks and deal with them gently and lovingly, the faster we can move on to free, beautiful singing.
Why would a singer RESIST changing the way that they sing?
1. You Fight Change: You're just settled in that way of singing and you don't want to deal with your singing technique ever again. You are DONE with it.
2. You Get Worse at What You Change: As I rework technical issues with singers they crack, or make sounds that they are not accustomed to making. This can cause the defenses to come up and they begin to retreat into the old "familiar way of doing things". The fear of "getting worse" in order to get better prevents a lot of singers from lovingly reworking the way that they sing.
3. It is Too Hard to Change: "I've got my Doctorate in Voice, how could I POSSIBLY think about retraining my singing voice? I know everything about it already!" This is the ULTIMATE manifestation of the ego saying "NO CHANGES, PLEASE!" This keeps a singer TRAPPED in themselves and prevents greater and deeper learning.
4. The Way you Sing is YOU: The sound that you make has now been ingrained into your neuromuscular system and you have "identified" with the vocal sounds that you make. Letting go of inefficient ways of singing would threaten your "core self".
5. You are Addicted to the Struggle: Sometimes, it's just more rewarding to hold on to the fact that singing is a struggle for you. It gives you a sense of "pride" to have to struggle with something that is "so hard". No one says "You know what would be cool? To live my live doing everything the hard way." When you struggle to get things done, you feel a great sense of accomplishment.
6. You have a "Not Good Enough" button: No matter what anyone says, you have a deeply felt sense of inadequacy in your singing, and making changes to sing better threaten this low sense of self.
7. If You Become Too Good, You'll Lose Control of Your Life: What would happen if you were to transform into the singer of your dreams? Will you be overwhelmed by the demands of being a great singer? This also keeps most singers from changing the way they sing: they don't want to "stick" out in the crowd.
8. You are Holding On to Technique that Doesn't Work: The fact that Madame X or Signor Z taught you to sing the way you do (despite the fact that it is functionally not working) causes an immense threat to your ego, and you don't want to move vocally against the instruction that you have received. It's THREATENING to move against everything you know and have been taught to embrace an easier and more loving approach to singing.
9. You Are Being Loyal to Those Who Set Your Limits: Your parents said, "You have a nice voice, but don't think that you can sing for a living." Or a teacher said "You have a nice voice, but it's not really professional quality"....and you BELIEVED them. You are being loyal to those people that you loved and respected, despite the fact that there ARE NO LIMITS on anyone's development or growth!! If you want to remain loyal to those who say "You can't," then you will struggle with developing your voice.
10. If you Tell Yourself You're Limited, You Get to Be Easy On Yourself: If you can ONLY BE SO GOOD, then why bother? If everything is up for assessment and evaluation in your technique, then you get to develop a technique that never fails, because you will know what "feels right" and what isn't working in your singing. These limits will not threaten you, but will expand you!
11. Discovering that Singing is Easy can be a HUGE Threat to What You Believe: If you've got that opera degree or considerable stage experience in Musical Theater and you have struggled with your voice - it can be VERY hard to convince yourself to work in a way that is fluid, simple, and loving. You might have to work through a lot of anger and grief over the struggles that didn't need to happen vocally, and the years that have been lost singing in a hard, dysfunctional way.
12. You'd Rather Be Right Than Happy: All limits that you put on your singing are psychological in nature. When you play this card, you ALWAYS lose.
13. You Never Want to Go Through What You Went Through EVER Again: If you worked like a DOG to put your voice together and you struggled, cried, sweat, and bled to be better, it can be a really really HARD thing to look at revamping or reworking the way that you sing. You may "run away" because you don't want to face that "struggle" ever again. Your perfectionistic mind will just not allow you to "let go" and learn a new way to sing.
14. You Shouldn't Have to STILL Be Dealing with Technique Here and Now: Here you are - you've got that music degree, or you've sung in the church choir for 20 years, and are STILL struggling with singing on a daily basis. The basic component of this is ANGER. You are ANGRY at teachers, directors, coaches, friends that have made singing such a laborious enterprise. This is very common in graduate students, and long-term singers.
15. You Aren't Taking Responsibility for How Well you Sing: You aren't taking the time to "put in the work" to be the singer you want to be. You are not "in control" of your singing, and thinking about gaining control FREAKS YOU OUT.
16. Being Complete is TOO Scary: Being the singer you've always wanted to be is scary. So much of society wants us to conform, fit in, don't rock the boat. This cultural attitude could keep you "in place" and prevent you from finding the open heart of singing freely and with the maximum amount of love.
17. You Don't Want to Admit that what you've learned as a Singer ISN'T TRUE: If you have taught singing and are re-evaluating how you think about singing and learning more about pedagogy - it can be a VERY threatening task to say to yourself "What I have learned and am teaching is WRONG." If you can learn to sing with more freedom, more ease, more love, and more flexibility , why can't your students?
18. You Tell Yourself It's Too Late, and You're Too Old: If you are 90 years old, and you find a better way to sing that is free, easy, and liberated, doesn't that make it worth it to find that? You are NEVER too old until you're dead.
Thanks for sharing this, Justin. Great thoughts.