Bridging: understanding the cognitive-affective ‘why’s behind maladaptive vocal behaviour

Bridging is a tool from Clinical Hypnotherapy that may be used to help Singers discover the originating circumstance(s) of a maladaptive vocal behaviour. In voice teaching, voice teachers come across many maladaptive vocal behaviours such as tightening the throat, ‘swallowing’ the tone, closing the mouth etc. The student may or may not be aware of the problem. In the latter case, the maladaptive vocal behaviour has become so deeply habituated as to escape awareness. In all cases, the student wishes to improve (change) but is unable to consciously and requires the help of a professional to detect the problem and to eliminate it.

In an affect bridge, the student has to be conscious of any emotions or thoughts going through his/her mind when performing the maladaptive behaviour or when the maladaptive behaviour has been corrected by the teacher. The student will then have to intensify the emotion(s) or thought(s) to maximum intensity. At this point, the originating circumstance may appear. I prefer to have students give their emotion a number for this exercise with 10 as the maximum intensity for them to have something to move the intensity towards.

In a sensory bridge, the student intensifies or thinks about intensifying the maladaptive behaviour for example throat tension or misaligned head-neck joint, remaining aware of any associated emotion. He/she then intensifies the emotion as per the affect bridge

Let me illustrate through two examples:

Example 1: Affect Bridge

A experiences a muffling of her tone when she sings high notes in Mix. When singing high notes in Mix, she says that she feels fear. The teacher tells her to intensify her fear. When the fear has reached its peak, student A has a flashback to the time when she was a teenager in Secondary School. She is an inquisitive person and likes to ask questions. However, whenever she raised her voice (which is in effect, the Mix), she would receive glances of disapproval, irritation and consternation from her classmates. Consequently she did not ask her questions.

Example 2: Sensory Bridge

B speaks with a lot of tension in his throat. Projecting his voice through a tight vocal tract resulted in her losing his voice many times contributing to a vicious cycle of growing anxiety. In this case, B is asked to think about the tightness in his throat and intensify it in her mind.The phrase ‘I’m not sorry’ comes to B’s mind. When asked what the phrase means, B remembers his father’s funeral. B’s relationship with his father was strained. Despite knowing that his father loved him, his pride prevented him from patching up the relationship. Consequently, he did not mourn his father’s passing because his ego did not allow it.

As you can see, the bridge can bring forth very strong emotions. Training on how to handle any fall-out is essential. Confidentiality must be observed at all times. Contact me for clinical hypnotherapy or voice class to understand more about yourself through your voice.


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