1. CRAVING for a sound or voice that you don’t have yet, wanting that which is not there. Resulting in a failure to remain present in your singing practise here and now.
2. DISLIKING the voice that you have now, or the sounds you need to experiment with on the path to finding the voice you want. Getting upset or dismissive of your voice because it isn’t perfect straight away without realising that you could actually be celebrating that you have just taken the first steps and progressed towards your goal. Disliking the process of practising your weaknesses, you need to face them head on in order to understand, address them and turn them around to the sounds you want. You can only do that if you have self love and acceptance for whatever voice comes out, and treat each wobble or crack as the next necessary step of learning towards your goal. Self acceptance allows you to make mistakes and study and learn from them, rather than seeing them as failures or the end of the road, stumbling blocks are only there to be stepped over under or around. Each apparent failure contains the seed of its equal success, if only we face it with faith and self acceptance. Deep practise of what we find the hardest is proven to carve deeper and more lasting neural pathways in the brain than superficial practice of what we’re already good at, as detailed in The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, ‘Greatness is grown not born’.
Struggles force us to face ourselves and find a deeper meaning and purpose in life, painful experiences really can transform us and make us stronger in the end. (More commonly put,” what doesn’t kill us…”
 “In hindsight, there is always a silver lining to be found in any situation no matter how tough it may seem at the time…”. Said Dolly Parton recounting her heartbreak when writing Jolene, and how she didn’t know at that agonising time how that song would end up making her so much money!
“The wound is where the light enters you”, Rumi.
3.DOUBT in the technique, the teacher, or worse yourself. Deciding what you want, being clear about that intention and proceeding with confidence is the only sensible and logical approach, being that we know and it is generally accepted that we only get the results we expect and feel we deserve in life. With our thoughts we make the world, and with our deeply ingrained subconscious self image we recreate ourselves again and again. Doubt in the above three is so common that frequently we only dip a toe into one practise or another (yoga, diet, singing scales, mastering a vowel) without ever sticking with the practise long enough to give the technique a fair trial, and reap any rewards. We dig a shallow hole here, and another shallow hole there, then change location (new teacher, new gym, new diet etc..) and dig another small hole there, without ever persevering long enough and digging deep enough to find water and quench our thirst for results.
Doubt in self often manifests in singing lessons as a deep fear of criticism that resists the teacher’s feedback, and instead of hearing words of guidance like “stand up straight, open your throat, try this try that..”, hears and reacts to a feared and imagined message “you are not good enough to sing well, you are inferior, and deserving of criticism” while wincing in physical discomfort to the sensations of negativity and defensiveness inside the body. Remember your teacher is not there to judge you, but to guide you, and knows that you have the same singing apparatus as everyone else. Trusting the coaching relationship and your own worthiness of success goes a long way.
4. DROWSINESS, mental and physical sluggishness.
It’s common for meditators to fall asleep in the first stages of trying to discipline calm and concentrate their minds. I have often been known to need a good old lie down when life has been stressful, and some people even fall asleep on the spot when stressed as in the case of narcolepsy when linked to trauma and the subconscious need to black out from and avoid reality. In the same way voice students often feel sleepy when they arrive at their classes, and their subconscious wishes to avoid confronting the deep insecurities that can naturally surface in singing lessons, as we struggle with our vocal identity and self worth.
5. AGITATION you’re supposed to be practising your scales and learning your lyrics, but you just feel like doing a little bit of this or that first, cup of tea, clean out the cupboards, maybe even do your accounts early this year…anything but practise and face those insecurities? Anyone who teaches children will see that especially when insecure and stressed, they can be masters of distraction techniques to avoid and resist assimilating information and actually learning something! As adults paying for singing lessons we know we are here to, and want to learn, but still the subconscious will throw in a whole bunch of agitation, fidgeting and procrastination to avoid that which we actually want. Next time you know you’re procrastinating, ask yourself what are you really afraid of?
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek” Joseph Cambell.
The 5 enemies are inspired by the talks of S.N.Goenka about mind training meditation, interpreted here in the context of learning to sing, and I believe relevant to any disciplined practise vulnerable to self sabotage!
Coming up, look out for – 5 FRIENDS OF PRACTISE, KNOW AND KEEP THEM.
Until then, I’m off to practise….”OHHHHHMMMM” 🙂