When I sat down with my friend, let’s call him John; on Thursday morning December 27th, my eyes were officially opened. Until this moment, I had called myself an activist and advocate for those who have been affected by sexual assault and violence. However, until this moment, I did not embody and/or understand what it really means to stand up for and with the people who have experienced this trauma. On this cold Florida morning, John sat me down and told me that last night he had had the best sexual experience of this life. He explained that every time he and his partner chose to try something new, they would make verbal confirmation with each other. He couldn’t stop saying “He asked me every time! Every time!” He went on to explain that, “He was just so respectful. He cared about me, and my comfort level in every situation. He wanted me to feel safe. No one has ever done that for me before.” After hearing this, I felt I had a clearer understanding of my own ideology. I looked at the sticker on my phone, which states “Let’s Get Consensual” and read it with clarity and understanding.
It is absolutely disgusting that this was the first time John felt completely comfortable in a sexual encounter. Stories like these that show exactly what clarity and consent are all about need to be told more often and with less hesitation. More importantly, everyone should feel comfortable enough to voice their discomfort when in a relationship. In any relationship with someone, both parties should not be afraid to speak about what they are feeling inside. There should be a very small distance between what is being said out loud in a relationship and what is being said inside one's head. Everyone in the relationship should feel comfortable with the decisions being made and speaking out when they are not.
What we need you, as our mentors and teachers to understand is that, in many cases, expressing ourselves to a teacher is very difficult. First, it is hard to say, “I don’t know.” It is harder to ask for help, to say, “I need your guidance with something.” If you make it very clear to us that you are OK with “I don’t know” and “I need help,” we will be much more comfortable coming to talk to you. Greet us with open minds and hearts and we will begin to move closer to you.
Inner / Outer Voice
We all have an inner voice; our inner voice is the compass to our feelings, thoughts, fears and insecurities.
In a healthy relationship the distance between our inner thoughts and the words we say should be as small as possible.
What that means is that in a healthy relationship one should be able to share even the most outrageous, funny, unconventional inner voices, without fear of being judged or looked down upon.
Sometimes, just saying our inner voice out loud is all we need to feel better.
But sometimes, we are in a situation that it is not appropriate to say our inner voice out loud. In those situations we should pay attention, listen and explore honestly why we have this voice, what is the voice trying to tell us?
For example: Why do I not like a teacher? Why does my inner voice hate him/her?
Is it because am failing in that class? I need help in that class? Is it because the teacher embarrassed me? Why do I want the kids I am babysitting to be quiet all the time?
Why is my inner voice screaming at them? Do I really want to babysit? Perhaps this isn’t the job for me?
When our inner voice tells us something, we should listen.
The root to many misunderstandings and hurt feelings is often lack of sharing our inner voice / feelings. We create intimacy and depth in our friendships and relationships when we share our inner thoughts and feelings.
We can assess a relationship by the reaction of the person we are sharing with. It is scary, but incredibly important and can be very liberating to simply say (nicely) what you really think inside!
Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben
A famous rabbi of the Talmud named Rava, once shared a rather deep, curious, and penetrating thought. He said, “Words that are in the heart are not words.” It seemed almost a puzzle to his students, so they asked him what he could possibly mean. They told him words are always the primary way that we communicate with one another. What else could words be other than ways to express ideas, whether we keep them in our hearts, write them in a letter, send them in a text, or sing them in a song? Rava, of course, lived two thousand years ago, long before there were cell phones or the internet, long before people emailed or texted, used Snapchat or tweeted, when the only way to communicate with another human being was either to talk with them in person or write them a letter and wait many days for a response.
So, what did he mean by “Words that are in the heart are not words”? He thought about how often each of us has long, intense, even complex and passionate conversations with ourselves but never share those thoughts or ideas out loud with others. Especially when it comes to our relationships with friends and people we like or would like to be in a relationship with, most of us have a hard time actually saying our thoughts out loud and sharing our feelings honestly with others. Instead, we keep the thoughts to ourselves and wish we had the courage to speak them out loud, to say the things we are really thinking, to share our true feelings with others. So often out of fear of looking foolish or stupid, we simply keep our innermost feelings locked up inside.
What Rava so wisely meant was that words that are only in our hearts and minds, that we never say out loud, have the same impact as if we never thought them in the first place. No one can read our minds, no one can guess what we are thinking, unless we let them in and speak the words we want to say. True, honest communication with another human being, requires actually taking the words that are in our hearts and saying them out loud so that our voices can be heard. One of the hardest and scariest lessons we have to learn about relationships is that the only path to true intimacy and connection with another human being is a willingness to be vulnerable. To create a real relationship with another, we have to be willing to speak our truth out loud and to really listen to the words and heart of the other. One of the biggest challenges we have at any age is to be willing to speak our own truths to another and to know that who we are matters and that what we say matters always. True meaningful relationships happen when the words in our hearts and the words in our mouths align.
Exercise #3: Inner / Outer Voice
1. Introduction: Everyone has a voice that speaks to us inside our heads, when we are nervous, or about to take a risk we’re unsure of, or feel unsafe.
2. Ask: Ask the group if they can hear an inner voice. Some people call it “a gut feeling.” Explain that the next exercise will allow us to embody and hear inner voices.
Invite four students to volunteer.
Two chairs should be set up facing the audience. Two students will sit in the chairs and one student will stand behind each of the seated students.
Students 1 and 3 (seated) are characters (ex: mother and child/sisters/teacher and student, etc.)
Student 2 will act as Student 1’s inner voice and Student 4 will act as Student 3’s inner voice.
The order of speaking is 1, 2, 3, 4. Students improvise a conversation, involving conflict.
It is important to help the participants KEEP the order, the facilitator must guide them, sometimes it helps to point at the person whose turn it is to speak.
How do we control our inner voice so that we can get what we need or want from those we communicate with?
Practicing honesty – being honest about our feelings is key to expressing our inner voice.