The Courage to Speak Out

Article on How to Find Your Voice and Be Heard Loud and Clear!

cheak with an open mount - Speak up

This little bird knows it has to make a noise in order to survive? But as humans we know better – if we make too much noise we may be punished – and in some cases silenced for life”

“It’s wrong! Someone should say something about it. Everyone can see it’s pure madness!”

And your friend turns to you and says, “Maybe you should – since you feel so strongly about it?”

And as strongly as to feel about the issue you first instinct is fear – fear as powerful as if a wild animal had crossed your path.

“Oh no  not me! I couldn’t! Someone else can do it.  I don’t want to be their whipping boy,” a voice from deep inside you says.

But no one else does say anything, and now everyone is grumbling including you. Why didn’t you say something? You really should have. It takes courage to speak out, and as you tell yourself – you just don’t have it.

But is that true? Is it lack of courage why many people don’t speak out? Or is it something else?


This was Mark’s experience. How many times had management brought in some stupid policy that was complete madness and how many times had he bitten his tongue – but felt angry and resentful. No wonder he was looking for another job, because this resentment had built up and he couldn’t wait to leave.

Mark was a nice guy. He was liked by everyone – he had a friendly manner with bright, humourous eyes which made people feel at ease. No one would know that behind his mask of friendliness was a terrified boy who found socialising acutely difficult – who broke out in the sweat at the thought of approaching a stranger.

Headless man - Being Invisible

The Invisible Man seems to be there but isn’t.

And this terror was getting in his way. It was holding him back in his career, and made it impossible for him to speak out. It was as if he lived behind walls – walls that he just couldn’t get through. And so how could he possibly speak out. He was the Invisible Man in spite of his apparent visibility. He was seen and yet not seen. (See my article The Curse of Being Invisible)

He’d done a lot of work to break down those walls and escape. He knew all the reasons why he was like this. In his teens he had had a traumatic experience which had left him crippled for life – well it had crippled his life up to now.

Taking Action

Time was ticking by and Mark knew he had to do something. He found his way into one of my groups. He found it hard but he knew he had to push through this wall that was keeping him enchained. For many weeks he felt very stuck – but although he felt the immovability of the walls around him, it was easier experiencing this in a physical way than when it was in his head. It felt more real.

And gradually the stuckness began to release. He started to relax, found himself able to interact with other group members instead of feeling locked in his own world. He began to enjoy playing – something he would have thought impossible only a few weeks before

Success – The Courage to Speak Out

About half way through the group, Mark had had a remarkable success story. Exactly the same situation had happened at work. Management had brought in this stupid new policy and instead of keeping quiet, Mark went straight to his line manager. He explained why he objected to it and the impact it would have on clients and his colleagues – all the time fearing that his line manager would laugh in his face, would tell him to shut his mouth.

But Mark felt too strongly about it. He knew he had to speak. There was a spirit in him now that was unstoppable. And although it did come out a bit garbled – he was nervous. But that didn’t seem to matter. Much to his surprise his line manager listened. Then he said:

“I see what you mean. I think you’ve got a point.”

Mark breathed a sigh of relief. He hadn’t been laughed at or ridiculed, he had spoken out – and he felt a huge sense of achievement. He was beaming all day. He didn’t like to admit it but he felt pride – pride in himself – and this grin just wouldn’t leave his face.

Going to the Top

A few days later his line manager took him aside. “Oh no, I’m for it now!” the little voice inside him said. But his line manager said he’d discussed it with his superiors, and they were taking it very seriously. It had gone to the CEO.

Man gagged - Red tape on

Could you speak out if you were gagged and bound?

Mark was flabbergasted. The CEO was taking his objection seriously! How could that possibly be true? His opinion had gone right to the top. He was no longer invisible and never had been.

He had just been gagged, silenced. And now he no longer was – he was free to speak. He didn’t need to shout and scream about it. He had the power within him to express what he felt, in a way that other people could hear it.

Plenty of Courage

And that old experience that had kept him locked away – was no longer holding him back. The truth was that he had plenty of courage. It had taken massive courage to survive this trauma. It was as if he had been taken hostage by terrorists. In fact he experienced many of the things hostages do. When he was terrified of going out and facing the world, it was as if he had been locked in a tiny dark room somewhere in Lebanon – bound, gagged with no hope of ever escaping.

He had literally lost his ability to speak.

If he had been an adult, he probably would have survived – but as a young teenager, he didn’t have the ability to express the complex emotions going within him. If you’re familiar with most teenagers, one of the thing you will often notice is their inarticulacy.

Getting to the Unconscious Root

The work he had done in the group, however had got to the root of what had kept him silent all those years. This is the beauty of working with myths, stories and metaphor. They get to the unconscious root of the problem using the language that the unconscious understands – images, metaphors and stories.

That’s why we dream. In our dreams we re-enact the stories that are locked in our unconscious.

In most trauma – there are parts locked in the head – and there are parts locked in the body. It is a little easier getting to the parts locked in the head because we have overdeveloped rational brains – and we love to figure things out. But much harder to reach the parts in the body.

Mark had no idea he was working on his problem when he was enacting the myth. He found it hard just because he felt inhibited expressing himself in this way – but after a while he found, helped by the support of the other group members, he could actually do it. This gave him confidence, and with confidence more of his natural courage came out.

How It Works

You see the unconscious doesn’t know the difference between real life and make believe. When you act something out in your make-believe world, the unconscious thinks its real. This is why the making moves approach is so powerful. When you act it out dramatically – even if you are just play-acting, just pretending, the unconscious thinks it as real as if it was really happening.

And what’s more if you do this using the language the unconscious understands, (metaphor, myth and story) the more it feels seen and heard just like you do.

So when the unconscious saw Mark feeling stuck. It said “That’s it! That’s exactly how I feel!” It registers that’s the source of the trauma. It feels it and it feels real.

Person jumping off

His expression was coming from a powerful place within him.

And then later when Mark started having more positive experiences – the unconscious said ” I like this! I want more of this! This is when the healing begins to happen. This is what unlocked Mark from his painful experiences in adolescence – and gave him back his voice.

It wasn’t a technique he had learned. His expression was coming from a powerful place within him – even though he was feeling nervous. This why he sounded so authoritative and why his line manager took what he said seriously.

You can have an absolutely brilliant idea – but if it isn’t expressed clearly and with authority, it can sound unconvincing. This is how politicians manage to pull the wool over our eyes. We believe what they say because they make it sound so impressive. (They abuse their position by not telling us the whole truth and using their charismatic power to deceive us.)

How to Find Your Voice

This is is how and why Mark found the courage to speak out – and it is how you can. Your situation may not be the same as Mark’s but the principle is the same. It is not because you lack courage – even if it feels like that – it’s just a part of you is being held hostage. You need to find a way to release this part from its prison.

When you do – there is freedom, a powerful voice and self respect.

Start in a small way. Instead of saying “yes” to something you don’t want to do – say “no”.  See how this feels. Instead of saying “no” to something you’re frightened to say “yes” to, say “yes” – and see what happens!


© Claire Schrader 2012

Want to find your voice
oin one of my upcoming confidence courses to help you gently move through the barriers that are holing you back from speaking up and out or book an individual session either in person or on the phone.

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Dreaming – a winter solstice journey

Winter Snow - ScreensaverWe are moving into the time of dreaming.

As each day closes we are aware of the darkness descending, as the days get shorter and the nights get longer. Maybe our sleep gets deeper, and our dreams become more vivid. Or we awake each morning knowing we have been somewhere in the night, scarcely remembering our dreams, we just know we’ve been somewhere deep and dark.

This is an important time so let yourself sleep and let yourself dream….

It is the time of the Winter Solstice – of the sun standing still – this is what “solstice” means. Except of course the sun is always still – it is just us that moves – which shows us how unreliable our perceptions are, and how mistaken we can be sometimes about the real nature of the way things are.

A Winter Solstice Journey

Let me take you on a journey into this darkness, so it can be a place of renewal for you where you can restore any depleted energies.

Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Breathe down into your body and let go of everything with your out-breath. Breathe in the darkness.

Grandson Running Through a Dark Cave

What is the power of darkness?

Take your imagination to a place that is somewhere bleak and dark, maybe a cave or somewhere  where the blackness is complete, and where you can feel enclosed by the darkness that is all around you. Notice how the darkness is holding you,  creating a womb of safety.

What is the Power of Darkness

In the druid rituals the Druids asked: “What is the power of darkness? what are the fears that still linger in us? The claws of unknowing?”

Let yourself be in a place with everything you don’t know – and  let go of everything you do know. Allow yourself to be completely empty….  utterly empty.

One of the things the Druids knew was that where there is the greatest power and potential  there is also the greatest fear. In their rituals, they honoured this fear – they let themselves experience it.

So let yourself breath into any fear that is within you,  let yourself be with it,  let yourself be okay with it, embrace it, hold it. It is this fear that will take you forward and it will try to stop you because your ego will try to stop you from going into this fear. But in fact if you are fearing something right now, this is what you need to move towards. So see within the fear and just let its true nature reveal itself.

Creative Possibility

Winter solstice - full moonAnd now with your breath, breathe deeply into the darkness and the fear and the unknown.   What is the creative possibility that lies within the darkness of the earth, the womb of nature – in this place of rebirth? Be open to what comes into your mind.

If you can let yourself go down in this darkness, there will be a point in which the renewal process will be triggered in the same way as the seeds in the earth begin to sprout in the dark, damp earth. The seeds of this renewal, this new birth are deep within you – they are  waiting, sitting there. They are beginning to sprout even as you read this. Welcome them.

Masculine and Feminine Power

The Druids celebrated the symbols of male and female power at this point in their Winter Solstice Ceremony. This was a very important aspect of the event so as you sit in the space of rebirth, imagine a male symbol of masculine power. Traditionally this was represented as the Blade, a symbol of masculine potency and gallantry, which also had the potential to protect and defend. Your symbol may be very different. Trust whatever comes to you.


Chalice Well Symbol - Glastonbury

Symbol of the Chalice Well in Glastonbury

Imagine now a symbol of  feminine power. This was traditionally represented as the Chalice, the sacramental cup in Christian tradition that receives the wine  – that is sought after in the legends of the Holy Grail. The Chalice is receiver, it holds the nectar of life. Again your symbol may be completely different. Trust whatever comes to you.

Allow  now the two symbols you have chosen (the Chalice and the Blade) to come together in your mind. See how they might be connected. In the druid rituals mistletoe was used to fertilise the union of masculine and feminine. The fluid within the white berries was compared to semen and was seen as having fertilising power. (This is how the tradition of kissing beneath the mistletoe emerged, a powerful fertility rite. If you kiss someone this Christmas under the mistletoe you might notice how different it feels, now you know its true meaning!) Imagine the mistletoe being held over your two symbols, fertilizing them with its ancient power.

solsticeBreathe in that energy. This is what can allow the new sun to come.

Here is a moment from my recent Solstice Workshop where participants created a celebration of  ancient masculine and feminine power.

The New Sun

The Druids would traditionally stay up the whole night. They would experience the darkness, they would light the fire and stare into the flames musing on things of power and potential.

Imagine yourself with them wrapped up warmly in the cold night looking at the fire and contemplating what thr night might bring.  What would you have of the union of the masculine and feminine power? What do you wish to be conceived? Just let yourself dream …. let your wishes and desires float into your mind, they might appear as symbols that you scarcely understand or as powerful gut feelings…

Now see the darkness getting lighter lighter lighter lighter…and lighter as daybreak comes. You are standing in a place where you can see the sun coming up. You see the light in the horizon but you can’t see the sun quite yet but you feel it is coming.  Feel that expectation and hope for this new sun. This is a winter sun so it not strong like in the summer.

Wintery sceneryThe sky gets lighter and lighter. Then there is a moment as you are watching the horizon, you can see the little golden orb just beginning to rise above the horizon. Feel the joy of seeing it slowly move up in the sky, this new sun rising…. up and up and up.

It is time to celebrate the arrival of this new sun, that is the bringer of new beginnings. It will feed the seeds that you have planted and will bring forth your wishes for the coming year. Imagine the little shoots of your wishes beginning to sprout as the solstice sun warms them.

Traditionally this was the time when the Druids would celebrate. They would sing and dance, and share food together. Allow yourself to imagine and participate in your own celebration of this new sun arriving.

When you are ready light a candle to symbolise the new sun bringing forward your wishes and intentions.

May this be a time for you to transform darkness, fear and contraction into creative potential.

Claire Schrader
© Claire Schrader 2011

If this article has intrigued you, inspired you or if you have any questions, or there’s something you’d like to share please do leave a comment. Your comments may inspire others.

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Ritual Theatre as a theatre of healing


From Elizabeth Fuller’s ritual theatre performances

Ritual theatre is one of the most ancient forms of healing that is still practiced in tribal societies today. Since the earliest times ancient people healed themselves and explored what they couldn’t understand about the world through dramatic ritual. Such were the beginnings of ritual theatre.

Much later the Ancient Greeks developed these into Dionysinian rites which eventually evolved into theatre because the Greeks very clearly saw that it was necessary and healthy for the wellbeing of their society for emotions to be released.  This was the sole/soul purpose of the performance.

Theatre has developed considerably from these origins so that nowadays we equate theatre more often with being entertained. It is unlikely that we will associate theatre with healing or being changed ourselves.

And yet ritual theatre, is even more important and relevant in contemporary life – and  this is why I and many others believe ritual theatre is coming back.

Why We Need Ritual Theatre

As we advance further in science and technology and the faster our world becomes, the more we need to find some kind balance between these sophisticated and our human-ness.


Malidoma Somé

Malidoma Somé, author of many books on ritual, says this more very forcefully – “the Western Machine Technology is the spirit of death made to look like life”. He says we need to return to our spiritual roots or we lose ourselves. And this is most effectively achieved through ritual.

Ritual theatre is a way of restoring this energy and returning us to our spiritual roots in a contemporary way that is acceptable to a western life style because its form is familiar to the vast majority of people.  Everyone understands what theatre is and its purpose, even if they’ve never been in a theatre.

Ritual theatre too spawns a rare quality: a quality of soul. Soul connects us with our ancestors throughout time, it connects us with others in shared experiences and it connects us to the deepest parts of ourselves. Many of us are hungering for this, are hungering for this connection – aware what the technological is doing to us, making us more and more disconnected, more in our heads, producing tremendous suffering under the labels of stress, fatigue and health problems.

But when we participate in a ritual theatre event we move away from the event feeling that something profound in us has shifted, emotions may have flowed, we have laughed, danced and played, or we have found a new, softer side of ourselves.

It may have enabled us too, to leave behind the trauma of a painful experience. We feel elated, inspired and invigorated, as if we have entered in a new state of being. We have in fact entered into an altered state of consciousness similar to the states that shamans induce in their powerful healing ceremonies that draws us to contemplate our deeper nature,

What is Ritual Theatre?

So what exactly is ritual theatre, and how does it differ from a classic theatre experience?



Exploring Jason and the Golden Fleece through ritual theatre in London

Ritual theatre quite simply is the enactment of a myth or archetypal story with the intention of bringing about healing – usually to resolve an issue, to deal with a difficult life experience, to restore depleted energies or to ease a transition.

Anyone can participate in a ritual theatre and it requires no particular ability or talent other than an open heart and a willingness to allow the journey unfold.

The kind of ritual theatre that I am mostly talking about occurs behind closed doors of a workshop room or a private space where participants are also witnesses and onlookers of the ritual drama. It can also take place in a hospital, a school, or in the community enabling marginalized groups to reintegrate into society.

However it can equally be a ritual performance before an audience involving large numbers of people. An example of such an event was the Cosmic Celebration, a vast mythic pageant, “celebrating the unity of all religious paths and the human family” which was initiated in the seventies by Pir Vilayat, a Sufi Master and was performed worldwide to thousands.

Cosmic celebration - album cover

From “The Cosmic Celebration”, a ritual theatre pageant. See Chapter 18 by Saphira Linden

This also included up to 350 people from the local community who took part in the performance – so it was truly a ritual experience. The Cosmic Celebration was also performed at St James Church, Piccadilly which for the last 30 years has been hosting the inspirational Alternatives talks featuring key authors/speakers in the mind/body/spirit arena . (A chapter on this ritual theatre production features in the book. See picture below) This is a very different kind of experience to a normal theatre performance.

Ritual Theatre takes participants on a mythic journey through which they can experience and explore the many parts of themselves diving into mythic adventure, of monsters and heroes. It follows the patterns of the Hero’s Journey uncovered by Joseph Campbell, based on Carl Jung’s discoveries of how myth expressed the collective unconscious through which powerful healing of the psyche and soul could take place.

Ritual theatre brings the theatre element to Jung and Campbell’s discoveries enabling participants to express the collective unconscious through playing out powerful archetypal stories.  This is potent facilitating the healing of psyche and soul and much closer to the kind of ritual healing ceremonies that took place in ancient times and in tribal societies.

Ritual Theatre Cover

Ritual Theatre Book

This is all explored in further depth in the book I edited  Ritual Theatre, The Power of Dramatic Ritual in Personal Development Groups and Clinical Practice which was published in the UK by Jessica Kingsley publishers and includes chapters from leading dramatherapists including Sue Jennings, healing theatre pioneer and author of many books.

Since the publication of the book I have been heartened that many readers have written to me telling me the book has changed their life and awakened them to the power of ritual theatre.

This is what film maker and author Phil Cousineau (who worked with Jospeph Campbell) says about the book:

Claire Schrader’s new book on the healing aspects of ritual theatre fulfils Joseph Campbell’s vision of a re-mythologized world, one in which we would be, as he loved to quote Cezanne, more “in accord with nature.
Phil Cousineau, author of The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on his Life and Work, Wordcatcher, and The Art of Pilgrimage

Here’s an interview that the publishers did with me, which will give some insight into what the book’s all about.

Jessica Kingsley/interview-claire-schrader-ritual-theatre/

© Claire Schrader 2011
Edited and republished 2013
If this post has intrigued you, or if you have any questions, or there’s something you’d like to share please do leave a comment. I love to hear from you. If you subscribe to comments you will also be able to participate in the conversation that may ensue.
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If you would like to experience some ritual theatre for yourself get in touch and tell me a little about the nature of your interest and what you are wanting to achieve through participating.