Sonia Ter Hovanessian
The strange pull that kept on tugging
Updated: Apr 5
My name is Sonia. I was brought up an only child in Southern England to parents of French and Armenian heritage. I am very grateful for the childhood I had. Though we were certainly not wealthy, my parents did all they could to give me opportunities for growth and learning. If I am a musician today it is thanks to them for financing that passion of mine from a young age, taking me to and from lessons, buying the instruments in the first place, supporting me at the endless number of concerts and recitals I was doing and so on. They supported my passion for sport and took me to tennis lessons, to hockey practice and so much more. I am truly blessed as I was allowed to enter so many open doors at such a young age, and all of this when I knew it was financially a struggle for them at times and involved lots of careful money management. I was encouraged to concentrate on my studies and so I didn’t have to get a part-time job like a number of my peers, and so I studied hard, winning numerous acclaims for my efforts.
This is on the surface level.
Deeper, something else was happening.
Every family has issues and problems, mine was no different. There were certainly hard times and I only realised later on in life how much I had taken on my shoulders and how much of my innocence I had lost earlier than I should have done. Being an only child, I didn’t have anyone to share these experiences with and I felt a lot of shame, embarrassment and fear in revealing that not all was rosy at home. So I kept it all in. Never said a word. Until it started bursting out of me as a young adult.
Before continuing to talk about my emotional journey of growth, it's necessary to mention something which is intrinsically connected to my work I do now, though I spent most of my life hiding it instead of embracing its teachings.
For much of my life, I have spent long periods dysphonic.
Dysphonia: Difficulty in speaking, usually evidenced by hoarseness.
At a very young age I developed nodules on my vocal cords. These small, hard growths, I was told, were due to me yelling in the playground at school whilst playing in our breaks.
Isn't that what most kids do?
Regardless, I didn't question what I was being told by the speech therapists and I underwent tests, examinations and therapy to regain a voice and be able to speak again. In the time being I had discovered my love for music and began learning various instruments, but namely the traverse flute and piano. I started to enjoy singing too in my teens but was discouraged in case it made me lose my voice again. So I developed a fear of singing, a fear of shouting: a fear of my own voice. Until my mid twenties when I wrote a song, and a musical colleague, a soul sister you could say, commented on "what a beautiful voice" I had and encouraged me to embrace my singing voice. Through all my struggles with my voice, I always felt a pull towards singing, a deep desire to sing. Hearing this was the permission I hadn't known how to give myself so I could truly embrace the journey to discovering my voice.
Two aspects to my journey have been: my emotional healing and my vocal healing. And I realise only now how intrinsically linked they were.
As a young lady in my twenties, to the outside world I was bubbly and confident; funny, goofy; put me on a stage and I was in my element, whether through music or theatre. But on the inside it was at times a very different story. My shadow had really started to present itself. I started suffering from depression and felt completely lost and unable to manage my emotions. The pain and grief coming out was painful and overwhelming. A boyfriend of mine at the time encouraged me to see a therapist. That was the start of a long journey, a personal one of healing and a professional one of studying, learning, developing a passion for the human mind and realising the power that lies within us if we can just face that deep, dark underworld.
This journey was a long and twisted road with many pitfalls. It certainly wasn’t easy, but as I unravelled and got closer and closer to my core, every time I emerged from these depressions, what I now realise were Dark Nights of the Soul, I emerged stronger and more myself than before. Something in me felt such resistance to taking antidepressants. It seemed to cause me more anguish to be popping these little pills and feeling the numbness inside and the loss of contact with my emotional realm. This was motivation enough for me to “do the work” on my own, with my therapist and supportive network of friends.
Meanwhile, I was struggling once again with dysphonia. I'd started singing in numerous bands, writing my own music and also working in early childhood musical education with Music Together, which focuses on helping childhood develop their innate musicality from birth. But I didn't really know what I was doing with my voice and I was still suffering from depression and low self-esteem. So I went to see another speech therapist, this time one very different to the one I'd seen as a child, who'd pretty much discouraged me from singing.
This speech therapist tried to help me with my dysphonia and one day, he turned around to me and said (in a beautifully flamboyant Italian way!):
"I can't work with you. This is no good. You must sing!"
He sent me to a vocal coach who was about to change my life. For a decade, under the guidance of Silvia Testoni, I explored all facets of the voice. And in that time I also had the support of a therapist who would pave the way for my own deeper, understanding of psychology.
I reached a point where I was knowledgeable about myself, my history, my childhood, my wounding, the human mind and the human condition. I could analyse until the cows came home. I certainly gained more strength and in general I was happy-ish. Yet problems were still arising in my life. I found myself dissatisfied in my relationships, not able to find a real, authentic connection with my partners, wanting honest and heartfelt communication but coming up against a wall. It came to a head in my marriage a few years ago. I tried hard to think of how we could navigate our problems. In that journey I discovered modalities on relationship counselling that had real value, such as the Harville Hendrix Imago Therapy and their Communication Framework for couples. We tried, but it alone didn’t help. The counsellor we were seeing was so-so, to be honest, and we would both leave the sessions feeling unheld, unseen and lost. The wall between us grew and I struggled as I witnessed our relationship disintegrate. It was clear that divorce was now on the cards and the life I’d spent so long yearning for and working towards was shattering. Put that together with having lost my livelihood due to the Covid restrictions, and in 2021 being faced with eviction as the landlord had pound signs in his eyes and wanted to sell, I was on a precipice.
And that’s when everything changed.
Through a series of fated events I encountered the person who would open the door to where I stand today. I embarked on a number of study programmes with Gabriel Gonsalves at the Heart Leader Academy, each time gaining more clarity and more tools. I also really started unlocking my heart and truly feeling my emotions, understanding and identifying my emotions, something I'd always only really been able to intellectualise over. I started to truly develop the ability to live more freely of these heavy emotions that had plagued me for so long, and I started to also realise my Soul Purpose and Higher Calling:
To help others unlock their voices, their inner musicality; to help others heal their hearts, become more emotionally aware and lead more heart-directed lives.
What was once my achilles heel is now my strength, my spiritual superpower, some might say.
Along this journey I have studied EVT (Estill Voice Technique), I have explored the whistle register I naturally have (note: it's not quite understood why some either have the whistle register or not, but one common trait is it tends to be more prevalent in people who suffer - or have suffered - from dysphonia), I have studied lyrical technique and so much more. I know the anatomy of the voice inside out (excuse the pun) and I went from having no voice to a range spanning nearly four octaves.
My voice is continuing to grow and evolve as I explore and embrace it with love and gratitude. I have a natural inclination to working with people who know their voice is there but haven't been able to find it yet, or allow it to flow through them. People who just want to sing!
Years of teaching and working with people in education, travel and music, has taught me how to bring out that inner twinkle in people. I realise now I have a knack for seeing what makes peoples eyes sparkle and for years I have been naturally encouraging people to embrace certain avenues when I have sensed true joy and passion emanating from within as they speak.
And now as a trained Heart Intelligence Coach, using directed breathwork and meditation, among other practices, I am bringing these techniques together to help others on their healing journey. I am honoured to be able to be of service.
I can now truly say that I have self-love and acceptance, I have a beautiful support network and am now creating a vision for the life that is in perfect alignment with who I really am.
And now to be in a position to be able to bring music to the world, and help others discover their own musicality within and connect with their own voice, I just feel even more blessed. My through dysphonia - and trauma healing - finally makes sense. I had to go through this in order to be of service and to help others.
That feels pretty great, I have to say.