Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 00:04
Hey, it’s Marissa Lee here, and I’m so excited to be sharing today’s interview round episode with you. In these episodes, our brilliant lineup of guests will include healthcare practitioners, voice educators, and other professionals who will share their stories, knowledge and experiences within their specialised fields to empower you to live your best life. Whether you’re a member of the voice, community, or beyond, your voice is your unique gift. It’s time now to share your gift with others develop a positive mindset and become the best and most authentic version of yourself to create greater impact. Ultimately, you can take charge, it’s time for you to live your best life. It’s time now for a voice and beyond. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode. Today’s guest is Petra rebel Burzynski and accomplished musician and educator who is trained in psychology, somatic therapy, and cognitive behavioural approaches. Petra speaks candidly about how her limiting beliefs around perfectionism led her to suffer from performance anxiety throughout her entire career. Based on her own personal experiences, as well as the knowledge she acquired through her own education, Petra teaches performing artists how to regulate their nervous systems reconnect with their bodies and their deepest values so they can perform and live freely. In this episode, Petra confesses that she has an obsession with learning and how this desire for knowledge has given her a deeper understanding of trauma and other mental and emotional health concerns, especially within the performing arts industry. Petra believes that as voice teachers, we must never become complacent, and it is important for all of us to become perpetual learners. And this includes educating ourselves around areas of mental health. Petra explains, the more informed we are regarding the numerous ways to establish safe spaces in the boy studio, the less likely we are to behave in a manner that will cause further trauma to our students. She discusses the importance of defining clear boundaries between the role of a voice teacher and that ABA therapist, she shares that it is acceptable for us as voice teachers to have empathy and to hold space for our students to be heard. However, there needs to be a very clear distinction between these roles for the welfare of the teacher, as well as the student. This is a most informative episode. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode. Well, welcome to the podcast. Petra, how are you? I’m very well. Thank you, Marissa, how are you? Yeah, thank you. I’m going very well. And it’s such a pleasure to have you here. You look so beautiful with a green background. And I did make a little bit of a joke about it before just quietly. I said, Well, you’re not Irish and you have a green background. You’re Scottish but
Petra Raspel Borzinski 04:10
I’m actually not Scottish.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 04:14
Well no but you live in Scotland. Edinburgh.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 04:20
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 04:21
Glasgow. So how long have you been living there?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 04:26
15 years just over 15 years. So I’m originally from Germany. And yeah, I landed here and that’s where I stayed.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 04:34
Where you had that beautiful accent? Yes. I can hear the little bit of Scottish creeping in you roll your r’s. And there’s a little bit of a hint and I know about that because I watched the series Outlander. Uh huh. And it gave me a whole new love for Scotland. The highlanders? Yes So you are a musician, an accomplished musician, and educator, you have trained in psychology, somatic therapy, cognitive behavioural approaches, you have studied a lot, but let’s start to unpack all of this, because I’m fascinated with your work. And I’ve been doing some research on you, and, and I can’t wait to find out more. So let’s start with your background. As you said, You come from Germany, your parents, were quite happy with you studying music till you decided to make a career out of it. So what were their thoughts on all of this?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 05:47
Well, I think they were very supportive in general, when I learned instruments as a child, and so on and so forth. So that was a good thing to do. I guess most parents probably don’t have a problem with that. But, you know, when I sort of said, I maybe consider building a career and I want to study music at the university level, they weren’t quite so keen. I mean, they never discouraged me, they probably would always have been supportive in a way but you could tell they have different things in mind for me, so they’re always drop little hints here and there. Oh, maybe you should still think about something else.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 06:27
And what was this something else?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 06:30
There’s something else was actually a science. So I studied geoscience. And I triple majored in geoscience, and musicology and theatre studies. And I very briefly worked as a geoscientist coming straight out of university while already working on my musical theatre career. So it was all a bit strange, and also very stressful at the time, because they only have 20. More, so I tried to cram it all in.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 07:01
Okay, so when you started singing was that before you went to university? Yeah. Was that classical singing?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 07:11
Well, that’s not that straightforward. I ended up loving classical singing, because I’m still from that generation, when you decided you wanted to study singing at the time, it was the only classical voice that you could study at university level. And then, once I had that degree, I started doing a musical theatre course, which was very new at the time. But generally speaking, my big laugh was always musical theatre. And I also did a bit of folk singing, because I played the violin, and I played the fiddle. So I’m not also slotted in I always had a bit of a laugh for the Celtic culture even before I moved here. So yeah, I got my voice classically trained, but to say quite frankly, I had to unlearn a lot of things when I then made the change to musical theatre. So we’re a bit better off these days, we have more options.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 08:11
That’s so true. I just have a question here. Is there anything you can’t do?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 08:19
Or oh, a lot.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 08:23
Things you studied this much?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 08:28
I’m older than I look. Or maybe I looked at Oh,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 08:31
no, you don’t know. And by the way, it doesn’t matter how old my guests are. We’re all 21 on this show. Of course, yes. Even though we may have 25 years experience, and the figures don’t add up. We’re still only 21 Yes, that’s true. So So we’re no good at maths on this day age. Okay, so you had this training? Obviously, you had a love of singing. And you said you did musical theatre. So you had a performance Korea?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 09:07
Um, well, that was mainly when I was living in Germany still. So I made a conscious decision to stop that basically, just as it was taking off, actually. So that’s another fun thing about me when I finally went for the music career, and it all started to fall in place, and I had really good gigs and really good engagements. I actually started to get the feeling that’s not what I want. So by the time I was, yeah, by the time I was in my early 30s, I stopped it all and I just focused on teaching, then the psychology thing came in, but I would have performed a musical theatre till I was in my early 30s.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 09:47
When you were performing now, I do know doing a background search on you that you had performance anxiety. Was that one of the reasons that you stopped performing as well, or how did you overcome that by the time you decided to shift to teaching,
Petra Raspel Borzinski 10:07
it was bad getting better by the time I stopped performing, but I wouldn’t say I’d overcome it completely. And I also would say, you probably never entirely overcome it. It’s just how it affects you. And these days, it doesn’t affect me anymore. So I still feel nervous and everything. So if I sing, or if I do things like this, I’m still nervous. So that’s totally normal. I think it’s about normalising the sensation behind it. And I think that was really, really helpful, how bad it was bad. But the thing for me was that when I was on stage, I was one of these people who could hide it pretty well, actually, while I was singing, so I was dying, literally in the wings. And I was really feeling unwell. But when I walked out, it was actually okay. And the worst thing for me was actually, the rumination after. So what wasn’t literally the sensations, the rapid heartbeat, and sweating and everything and feeling nauseous and stuff. I had all of that. But that wasn’t the worst for me. Actually, I could sort of deal with that. But it was coming off stage and then thinking and ruminating about all the things that I thought I didn’t do well enough, and so on. So that was the main thing for me.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 11:30
All right. So when I was searching your website, and I was going across it, this now makes sense. You have statement there about perfectionism. So I’m gathering out, this relates to what you went through with your performance anxiety. And I loved this, by the way, perfectionism is not a quest for your best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough that we should try again, that is so profound.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 12:11
Yeah, that’s a quote by Julia Cameron from the artists way. And I felt like that just literally put in a nutshell, what was going on with me at the time, because that was a pattern I had, basically since early childhood. So I was an only child. And I think I always might, my parents weren’t really sort of, they weren’t horrible people or anything, if you know what I mean. But I always have the feeling how to prove myself somehow. Yeah. And that was also the case at school. And I think it was just a pattern that I fell into really early on. And that stayed with me, I would say probably till I was in my mid 30s. And I’m always sort of letting go of it slowly, the older I get. So that’s a good thing about getting older.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 13:00
It is it is but but I do completely empathise with what you’re saying. Because I think I’ve lived the greater part of my life, feeling that everything I’ve done is not quite good enough. I have suffered from perfectionism. Myself, and at times, I still have to pull myself up. And I think now I can say rather than suffering from perfectionism, I can be a perfectionist, which I think is different. And I know when I released the podcast, I heard just prior to releasing it, and I was thinking about it. And, you know, thinking I had to have everything right. Before I started it. Everything had to be perfect. And then I heard a great thought leaders say that to actually perfect something, you have to be doing it. You can’t be perfecting something, if you’re not actually in the process of physically doing the thing that you’re trying to perfect. And that was when I went wow, that is so powerful. I’m now going to set a date and go for it. And I gave myself permission to let it go, even though it wasn’t that idea of being perfect. And I didn’t ruminate. So, but I completely get that. And I do understand that a lot of people who do suffer from performance anxiety does come from that perfect perfectionism. And so what is your relationship you’ve just said your relationship with perfectionism now has improved, but it’s still a work in progress at times.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 14:53
It is a work in progress, I think. I think I just came to see that you can’t do it. Perfect, there’s no such thing, essentially. But you’re starting to believe in that or having sort of this sort of abstract thought process behind it where you say, like, yeah, on an intellectual level, of course, that’s not happening. And of course, we can’t be perfect. It’s different still, from what we feel in our gut sometimes. And little stories we keep on telling ourselves, and I think it’s just about letting that go and about saying, you know, what, I know how I’m thinking about it. And it’s actually okay, and I get out of this trap, this constant rumination trap, so everything that happens, happens, and if it happens in the moment, that’s fine. And I stopped fighting it, because I think that, for me, was the main thing when things started to get better. When I stopped, you’re trying to get rid of it, trying to get rid of the anxiety trying to get rid of the perfectionistic thoughts. That’s when things started to fall into place and got better for me.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 16:07
Is that what inspired you to study psychology, this whole perfectionism idea that you were going through?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 16:17
Yes, I think that’s what they say about psychologists in general, I think they all study it because they have an interest on problems from there was definitely an element of that in it, but also a big element of wanting to be able to help my students more effectively. Because I am by far, not the only person who goes through stuff like that. It’s very, very common. And I think it’s probably also about normalising that, and about being able to say, You know what, that doesn’t make you a bad performer or a person who’s less than or something that’s, it’s actually something normal to experience these nerves. So I definitely went into psychology for all of these reasons, and just took on a life of its own. So I was actually cognitive, or I sort of looked into cognitive psychology first. So there was a lot about the theory of learning, and so on and so forth. And then, yeah, the interest and therapy can actually bit after that, sort of, when I looked into different modalities, and I first studied cognitive behavioural therapy. And then I started studying somatic therapy as well, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which you can’t really yet learn at university level, because that’s against their ethics, if you know what I mean. So vision answer, it’s also a cognitive behavioural modality anyway, so if you’re a cognitive behavioural therapist, and a lot of what you do in Act also makes sense in that way, it’s actually pretty similar, and it’s rude, so to speak.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 17:57
So how does this all inform your teaching? How does this help you in the teaching studio?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 18:06
Well, it helps in the teaching studio, because obviously, you have a better understanding of what potentially to avoid, to get help students not to fall into that trap of perfectionism, and so on and so forth, in the first place, although there’s obviously much more that needs to be done. It’s not just in the studio, it’s also the home environment. It’s I don’t know, if they’re starting in institutions, the whole environment there, obviously. So it’s not just you as the teacher who can make a difference and should make a difference. But you’re obviously one part of magic soul. And it’s also yeah, as I said, to a degree, yeah, helping to normalise that. Yeah, looking after mental wellness or mental health or even when we’re mentally ill, that should be something that it’s okay to talk about. And that we don’t need to feel like, as I said previously, that we’re less than because of it. So it really helps in the teaching process. Although I would say that I still keep therapy, and voice coaching quite separate. So it’s always about the scope of work, why do they come to me? Are they looking for a voice teacher, or they’re looking for therapists and if I feel there’s too much overlap, we might reassess that working relationships or I will then either say maybe we should, yeah, look more into the therapeutic angle. And then I would probably suggest a different voice teacher. Or if you want me to stay your voice teacher, then I have recommendation here for for colleagues, also therapists because I find that quite important not to sort of, as I said, needs to be clear. Why are they actually coming to you so being a therapist is not the same as being a voice teacher. Very Obviously, and I like to keep those lines clear.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 20:05
Yes, those lines are so important. And you talk about boundaries. Often as singing teachers, I believe were the front line. And people may say, Well, how does that work, I believe that as we create a safe space for our students to use their voices, a lot of them start to share information. Because as they start to sing and feel relaxed, they start to allow themselves to be more vulnerable in their singing. And then they start to share their lives with you. And at times, they tell us more than what we really want to know. And, also, so there’s that side of it. But then there’s also the side that we as teachers, we look at the whole body is the instrument. So we become very physically aware of our students. And we can tell by the way that they walk into the studio, even if they are okay or not, we are so aware of how their voices sound, so their voices may sound different to usual. Or even their facial expressions. I mean, we can tell so much more about a student than most people do, because we’re constantly looking at everything, and the whole body, the face of the sounds, everything. It’s so two questions. Where do we draw the line when we’re not psychologists? And, you know, none of us should pretend to be psychologists. And we had that situation where students start to share information, where is the boundary? And if you know that there is so the second part of that if you know, there is something really going on with your student. And you believe that they need help. How do you then on refer them? If they’re if it’s not in an educational institution? Because educational institutions? Obviously they have guidelines, but if you’re in a home studio, so they’re my two questions, what are the boundaries? First up, I suppose?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 22:25
Well, the boundaries, of course, I always like to say boundaries are not set in stone, they do move and they can move, and sometimes they even should move. But I would say generally speaking, I mean, we’re all human. And I think we’ve probably all experienced a situation where a student comes into our studio, and they just need to vent, they had a bad day, or they’re going through something or maybe they even had a bereavement in the family, or whatever it might be individually. And I think holding space for them on occasion is absolutely okay. So if that’s the sternal, 510, maybe sometimes even 15 or more minutes, if you know what I mean, you’ll be you played by ear, at the beginning of a session, where you’re just really not okay, this is normally not someone who does this all the time, it seems to be a one off, they just need to offload, they need to get it out of the system. And then we can move on. And they sing bit after it as well, because they get it out of the system. First, I would say that’s not a problem at all. And we don’t even need to give advice in that case, because most of the time, people don’t really want advice. They just want to get it out and they want someone to listen. So I think
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 23:43
they deserve love to be home.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 23:45
Yeah, exactly. That’s not a boundary transgression, by any means. I think it gets problematic. When this becomes a pattern, when you have that student for you notice like, every week, literally half of the session is just filled with what’s going on in their family, or how bad they feel at the moment that they’re feeling down. I mean, there’s obviously very obvious signs as well that we need to take into consideration. I mean, there’s far too much to go into now. But sort of if you start for instance, spotting signs of self harm, or if you notice, they become overall very anxious, or they just move away from what I would call their normal baseline so to speak. So if you’ve been following them for a while that you notice, no, something is different. Then it gets to the stage where if you notice that even when I’m gently trying to steer the conversation back onto the musical side of things, and that can be done without shaming them. So we can for instance, say something like, oh, yeah, I understand that must be really difficult for you right now. So what do you need from our Session today, would you like to sing something different? Does that song feel too close to home right now, stuff like that, if you know what I mean, so where you show empathy and hold space for them, but we also try to get the conversation back on track to what you’re doing best, you empower them by using their voices, right. And that’s a boundary where I would always say, that’s where we need to start watching when it becomes a pattern when it’s like every time and repeatedly and you’re taking on this role of counsellor which we probably all sort of unknowingly did at some point. With school students. Yeah, because it’s normal, I think, to a certain degree that we are empathising, and that we want to help and because voice is, so it’s, it’s at this crossroads of everything, it has the physical component, it has the psychological components, there’s everything in it. That’s what you said so beautifully there as well, that we’re often this first port of call that we’re often so much more aware of what’s going on, because we’re so finely attuned to the psychological side, the emotional side of singing, and the physical side, and so on. So it’s probably quite normal to fall into a trap. But it’s also something that should be avoided.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 26:25
Yes, I started checking in with students more so since COVID, because I found when we transitioned back from online teaching, to face to face teaching, a lot of the students that came back, didn’t come back quite themselves, I saw there was a lot of anxiety within the students. And some of them did not fare well through COVID. So I started this, I had always done it before better, I was a little bit more flippant, pre prior to COVID. But asking students, how are you making that question, a genuine question? How are you? How’s your week been? are you coping with you know, are all your subjects going well, at uni or at school, and doing that couple of minutes of checking in. And just knowing where they’re at, in that moment of time, too. And it kind of allows gives me an idea of what I’m dealing with on the day with the singer. It’s not just, you know, it’s checking in to make sure they’re okay. That it also gives you an idea of, if they’re coming in really stressed. You’ve got to fix that before you’re not going to get anything out of them. Yeah,
Petra Raspel Borzinski 27:57
exactly. As well then to have the toolkit as well for you, as the educators the voice teacher, to sort of tune into Okay, as you see, for instance, someone is really stressed, they might need something totally different from someone who comes in and is quite numb and almost dissociated. And yeah, nothing is happening. So we’re mobilising them in a different way. It’s about sort of like in what we can do, obviously, sort of like up or down regulating their nervous system, so they can make a start. And that’s also about trust to a certain degree. So if they feel heard, if they feel seen, they start coming down almost automatically, it might not always be enough. That’s why I say your if you spot a pattern where it’s always like this, and it becomes this patterning. And that’s different, obviously. But yeah, holding that space, it’s really, it’s, it’s all that’s needed to be totally honest. And it’s just being an empathetic human being. So I don’t think we’re doing anything weird by doing that. I think the world probably needs more of that, to be totally honest. Instead of ticking boxes, it’s just all about business, if you know what I mean, let’s get to it. Except, except a little check. And that can make all the difference. And that’s totally fine. So I wouldn’t see that there’s any boundary transgression there?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 29:23
Yes. And I found since doing that, I’ve had the best results in my lessons ever. Go? Yeah. And students are totally engaged. And they yet such a different space of trust, as well, that you know, if they’re a student that doesn’t usually emotionally engage with repertoire, that we can work so they do become more engaged. They’re probably allowing themselves to be a little bit more vulnerable in their performance. Yeah, as singing teachers, we do have this great responsibility. There’s the other side of things where I know the old fashioned way of teaching. And I believe there’s still teachers out there that do this. They believe in getting results by shaming students. Yeah. They were, as I believe you, you get more bees with honey. That’s always my approach by uplifting people, you’re going to get the best from them. Yeah, absolutely. Where is that? I mean, where’s that mentality from? And what, what is the duty of care there, around that trauma that we can, that we can potentially cause within our students?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 30:51
I mean, the duty of care, I would say is literally, if we still see it, to call it out when we’re seeing it, because that’s the only way it will, hopefully, eventually stop. Because I still see this in the musical theatre world as well. And some acting classes were really people on purpose, not sort of, like by accident, but really on purpose. Take the student apart, if you know what I mean, and throw them in at the deep end and confront them with yet emotional memories. They shouldn’t sort of take into an active context. And that’s highly unsafe, you know what I mean? So basically, yeah, they pull them apart, and there’s no one there who puts them back together, quite frankly. And it’s awful. And it still happens, thankfully, not that often anymore. But you still see it. And, and I’m one of the ones who then picks up the pieces, obviously, when that happens. But um, so that’s the first thing that if you see it, make it hard. If you know what I mean, make sure that people know about it, call it out, call out the people who are doing it, because people are very reluctant to do that. You know what I mean, but that’s why they’re getting away with it. So that’s one of the first things I would say is also our duty of care. Because the student to whom that happens, they often they don’t feel strong enough in the moment to go against it, if you know what I mean. And they carry that with them, often for years. So that’s really, really important. And other than that for ourselves and the way we’re working. And I mean, I guess we all make mistakes. No one is, yeah, perfect. So we probably maybe even without meaning, it might have said something that landed the wrong way. With the students. Yes. And that’s sometimes tricky as well. Because at the end of the day, it’s tricky to say, I’m 100% responsible for the feelings of my clients, which you are not, obviously, they have responsibility for their own feelings. And very often the way they react is also, yeah, what happened in the past, so to speak, and how that still sort of reflects on that present life. But that obviously doesn’t give you the right to say, I’m not responsible for my students feelings anyways. Well just do as I please. So that’s obviously not what I mean by that. But if you behave like a decent human being, and the client still feels hurt by that, then it’s also for you to say, I don’t take on that responsibility, because that’s not good for you either. That’s how teachers end up burned out and start getting problems because there’s no airline anymore, sort of like your your students feelings or your feelings at some point. And that obviously shouldn’t be the case. So don’t make yourself responsible for their feelings. Either that, yeah, lens, you’re in trouble. So that’s not a good thing to do. So just really hold space. Make them feel safe. And there are different ways in terms of what we can do to establish safety in the studio. Obviously, that’s always an individual decision. But I think there are commonalities from where to start, so to speak something that is literally always true and where you can’t go wrong. And that’s probably where we should be starting. That’s also where we’re talking about trauma aware studios and trauma informed teaching in general so that we have a couple of things that we know okay, I shouldn’t be doing this. I should not ever be doing this. So that’s where professional development comes in, I guess.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 35:01
So I know that you teach you train teachers to be trauma, trauma aware, and trauma informed. So can you break that down just a little bit for us? I know that’s part of your teaching programme. But can you just give us a little tease of what that is?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 35:21
I mean, I always tend to start with saying that being trauma aware and being trauma informed, are not necessarily one and the same. They’re sort of used quite interchangeably. I always like to say hashtag trauma informed if you know what I mean, it’s a bit of a buzz words. So um, there are differences. And from my perspective, I would always say, every teacher should should be trauma aware, and trauma sensitive. So trauma aware means you’re just basically learning what is trauma? How does it affect survivors, essentially, how might they adapt? What coping strategies do they have. So that’s just really learning about what trauma actually is. And then you become trauma sensitive in a way that you integrate that knowledge into your studio. So what you would be doing is, I don’t know, you maybe have a list of references ready. I always say, incorporate that into your onboarding process, have a list of practitioners ready, that you can hand out to find so when you say like, if you ever have any problems, here’s a list of like a massage therapist on it, and an Alexandria teacher, and there’s also a psychotherapist on it. So that type of thing that they don’t feel so put on the spots, but they know there are people there you trust. And if they know you trust them, and they also know they are, you’re working with performance on a regular basis, they might be more likely to take that up when they feel they need it. And so it’s just really trauma sensitivity means starting to incorporate that into the process of your studio, maybe sending your employees on professional development courses, if you have any. That type of thing, generally making your studio a more welcoming place, also for people with mental health problems or mental illness so that they feel safe and learning about how to establish that safety. Now, becoming trauma informed, is quite different kettle of fish because it already incorporates trauma responsiveness. So it means you’re more in the process of screening your clients for past trauma, okay, you’re more in the process of helping them to deal with their trauma. So that’s what you frankly, don’t need to be a therapist to do that. But you need to take quite a bit of training. That’s what you sometimes see in trauma informed schools where they have designated teachers who maybe look into that type of stuff, and very often the school counsellors as well. So, because that’s what people think, as well, they think every therapist and every counsellor is trauma informed. But they’re not. That’s a very specific niche, almost enthalpy. So it’s not like that, just because you’re a therapist or psychologist, you’re automatically trauma informed. So that’s, that’s a choice you’ll make at some point, if that’s something you want to work on with your clients. So I would say, be trauma aware, be trauma sensitive, if the progression is a natural, or sort of natural one to become trauma informed as well, which it is for some people, they take more classes they undertake more training, then by all means do that as well. But I think it’s not a must. Because as I said, that already has a slightly different flavour to it in terms of how you respond to trauma. And as a voice teacher, some people just don’t want to do that. And that’s absolutely fine. That’s your boundary. And that’s, yeah, a valid one as well. Obviously,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 39:16
this might sound like a really dumb question. Okay,
Petra Raspel Borzinski 39:21
there’s no dumb question.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 39:23
You sound like me, I say that. You just read the memo.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 39:30
This teacher talk.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 39:35
So, we throw the word trauma around. We’ve been using it in this conversation. What is the difference between a traumatic experience what defines trauma to someone going through a difficult time? Say yes.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 39:54
I think this is actually a major bugbear of mine, because a Everything is trauma these days, and I don’t want to invalidate someone’s personal experience, if you’re feeling bad about something, or you don’t feel emotionally Well, or something bad is, of course, valid, if you know what I mean. But in clinical terms, trauma, something else quite entirely. And I think we’ve fallen into the trap of calling every literally everything trauma these days, trauma essentially means it’s too much too soon. So your nervous system gets overwhelmed when you’re suffering with trauma or when you’re suffering with post traumatic stress, essentially. So we’re really talking, it doesn’t have to be shock trauma, if you know what I mean, because there’s different types of trauma. So Shock Trauma would be something that a lot of people probably immediately can see why that would be traumatic if you’re in a really horrific accident or something like that. So it’s like a one off situation or events, that totally overloads your nervous system. And then you react on that in a certain way. So for some people, it turns into your hyper vigilance. So every time they hear a loud bang, they’re still jumping, or they expect something bad to happen at every corner or something, they’re generally anxious about everything. For other people, it can be different, because in the situation, and that’s why I say where the understanding also needs to come in, that we’re not seeing. And there’s something wrong with you, because this initial reaction is there to protect you. So your nervous system mobilises in one or the other directions, or either becomes more fight or flight, let’s call it that. So you run away from it, or you’re fighting it, or it’s more sort of like freezing, or sort of, yeah, being frozen in space, literally. And that’s when the nervous system starts to gradually shut down. And both reactions are actually quite normal, because they’re protecting you. Well, that’s your body and your brain, trying to get the best outcome and what is the horrific situation and for some people, it means they dissociate, essentially. So they’re numbing out. It’s just literally the nervous system basically shutting down, so they can bear what would be otherwise unbearable. And that is a normal reaction for a short amount of time. But it gets problematic if it starts to go on. So what we usually say, if someone has been in a traumatic events, you sort of monitor for a while afterwards. So you give it maybe three months to sort of see like, how are things progressing? And are they starting to feel better? And if not, then the interventions have to really start kicking in. So what you don’t do anymore these days is this trauma debriefing, and people talk through it, if you know what I mean, because it can actually make it worse in some people. But um, I would actually say that’s really a line that needs to be drawn. It’s the simple idea of that the nervous system is overloaded, so to speak. And that’s not the same. As for instance, you can develop anxiety because of post traumatic stress. But not everyone who suffers with anxiety also went through a traumatic events. Yes, sometimes anxiety kicks in, for instance, because, yeah, the way you’ve been brought up, like the way your parents talk to you, if there was a lot of competition at school, and without necessarily having been traumatic, to the extent that we feel like it was this overload situation. So it’s definitely you need to make a distinction there. But that usually when you’re not sure, that can be tricky to find out, essentially. And that’s obviously, where the voice teacher doesn’t want to get too involved. Because you don’t want to start talking about these things and talk during your sessions and potentially trigger a client. So that’s something you would want to avoid.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 44:27
Yes. Because then you’re starting to go into that therapist role as opposed to singing teacher. So what inspired you to take on all this learning? come from? Is this a personal question?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 44:44
No, that’s a good question. And I wish I had the answer to it. Questions myself? I think I’m just I’m just a learner. It’s hard. I think I always have been. I’m just fascinated by humans in general and by the human psyche, and by everything that goes on, I mean, even when I had my science background when I did do science, but was also because I wanted to help, if you know what I mean. So maybe there’s a little bit of a helper syndrome.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 45:18
Maybe, but I think too, sometimes some of us are just naturally curious people. Yeah, as well. I know that when it comes to other humans, like, I just love knowing people’s stories, I love knowing about other people. So I have that natural curiosity. But it doesn’t come from a bad place. It’s just I love people, I love knowing about them and their background, and everyone has something so interesting to share. If we only take the time to listen, yeah, isn’t it? And okay, um, what about then students that come to you, who have different disorders. And I don’t know if that is the politically correct word to use. So please forgive me if it’s not, but students or who are troubled or have problems or have issues. And say, for example, in this day and age, there seems to be a lot of students who come to our studios who suffer from ADHD, or who on the spectrum, when these students come to us, and we are working in an educational institution? Should we be informed as teachers about these these issues? If the students have declared them, the institution knows about them? Should we know about them? Or does this fall under some kind of privacy thing?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 47:01
I mean, I would say if they want to volunteer that information, it can be very helpful, actually, but I don’t think they should be forced into volunteering it and which is not volunteering at all, if you know what I mean. But I think in certain countries, that’s not allowed anyway, and for for very good reason. So I think and you mentioned disorder there, and if that’s the terminology we should be using.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 47:30
Yeah, exactly. And I apologise,
Petra Raspel Borzinski 47:33
no, absolutely not. Because I’m clinically speaking of we’re thinking about, yeah, all the manuals, we have a psychologist and psychotherapist and so on and so forth. That terminology is still used, but I’m very reluctant to use it as well.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 47:51
I didn’t I couldn’t think of another word. So that
Petra Raspel Borzinski 47:57
people may be like, like they have, yeah, issues with a physical health, there might also have problems with their mental health, but and to call that disorder, it’s sometimes borderline for me. Yes, we, I think a lot of it are just normal responses to stressors we have. And I think instead of saying it’s disordered, which makes people feel shameful, or I have to be ashamed for feeling depressed, or have to feel ashamed for feeling anxious, or whatever, the question should rather be how can we support them? And I mean, you already went into that direction. So if if a client discloses it, and I mean, obviously, there’s also things we can do without people disclosing them. But the question is, rather than thinking like, okay, there’s like this order, or there’s something pathological about this, rather thinking in terms of, yeah, how can I help them to get the best out of what they can achieve, essentially? And also, you mentioned ADHD, for instance, or generally clients who are neurodiverse. And I think we have to move away from your perceiving neurodiversity as something that is disordered, it’s a diversion. But that doesn’t make it that exactly. It’s
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 49:22
that’s such a great description,
Petra Raspel Borzinski 49:25
you just have to keep in mind, and I hope no one feels offended by this. But if you think,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 49:31
Oh, no offence intended, at all how,
Petra Raspel Borzinski 49:36
how? How medicine or what has been going on in the field of medicine for hundreds of years. Medicine is largely created by wealthy white men. And it has been like this. There was a pattern like this all through history, if you know what I mean, and we’re just gradually He’s starting to unravel that a few note, I mean, so, these tend to be neurotypical, probably not all. But these tend to be neurotypical, quite privileged people. And they made the definition, especially in the field of mental health, what is pathological and what is normal. And I think we know more than that today. So need not moving away from that, and neurotypical, and neurodiversity, but doesn’t mean one is the good thing. And the other is the bad thing. It just means that certain people react in a way that probably the majority of people would expect. And the other side, they maybe behave slightly differently, but that doesn’t make them less able, it only makes them less able, if we don’t understand, and if we don’t support their needs, and if we try to teach them in the same way that we would teach a neurotypical person. And this is, I think, what probably has to happen in teacher training without branching over into looking into therapeutic modalities, but rather, how can we support people who are not typical, whatever that means, and really, who are not new difficult or who maybe are not typical in the way they experience mental and emotional health right now at that stage in their lives? And I think that’s more the question we should ask ourselves. So for instance, one example I can give you, which we probably all experienced, because it’s still fairly old school. And when when we maybe also ourselves, when we were fidgeting, while we were in the studio, we were standing there and the hands were moving, or we were moving around or not standing on the spot, or whatever. It also depends, but in the classical world, that is pretty much the case. And pop as maybe not quite the same.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 52:18
It is not because in classical, you can’t move.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 52:22
Exactly. And then it’s a shame inducing thing. When people then start to go in the studio, or standstill, Stop fidgeting, stop doing this, stop doing that. What’s your posture, blah, blah, blah, if you’re not, I mean, and as I said, Everyone who had classical training, especially a while back, probably still experienced that. And for someone who was nervous and who stressed. This is a release. This is sort of channelling it if you know what I mean, when they’re starting to fidget when they’re starting doing something with their hands when they start moving around on the spot. So instead of trying to nip that in the bud, and they will probably follow that instruction, they will go like, Oh, you’re okay, I’m not fidgeting, I’m starting to go now. And it just internally, it starts to boil over, because they have no channel anymore to release that stress or the anxiety they’re feeling. So instead of doing that, I always tell people, fidget baskets and sensory baskets are not just for little children. They are also for adults. So to take the weirdness out of saying, oh, yeah, I have a range of fidget toys here. So take one of those. And you will find that if they have something to do with their hands. And that’s just an example of obviously, that regulates itself, the nervous system regulates itself by doing that activity. And when the nervous system starts to regulate, there comes to point when they don’t need the Fidget Toy. So instead of trying to curb these responses, let them happen. Allow them
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 54:05
yes, we have to be so open don’t wait like we had a we then ensure that we’re creating safe spaces for all these students. That that we’re able to offer a space that’s inclusive, that they feel that they belong, no matter where they’re at, and what stage they’re at.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 54:32
I mean, the first thing where I would say where it has to start as be present with them, obviously truly, truly listen, I think that’s where it all needs to start. And then from there, it obviously becomes a bit more individualised and it also depends on the client, but there are certain things for us a singing teacher that we might want to look into. So for instance, the way we’re focusing on the breath, do we have to focus on the breath so much or does the breath maybe regulate itself? Especially then if you’re looking at more sort of trauma informed or trauma aware practice again, if you happen to have someone in your studio who’s maybe had a traumatic experience, and making them focus on their breath can actually sort of like out with context, so to speak, and doing breathing exercises, and whatever and trying to alter, and the way they breathe, can actually trigger them. So that’s the little things that we all can learn how to not do these things that for instance, have the potential to trigger someone who’s already struggling anyway, there’s there’s many things and they can all be learned, essentially. Giving them your tools, supporting them, having an environment where they don’t feel like they’re trapped, I always say this in my classes as well, it starts with simple things like making it part of your onboarding process, not to say, yet, these are dunno, if you have emergency exits that here, if you know what I mean, of this is the way my door system works. So in case you ever have to get out, you have to turn the key that way or something basic like that. Yeah, but there’s always a physical way out. Essentially, if you’re not like in like an open environment anyway, where all doors are open, which sometimes can be advisable, but it’s not always possible. But really simple things that no one ever gets into this situation where they feel trapped, for instance. And other things like, if people struggle with their mental health, they usually have problems with concentration, they have brain fog to one degree or the other, or the focus doesn’t go where we would like to go. So to have tools ready, and to have an environment where they feel supported in that so that we allow them to take breaks, for instance, even in the 60 minute session, when they feel after 20 minutes, I need a breather for a couple of minutes. Just take five minutes, let’s just drink a cup of tea or something, to take the weirdness out of that not thinking I’m wasting time when I’m doing that. But instead of thinking by taking those five minutes here, the rest of the session will be more productive. Just simple things like that.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 57:26
This is fantastic information. So you train all this. You have programmes and all of this. So are these programmes that you run on a regular basis? or can people subscribe to them?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 57:42
Am I run stuff on a regular basis, I do revenue verbeke webinars, I sometimes also do courses and classes and so on and so forth. Also sort of Mental Health First Aid for performance and so on and so forth. At the moment, because I just did a whole webinar series there. Yes. Still? Yeah, sort of like, busy. Very busy. Yeah. And so we still have them available for replay. So they won’t stay up forever. But they’re still available right now. So people would like to get a little get start on things. I mean, obviously, you can’t do everything just in a couple of sessions. So there always needs to be a personal element to it as well. But it’s a good starting point, just to get into the mindset of also to reflect on what am I doing in my studio actually, so to not stand still. But to actually question the way you work, I think that’s good of it not to become complacent, that ties in with what we said about being the perpetual learners, so to speak. And that also goes for students mental health, so to not shy away from it, because I see that very often as well. Yeah, and sort of forums and so on and so forth, that so many people go like, because they are worried about boundaries, and that they go like, No, I don’t want to look into this stuff. Because then I feel like I’m taking on these mental health problems of my students, when in fact, becoming more informed about it makes you less likely to create problems or to behave in a way where you’re in a situation where you feel totally helpless and you don’t know how to handle it. So I don’t think people but there’s still a stigma around mental health questions in general, isn’t it sort of like people can feel a bit reluctance?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 59:45
It’s such a fine line. Yes, we, some months ago I had a representative from the RU okay organisation and it is an organisation about Suicide Prevention. And she talked about the signs of suicide, and the suicide rate it was, you know, it’s so, so high, there’s more suicides than what there are car accidents, there’s like nine a day here in Australia, and that was pre COVID, mainly men within say 18 to 40 years old, and she was talking about some of those signs. And, and I was talking to her about in our situation about being that frontline worker. And it’s knowing to that fine line where we see that something’s not right, with someone asking the question, and then being able to refer, you know, because it’s, it’s quite, it’s a responsibility, isn’t it? It’s, there’s such a fine line, there are boundaries around all of this, because potentially, we could save a life to by not some of this information.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:01:05
And especially if it comes to to suicide, if you know what I mean, that’s the one where always say, better safe than sorry. I mean, I know a lot of people are worried or am I being intrusive? In a way, when I ask these questions, does, this doesn’t feel right, and so on, and so forth. But honestly, I think many teachers, I think, are naturally empathetic anyway. And if you have this gut feeling that something isn’t right, I think most of the time, you can actually trust it. And then it’s just about having the tools ready to do it in a way that that’s helpful to sort of move from the stage where it’s just all gut feeling, if you know what I mean. And you’re constantly, you’re stressing yourself out about am I doing the right thing, and so on and so forth, to move over to that stage where you say, have a gut feeling. But it’s not just a gut feeling. Now, it also is a bit more informed, if you know what I mean. So I know what I where I can take it from here, and so on and so forth. And I think that’s really important. I always say this. We all take like, first health first aid classes, if you know what I mean, especially people who are maybe in institutions, and there will always be at least a handful of people who have first aid training. And I’m always going like, Why is this still such a big issue to do that for mental health? Because those classes are out there. There are mental health first aid classes. Yes. Just take them.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:02:36
Yeah, it’s so helpful. And especially now, have you seen yourself for yourself that there has been increased in mental health issues since COVID?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:02:49
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Because of this thing. social connection is one of the things that keeps us sane, so to speak. And that’s been taking away from many of us for over a year, and still not ending I mean, in Europe, sort of mainland Europe, the cases are spiking again. And it’s just, it feels like there’s no end in sight. And so many, it’s the lack of social connection. It’s the anxiety, the health anxiety related to it. It’s also simply, quite simply speaking, getting fed up with all of it now, because it has been dragging on for so long. So it definitely is. And I definitely see a big rise in that. And I think in the performing arts, I just spoke about that. two weekends ago, the rates for poor mental health and the performing arts are up to three times higher than in the general population. It really is that bad. So we’re seeing that in the general population here in the UK. At any one time, we probably depends on what research your reading and so on was around about 15% of the general population who have mental health struggles at any given moment in time. And in the performing arts, it’s around about 70. So I’m not saying 17 I’m saying 70. It’s really, it is bad, it’s bad. And that’s obviously there’s a lot of systemic problems in there as well. It’s not knowing if you’ll be able to make a living all of that stuff feeds into it. Obviously, misogyny, which most women can probably talk about, which is still a problem and it’s heightened and the performing arts is actually not better than in normal life and big quotation marks it tends to be worse. So there’s there’s a lot there that needs to be done on a systemic level but it just shows you how bad it is.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:04:48
So we’re going to start wrapping this up. This has been fantastic Petra, like you. I want to go and do your your courses and we are going to share With the listeners, all the links to where they can find you about all your programmes that they would the courses, they can enrol in what’s coming up? If you had to offer a piece of advice for the singing voice community based on your work, what would that one piece of advice be?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:05:24
Well, there’s so many pieces of advice. That’s really
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:05:30
what comes to mind.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:05:32
But the really the one piece of advice I would give as really, to start with yourself and your own boundaries, that might sound really surprising to some people. But to get some clarity about, what do I actually need? How do I look at my own mental health? Also, how involved do I want to be in the mental health of my students and clients. So to have these boundaries in terms of time and expertise, and what maybe pushes your buttons and what you’d rather not, and so on, to have them very clearly laid out, because I think a lot of people don’t really have clarity about it, they push it aside a tiny bit. And then really take the next steps from there. Because if you’re clear about your own boundaries, and what you need, you will also be a better teacher, and you will be able to support the ones in your care a lot better without feeling bullied into doing something that you don’t want to do that you feel is out with, the way you want to work, or sort of looking. Yeah, that’s health care, which sometimes totally goes out the window for many of us, because we’re taking on so much from to say, if you’re one of those, that you have clear boundaries, that your boundaries are not so permeable, so to speak. So start with yourself and your boundaries. First, that’s not selfish. That is actually the first step to then look into. What does my studio need? And how do I communicate my boundaries in a way that’s not shame inducing, or guilt inducing for my students. And you will also probably know, what courses and classes you want to take how deep you want to dive in, and so on.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:07:30
That’s such great advice. And firstly, you know, talking about self care, as a singing teacher, myself, and I do quite long days. And I have to have a self care regime, I wake up two hours before I need to leave for work. And I have a regime of meditation. Exercise, filling out like a write in a gratitude journal, just positive, all the things I have to be grateful for. And I find by the time I get to work, I’m mentally and physically prepared for the day. And I find that really helps me and like, I arrive at work. And I’m like, Yay, Hey, everybody, you know, full of energy. And really, and people go, how come you’re always in a happy mood? And I go, because I work at it. Hmm. I it’s not by accident. I work at this. And so that I can be 100% focused on the student. Yep. And I’ve left all my stuff at home. And so there is a full on strategy around all of that. So that’s got to be important for teachers, doesn’t it? That whole self care, and even for us to recognise when we’re going through our own problems, that we may be suffering from anxiety, and knowing how to deal with that for ourselves, not just worrying about the students, but then even being self aware about our own emotions, too, don’t you think?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:09:22
Exactly. Because at the end of the day, if you’re anxious in the studio, but comes across as well. So in the same way that the client will take that on as you might take on their anxiety. So it’s really important and it’s a part of self care to just say, Okay, I’m noticing, I’m not emotionally or mentally well at the moment, and I’m seeking out the help. I mean, if you have a physical ailment of sorts, you’ll see a doctor. Well, why not do if you feel that’s the case with your mental or emotional health so Oh, it needs to stop that we are thinking we are less than just because we have a need in that area as well as it’s the same thing really, whether you have a broken leg or whether you’re emotionally unwell, you should be able to seek out help for both without feeling ashamed about
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:10:19
it. Exactly. Exactly. Because there is still shame and stigma attached to mental health issues. Yeah, still, people won’t admit. Well, they don’t have to. But I mean, even in seeking help, and asking for help, is quite a big thing for many people for the shame. So what are you working on right now?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:10:47
At the moment, I’m working on probably turning this whole and webinar series that I have done, and to something that can be I don’t want to say reused, if you know what I mean,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:11:04
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:11:06
Repurpose. Exactly. My word
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:11:09
repurposed. Yeah, to sort
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:11:11
of flesh that out a tiny bit and sort of get it nice into course, platform, and so on and so forth, and have the supporting potentially group classes or maybe even individual sessions as well for people who want to check in that way. So that’s the next thing I’m looking into then also, specifically Mental Health First Aid specifically for the performing arts. So that’s something I’m constantly tweaking and redeveloping, and so on, and so forth. Because there are courses for Mental Health First Aid out there. But what I do is obviously always very specific to the creative industries and performing arts. So that’s the next that’s on the menu on top of, yeah, working at university and doing my one on one work as well, obviously, so that doesn’t fall by the wayside.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:12:02
As well as being a mother to children. Yes, you have to drive. Not very well, but takes forever.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:12:13
That’s not really the problem. It’s just the traffic.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:12:17
Is it takes forever. It’s not. It’s not the distance. It’s the traffic. Yeah. And finishing up. I know that was my evil last, then. We need to hear your duck and witches noises that I believe are legendary. And we’re gonna finish on those. So what about? So April? Yeah, well, you for my next Halloween party.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:13:02
That was actually a fun finish to it.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:13:04
And what about the dunk? Or? Oh,
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:13:10
I like the witch Benjamin.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:13:12
Yeah, that’s more traumatic. So in what context? Do you use those?
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:13:17
I sometimes use them actually sort of like to just get singers into a write set up sort of like, especially when they sort of have more of a classical background of you know what I mean to get them out of the slightly movie. It’s not always you get
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:13:36
they look at you like you’re a weirdo.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:13:39
Sometimes, yeah, but that’s part of you. So I’m quite comfortable with that. There’s no problem.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:13:46
Well, why? I can’t Why can’t do that, but I can do? No, I can’t. I’m not unformed. Tonight, I’ve led the team down. Okay, I would throw those sounds. I’ll do the most good day. I’m pretty good. You’re too kind. All right. Well, look, thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you for all that information. That was brilliant. for having me. You know, I’m sure everybody is going to get so much out of that. We’re so lucky to have you here. And I wish you all the very best in the future and keep making those weird noise.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:14:31
Definitely won’t stop anytime soon.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:14:33
I could listen to that accent all day as well. I love it. I could just hear that little bit of the Scottish coming through.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:14:42
Oh, I know. I’m working on that. Or I’ve been assimilated, I’ll say like to say
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:14:48
yes. And if people want to hear more of that watch out glammed up.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:14:53
Yeah, yeah. See, I still haven’t watched it. I haven’t watched Outlander
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:15:00
Jamie, you have to meet Jamie. Okay, news. You know what I mean when you meet Jamie. But anyway, that’s enough. I’ll catch you. I’ll just keep talking. But have a great rest of your day. Good luck to everything that you’re doing. It’s been an absolute pleasure. And I’m sure that we’ll catch up again sometime soon. Perfect.
Petra Raspel Borzinski 1:15:23
Thanks so much.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:15:24
Hi. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of a voice and beyond. I hope you enjoyed it as now is an important time for you to invest in your own self care, personal growth, and education. Use every day as an opportunity to learn and to grow, so you can show up feeling empowered and ready to live your best life. If you know someone who will also be inspired by this episode, please be sure to copy and paste the link and share it with them. Or share it on social media and use the hashtag a voice and beyond. I promise you I am committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one every week. And if you would like to help me please rate and review this podcast and cheer me on by clicking the subscribe button on Apple podcast right now. I would also love to know what it is that you most enjoyed about this episode and what was your biggest takeaway? Please take care and I look forward to your company next time on the next episode of a voice and beyond.