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The Power of Silence

If you know me, you’re probably thinking that I’ve completely gone off my rocker to write a blog about silence.  I am one of the most verbal people ever.  First of all, I’m a Gemini, who by nature are verbal; second, historically, I’ve processed everything verbally, out loud, with words.  I also read a lot, so words  make my clients hurt, and being able to label something that has been buried can be extremely freeing.

So what is this about silence?

What I’ve started to question about myself is why I need to fill the empty space with words, with sound.  When my mind is continually moving and processing so that I always have a response ready, I think in the past it helped me to feel as if I was in control, that I was competent, that I was adequate.

But what happens when I slow that down, shut it off, and create space just for the other person?  Do they think that I don’t know what I’m talking about?  That I don’t have the answers?

Actually, no.

When I get rid of the internal noise in my head, when I make space to actually listen to the other person, and to let there be rests, just as there are in music, our thoughts, our bodies, our emotions can actually breathe.  And when someone who hasn’t been given the opportunity to really talk, or express how he or she feels, if you just leave a space of silence, then they take the lead and fill it, and then comes the clarity, the epiphanies, the freedom.

Yes, sometimes you feel uncomfortable with silence.  I believe that our society has unfortunately moved away from that silent space through constant information, busyness, action, noise.  It used to be that people were content to sit in silence because they didn’t have a gajillion sources for noise.  And now we think that’s necessary because we’ve become inundated and accustomed to constant sound and information.  The problem is that we don’t make many choices about whether or not the noise is good or nurturing for us; it’s just there.  So by default we’re uncomfortable without noise just because it’s been embedded into our culture, it’s always been there.

What happens when we turn it off?

Well, there’s that initial discomfort.  We are so tied into doing – our worth is based on what we do.  Not what we are.  Not who we are.  And yet what someone says or does isn’t always an indication of who they are.

And many of us are always doing to avoid thinking about things to which we have no solution, no answer, no fix.   The problem with that is that the answer, the immediate solution, is usually just a fantasy.  Life is not absolute, it is not either/or, and our relationship problems, job issues, personal problems, are never solved in one action.  They are all about process, and are ever changing, as we learn and grow. In addition to that, we never really know what other people are thinking or feeling.  We only know what they tell us, or what we perceive based on their body language, tone of voice, or language. And this is so very easy to misinterpret.

The discomfort that comes with not having an answer is most likely based on what we think others will think of us, that they might see us as weak, or incompetent, or inadequate.  No one wants to feel that way. But allowing someone else who doesn’t live our lives, who doesn’t experience the benefits or consequences of our choices, to determine our self-worth or value is a game we can never win.

So back to silence.  I challenge you to notice when you try to fill your and someone else’s  space with noise.  And by noise, I mean just reactive responses, generated by the conversation you’re having with yourself in your head.  If you can notice it, then you can make a choice, you can decide whether or not you want to do it.  And if you decide to be silent, either by yourself, or when with someone, just observe how it feels.  It doesn’t have to feel any particular way.  Just noticing gives you insight that you didn’t have before.  Then breathe.  Chill.  And you might actually learn to feel a sense of release and power that you never felt before.

Julie Bristol
Counselor

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