I believe that in our interactions with others, we often don’t value the power, and necessity, of silence.
In my youth, and even in young adulthood, I was terrified of silence. Refusing to allow silence in my interactions with others meant that I would never have to face the contents of that silence — feelings of fear, anger, and depression. People used to refer to me as “the guy that’s always smiling”, but my smiles were merely makeup hiding an emotional mess which lay beneath.
During a time of psychological desperation in my 20’s, a caring friend suggested to me that psychotherapy might be worth a try. My psychotherapist, acting from years of experience and with emotional expertise, helped me to confront the emotional distress I was hiding from view. Eventually, after many sessions and the shedding of many tears, I became silent. I was able to be silent in the presence of another person for the first time. From that point forward, silence has been a central aspect of my life, and I recognise it to be one of the most important components of healthy relationships.
A popular and commonly used phrase is “I was just making conversation”, and some of us do that a lot — chatting without any real depth or purpose. Speaking out loud is not really necessary a lot of the time if we are sensitive to other people’s feelings. I believe that we would all be much healthier psychologically, and therefore happier, if we shifted our focus to emotions rather than words, and learned to be comfortable with exploring the silence in between our words, and the emotions which may be present in the silence.
Often we store up emotions in our bodies as a defence mechanism which is used in order to cope with emotional or physical distress. We use phrases such as “I need to get it off my chest” because we recognise that sometimes there are emotions trapped in our bodies that need to find expression and release. Being silent in the presence of an emotionally mature person can help us explore these emotions, which are easily hidden in casual conversation and the chaos of everyday life.
You may like to ask yourself this question: Am I as comfortable being in silence when I am around other people as when I am alone? If not, why not? What am I afraid will happen in the silence?
Just imagine, for a second, being around your friends and family, and everyone sitting together in silence for an hour. I wonder what insights and lessons would be learned during that time.
Silence can be a beautiful and liberating thing. We can only really be ‘with’ someone if we can be silent with them. True silence never gets boring. It is fullness rather than emptiness. You only truly understand who a person is, and connect with them properly, when you have had the experience of being with them in silence.