Silence can be come in many forms and mean a lot of things. Years ago it used to mean my kids were up to something they shouldn’t be (imagine crayons on walls or flour all over the floor as the five-year-old tries to make pancakes, etc). Now, sometimes it’s a chance for me to intently focus on a project or it gives me a chance to be introspective and sit quietly in the space around myself and contemplate my navel.
But, there are times it is used as a tool, for better and worse. Yes, I’m talking about the “silent treatment”, something I’m guilty of doing on occasion. Why? Well for me it’s usually one of the following reasons:
- Because I feel hurt and need to withdraw out of fear of being hurt again, words can be painful and I am sensitive to them, perhaps more so than others.
- To prevent myself from saying something painful to someone so I don’t make a situation worse by hurting another with my own words. My dad used to say that I was at my most dangerous when I opened my mouth in anger, something I now understand to be true.
- To hurt someone on purpose. Yes, I have done this sometimes. It’s juvenile and petty but sometimes my inner 8-year-old comes out and I just want to make sure they know I’m angry. Of course this option really mainly hurts myself as the saying goes, “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” It’s something I have worked diligently to diminish as a coping mechanism and I suppose because it was such a default for so long it will be an ongoing battle for me.
- Sometimes though it’s to push people away because I’m depressed. This is called “isolating” and is very common among those with mental illnesses. It’s because I just don’t want to have to deal with the real world which can be exhausting so I retreat into silence and solitude. This is not always healthy although occasionally it can be necessary to recharge.
So why is a silent response so common? Sometimes it’s easier to shut out a situation rather than being honest with others, something that requires me to open myself up to criticism and injury. Even though I may be hopeful that my feelings and thoughts will be accepted the reality is sometimes they aren’t and other times they are misinterpreted. Sometimes it’s just easier to avoid possible conflict or injury and silence is an easy way to do that.
However the reality is that I, and others like me, need to learn to push through the urge for silence and be willing to expose our hearts to those around us. In my opinion, that is truly the way to acceptance. So how do we do that? By speaking up when we are hurt or by sharing that we are feeling like saying hurtful words and need to walk away. Other times it’s by reaching out and letting someone know that we are beginning to shut out the world and perhaps just need a guiding hand or a hug to help us move through that space to get back to a healthy space in our lives.
Share your soul. Share your pain. Share your joy. All of you. Just give it a chance. Those who truly care about you will accept you as you are. Perhaps they will not accept your behavior (and they don’t have to in order to care for you) but they will likely reassure you that they are still there for you when you are able to interact in a healthy way. This might be all you need to return to a healthy space of loving kindness, for both yourself and those around you.