Silence can be a distinct message delivered without words. Exploring the truth beneath it paves the path to emotional freedom and healing
Is silence really golden? Unless you are in deep meditation or prayer, there actually isn’t anything silent about silence. I’m talking about silence amongst people and the silencing of ourselves. Amidst that quiet lies regret and the sting of things both said and unsaid — tethered to all the reasons beneath them that weave deeply throughout our life stories — and the invisible threads that connect us.
Perhaps like me as a child you heard things like: If you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s best to say nothing at all. Seriously? Who came up with that one? That one statement alone surely paved the path to many a therapist’s couch.
Life is messy. Feelings are complicated. And sometimes those things intertwine and create chaos. But even they come bearing gifts, the fruit of spiritual growth — even if wrought with growing pains. It made me think of a line I wrote to a friend when she was going through a difficult time, Infidelity is a gift wrapped in a ribbon of thorns.
We can’t truly navigate life without being triggered — like it or not, it’s part of the process. If we don’t respond to the calling of our inner selves asking — What nerve is this hitting and why? What do I need to acknowledge? — we can’t heal the stuff we’ve been lugging around for a lifetime; our old wounds. And BTW: the more you ignore, the longer you haul the load around — and the more it conspires to wiggle its way out unexpectedly.
Denial in fact, is a powerful form of self-abuse.
When we deny our feelings, when we stuff them down because they are not pretty or kind, when we pretend they are not there and carry on business as usual because it’s easier — we work against ourselves. It’s like refusing to give up on thrusting a square peg into a round hole. Push. Push. Push. It’s still not going to fit.
When we play nice because the alternative makes others uncomfortable, we sacrifice what is true to us.
Worse yet, it’s a slap in the face to our intuitive selves. We also entrench ourselves in painful patterns of limited thinking there to be played out for years to come. It permeates other aspects of our lives as well: our relationships and joie de vivre…our belief in what we are capable of doing and bringing forth in the world. Nothing truly escapes unscathed.
No, silence is not the answer and it delivers a distinct message. Playing ‘nice’ and doing the ‘right’ thing according to someone else’s mandate will eventually catch up with you. While you may keep the peace and be able to play along for a certain amount of time — when we do things for the wrong reasons, it ultimately serves no one. Eventually, truth rises and can emerge within a sea of ugliness.
Now hear me out on this one: there’s a lot of space between silence and letting it rip. And ‘getting it out’ doesn’t need to translate to insensitivity, rudeness or an explosive tirade (though I’ll warn you, that’s precisely where you are headed if you do keep it all bottled up inside). Keep in mind that the clean-up required after such a scenario feels like you’ve been hit with a double whammy.
So, what’s your mode of response when the emotional heat is on? Pick your poison; are you one who retreats and seethes in silence or do you let it rip and drown in a puddle of remorse in the aftermath? Maybe like me, you dance between them both.
When triggered, I can lash out in anger — and we know that anger is often the guise of fear (fear of seeing what is true). But I can also retreat in silence, hole up and hold tight to whatever is bugging me. And needless to say, none of this is quite productive or healing. A time-out is often what the wound requires. Of course, the key is to rest there, not take up residency.
Ultimately, the much kinder, gentler and self-loving thing to do is to acquire tools to both honor and nurture those feelings — and sprinkle on some wisdom so that you can try to avoid the blow up. When we can catch ourselves as we first feel emotions welling up…we can reroute and take a new path.
There is a big distinction between retreating in avoidance and retreating in resolve.
I succumbed to what felt like the ‘wrong’ path recently and it actually stings even as I write this, which is precisely why I’m going to share it. I got triggered. I reacted and it made everything so much harder. Communication went awry. Words and tone were misconstrued. Feelings were hurt. Wounds were created. Camps divided. Caverns of self-righteousness emerged.
It’s not that I have it all wrapped up in a pretty conclusion of words of wisdom. But I do know two things: I am not alone in this human experience and the evolution of our souls can be extremely uncomfortable — especially when all signs are pointing to letting go of something or someone.
No one really likes conflict. No one wants to see the mess that emerges. Some even avoid sharing their truth to avoid the potential messiness of fallout. I like to believe that I’m a solid communicator, that I can express my feelings, defend my wounds, express myself compassionately and that everything is ‘figureoutable’ (a nod to Marie Forleo for this awesome term). But sometimes I don’t get it right (or anywhere close). Sometimes the emotions take control. And sometimes even getting it ‘wrong’ can truly be right.
We all believe in our hearts that when push comes to shove, we’ll do the ‘right’ thing. We’ll take the high road, we’ll stand up for what we believe — we’ll mean what we say and say what we mean, right? But we don’t always. Instead, we harbor feelings so others can feel better and we can escape conflict. But at what cost?
And in terms of this notion of doing the ‘right’ thing — the ‘right’ thing is actually whatever goes down…regardless of if it brings forth the good, bad or ugly. It all happens for a reason — we are usually ready to see the truth — and that truth often knows that it’s time to release despite our emotional attachments. And it may be a message that makes you cringe or feel afraid. It may pull on your heartstrings or make you feel sentimental, but that’s not a good enough reason to stay or hold on. It may be a call to action, to act boldly. It may call forth a beginning or an ending of a relationship, a job or a path. It may shake you to the core and leave you feeling like you are in mourning — but there is no turning back when we cross the threshold of these events.
Silence, like words, can cut like a knife and leave its own scar…because inaction is action.
Evolution is about growth and sometimes we outgrow people, places and things that once meant a great deal to us. That hurts, I know. However, ignoring the call of the soul that tells you this is no longer working, that you can no longer not see it, is a call that must be heeded.
I’m experiencing it right now and trying to breathe into trust. As I traverse these tricky waters of my soul growth, I repeat something daily that a friend shared with me recently, a beautiful Hawaiian prayer for forgiveness and reconciliation: Ho’oponopono
- I’m sorry
- Forgive me
- I love you
- Thank you
The direct translation of this Hawaiian word to English is correction. As with forgiveness, it’s not only something we give to others. Correction is also for self, I’m sorry I abandoned you. I’m sorry I haven’t been listening. I’m sorry I ignored your call.
And with no attachment to outcome, I’m repeating this daily because it settles my nervous system, calls forth love to replace anger — and reminds me that everything is happening to serve my highest good. When we can see through the clouds of our emotional pain, we can sit in stillness and witness the emergence of what is truth to us. We exhale. We can see clearly and we can trust. Silent no longer.
As always I love hearing how this resonates with you. Where are you silent and where do you need to show up? Are you silencing a truth that needs to come forth? Please let me know in the comments below.