Fear and need of Silence
By Gabriele Kaier, 22.12.2016, Approx. 8 min reading time.
Our relation to silence is ambivalent. We desire it and we fear it. Silence is for most of us hard. It has something menacing, it can evoke a feeling of inner emptiness and loneliness and something that we find completely unbearable: boredom. Therefore, we need distractions; Internet, TV and Social Media, which provide us with a confirmation or existence and a feeling of elusive safety. However, in silence there is a huge potential. But how can we reach the state of silence, without opposing our nature and what effect has silence on us?
Why don’t we stop struggling against the constant stream of sounds, get out from the rush and pressure of modern life and allow ourselves more silence? Because our relation to silence is ambivalent. We desire it and we fear it. And silence is for most of us hard. It has something menacing, it can evoke a feeling of inner emptiness and loneliness and something that we find completely unbearable: boredom.
Therefore, we need distractions; Internet, TV and Social Media, which provide us with a confirmation or existence and a feeling of elusive safety. However, in silence there is a huge potential. But how can we reach the state of silence, without opposing our nature and what effect has silence on us?
What is silence?
True silence is impossible, whether in the center of a city or deep in a forest, sounds around us make it apparent that silence is impossible. Silence is the absence of intentional sound, such as TV or music, conversations, the noise of other objects.
The constant accessibility and the permanent exposure to these background noises has led to fear of silence. Studies showed, that young children need noise and struggle in the presence of silence.
This is a learned behavior, and not only due to social media which are available 24 hours a day. Many of these young people have already grew up with the TV always on, even if no one was actively watching. If background noise has always been there, we feel uncomfortable when it’s taken away.
But not only young people have difficulties with silence.
Padre Anselm Grün says: “In silence, the essence of things come to light. And therefore, so many people are afraid of silence, because they are scared of the inner truth and the feelings of guilt. They are scared that the “unlived” life could eventually come to light.
If we have no TV, radio or Internet, if it is dark and quiet, for example when we are on holidays, many of us feel uncomfortable and maybe cannot even sleep. If we find ourselves in difficult times of self-doubt, nervousness or fear, we need the distraction of the media to carry us away from the negative feelings we experience.
But if we realize that distractions only aggravate our difficulties, then periods of silence can help us.
The English writer Sara Maitland writes in her book “A Book of Silence” not only about her own life on islands, in monasteries and in the mountains, she also reports about other peoples’ experiences with silence. She writes that silence has the greatest impact and the most immediate effect on physical perception. Everything sounds, smells and tastes more intense. Silence creates freedom of choice, inner clarity and strength. Freedom of ourselves and freedom to be ourselves.
Mediator George Hofmann writes, if the fear of silence is a learned behavior, we can also “unlearn” it. And that’s something we can achieve through meditation and focused attention.
To develop focused attention, we have to deal with the experience of silence.
A short guide to silence
Turn everything off, go to a quiet place and sit down for a few minutes. Notice and accept your environment, experience the moment and accept what is happening around you.
Hofmann recommends to start with very short periods of silence to get used to it. Turn off the TV when you are not watching TV. Drive in the car without turning the radio on. Walk with the dog without an iPod or phone. You will immediately feel the benefits of silence.
- Take one hour of silence daily
- Take the time to listen. Be aware of sounds around you – inside and outside of the room.
- Listen to your breath – take deep, long breaths to release tension.
- Beginners should avoid a lengthy period of silence without spiritual or psychotherapeutic guidance. At the beginning, a few minutes per day are enough.
Rituals for silence
Take a lunchbreak
We often make our breaks unconscious and don’t use them for a real time off. Take some time and enter into a state of silence. Have a look back, what happened in the morning, but let the feelings, situations and thoughts pass without giving them any attention.
The silence of a new day
In the morning, open a window and breathe deeply. Feel the still unbroken silence and purity of the new day.
The silence between activities
When you have finished an activity such as cleaning up, do not go immediately to the next one. Take a moment, breathing in and out three times. At the third breath, welcome the upcoming new task with a smile.
The silence of the snow
In winter, when everything is snowy, go out. Feel the silence of the snow: it dampens your step, the echo, the sounds of the forest. Feel the peace that comes from it.
Light a candle
When you are upset, sit down in silence and light a candle. Feel the calmness that emanates from the flame, keep all your feelings and thoughts in its fire, and let them burn in the flame of the candle.
Everything is allowed, as it is
If, after a hard day, you feel as if you are running against walls or you feel that you can not do anything anymore, take a moment and rest. Allow situations to be exactly as they are. Let go of your efforts, accept everything as it is, and do not judge. In this way you can create a calmness that allows you to deal with everything more relaxed.
Modern life is becoming increasingly louder. If we learn to spend time in silence it will have an effect on our mental wellbeing and physical health.
Only 2 days until Christmas, leave the noise and the hustle and bustle of everyday life behind and give silence a chance. So, turn off the noise and listen to yourself.
TimeTac wishes you and your family a silent and peaceful Christmas time!