“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” – Francis Bacon
At ten years old, I longed for silence. My house was fairly loud and chaotic — a revolving door of visiting family and friends along with a blend of different languages streaming in the background. You could find me holed up in a bedroom with my nose in a book at any time. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t escape the background noise. It was a constant.
At twenty years old, the noise stopped. No one came to the house anymore. It was the calm I dreamed of as a young girl — yet it was unsettling. I craved the chaos. I dreaded being alone. The silence was the worst torture I could experience. So I found friends that despised the quiet as much as I did, and together we avoided it like the plague, watching movies until the wee hours of the night.
At twenty-five, I was living in the wilderness, sandwiched between maple trees, with only black bears as my neighbors. I could go days without seeing another living soul (other than my husband that is). It was fine at first, but soon those old feelings crept back up and for the first time, I was forced to think a little about my relationship with silence. How it was something I longed for as a child, but grew to despise as an adult.
Navigating a Complicated Relationship with Silence
Psychology 101 will tell you this is no accident. This fear of silence is directly correlated to the fact I grew up in a chaotic environment. Being aware of this is good, healthy even, but it didn’t change the fact I still dreaded it.
It was at thirty that I admitted there was a problem. Here’s why:
- If I couldn’t be alone for more than a few hours, how could I ever really get to know myself? Who am I without the noise of others opinions and beliefs?
- How could I ever learn to listen to that inner voice — the intuition — that knows what’s best for me?
- How would I survive aging? It’s inevitable that at some point as we age, a large portion of us will be alone again.
There are so many reasons why silence is important at times!
I’ve promised myself over the years, to be conscious of my distaste for silence. I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone, ensuring that I have more time alone even when I don’t want it. And someday, I hope to take solo trips to recharge — to catch up on writing, maybe. I’m not in a season of my life where I can do that easily, but one day it will come.
Not everyone has the same relationship with silence. Some of you are probably okay going camping for five days in the wilderness alone, but there are many others who don’t like it at all.
For those who, like me, dread silence, I urge you to think a bit about your relationship with it. Think about why you don’t like it — what it is about the experience that causes discomfort? Then, over time, take some baby steps to overcome the fear. There are positives that come out of silence that cannot be achieved in any other state. That’s why, as we all know, meditation is so popular!
The more time you spend in silence, the more you will get to know yourself. And that’s never a bad thing.
What are your thoughts on silence?
Do you spend much time alone? Do you think it’s important?