Sometimes silence is golden and often I experience it is also humming with life, energy, vibration and beauty. Within the silence a lot can be going on at a deeper level, at least that is the way I experience silence when I sit with my body and just direct my attention inwards towards the life energy within it. It is a pulsing landscape of all kinds of strange and shifting sensations. At times these sensations are not always comfortable for me. Having gone through a lot of body trauma in my life I have been left with imprints in the cells which become apparent to me in the silence. It takes patience and courage at times to rest quietly with these painful sensations.
I was listening to a radio programme on chronic pain recently in which a lady was interviewed who had suffered a fairly serious fall from a horse many years ago. She lived with chronic pain, the kind that makes its presence felt in the silence and at night most especially. The way to cope with this kind of pain when it became overwhelming for her was to find a form of distraction from it. There is a value in this. There is the time we need to escape from the silence and move towards a place of forgetting of the self and deep pain through shifting the focus on self and being with others, shifting the focus from an inner pain that may cause us to spiral down into depression which becomes stronger if we remain isolated and cut off within our pain.
The truth is that sometimes others can be a source of comfort. at times others can be a source of pain. I was always a bit dubious about the distraction method, before I came to suffer from chronic pain myself. I thought it might be for people who were not too comfortable inside their own skin, who found it too painful to face aloneness and the deep truths that such aloneness can bring. Part of me still believes that in order to know ourselves it is important to be able to spend time alone and that in this alone time silence can be nourishing, another part of me knows that a huge part of the joy of living is about being in relationship and that my own wound in relationship sometimes led me to seek isolation and silence too much, but I still feel it was a necessary retreat. Time alone helps me reconnect with myself. Its all about balance.
Being human and vulnerable means that we need others and perhaps one of the most necessary balances in life is that of time spent being with self and time spent being with others. Some of us are more introverted, we are nourished by time alone, others of us are more extroverted, nourished by contact and activity, sometimes we are on different levels of this bi polar spectrum. The balance between time alone and time in connection is important and this balance can be problematic or precarious for those of us who may have experienced damage in relationships when we were growing up.
Time alone or in silence in that later circumstance becomes a refuge from pain (though it must be pointed out, such a refuge may have been necessary for self protection) but it may even become what one therapist, Neville Symington calls, the narcissistic solution, if we are more intent on denying our trauma and remaining trapped in a dead end solution.
I’ve been questioning myself and my own life most deeply over the past few days while reading Neville Symington’s book Narcissism : A New Theory, most especially my own retreat into introversion and silence around the time I began to enter my own psychological recovery from addiction. Facing my own need to check out through substances meant facing pain of the past I had tried to bury. It led to the ending of one and then two relationships.
I have questioned lately how narcissistic was my own need to retreat, but then I remember that in the second relationship I was dealing with someone who was averse to really looking inside to their own painful history and so looked askance upon my need to do so and one of the hallmark symptoms of narcissism is a complex aversion to looking within the self to take responsibility. We both had narcissistic issues, that much is apparent to me now.
Over the past few months I had some battles with family members over issues from the past. Venus planet of love and relationships turned retrograde around the time I had a huge confrontation with two family members. What I learned from this encounter was how much of my own feelings I learned to bury and how much difficulty I have caused by not being truthful and willing to face conflicts and hurt feelings head on by facing them in a mature way. I cant really blame myself for this, for like many people I was conditioned to be a people pleaser and not really emotionally aware or intelligent until fairly recently. Carrying around a hurting inner child forced into silence has not been comfortable for me or my body. Taking responsibility for helping her to express herself more maturely is part of my healing.
Today I read the following quote in the book mentioned earlier :
Narcissism protects me from feeling a child. even from being a child, but no part of my history is ever cancelled out. It is all within me, my foetal stage, my infancy, my childhood, my adolescence, my early adulthood…..Narcissism is the quick fix. I believe I am an adult; I believe I am mature….In the narcissistic situation, all that is unpleasant to my self image, I can ditch…. I can get rid of my infantile self by pushing it somewhere – into my body, into another part of my mind, or into others…( I retreat into)… a cover.
In healing the comfort of the cover has to be sacrificed and the encounter with the true child within has to be made, which means, according to Symington that we embrace the creativity and sense of self at the heart of our situation which may have been too painful to face. We learn to take responsibility on some level for the act of our own expression and becoming as authentic individual and human being, rather than just seeking to gain others approval or replicate their ideas. We own our scars and wounds and don’t push them away or project past pain, through feeling them make sense of them in a new way and explore their lessons and gifts.
Comfortable within the silence of ourselves (often filled with memories and voices) we find not a place of burial and deadness but a place of aliveness full of creative possibility and becoming, of unfolding. When we hear within the silence as a response to this creativity the remorseless voice of our inner critic, saboteur or assassin we listen but we speak up to and answer it back with our own true word of love, love for self, love for humanity and love for life and others which urges us not to allow this voice to put to death what needs to be born, expressed and lived.
Today I spent day at home. I had a time with the silence and this blog is the outcome. I forgot an appointment and was then disappointed at myself. I had a bit of a PTSD spiral down into a battle with my body after a morning of sitting quietly with myself and my dog Jasper while doing mindfulness meditation, just being with the sensations in silence. At times I heard the voice of my inner critic trying to lay my entire journey and life hopelessness and waste. I express some of this here to blow my cover. I then read more of Symington’s book and found myself and my journey within its pages.
I think of silence as I write this, expressing within the silence some of my intimations and thoughts. I watch evening unfold as dusk grows the darkness outside my window here after a day of interiority and rain. I feel both the sadness of being alone and the nourishing quality of alone time too, knowing something essential has grown out of those times spent coming to know myself in silence.