By Christie Melhorn, June 21 2017 —
Most of us have experienced awkward silence — those painful pauses in conversations where you endlessly untangle words in your head without actually saying anything. But there are also enjoyable moments of silence when time loses relevance and your surroundings seem to melt away.
In the bustle of urban life, pleasureable silence is so rare that we don’t often notice it. Between the incessant buzz of traffic, music blasting from every street corner and the ding of texts, we are constantly bombarded by sound. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it can be overwhelming and can drown out our inner voice. Sometimes, we need silence in order to hear ourselves more clearly.
Being accustomed to distracting environments conditions us to be uncomfortable with silence. Without realizing it, we are often afraid to let our subconscious speak and admit that we’re terrified of failing a big exam or being ghosted after a date. Listening to our deeper fears and desires helps us confront them, but it’s easy to crank up the radio or turn on the TV to cancel it out. As unsettling as that voice can be, it can help you recognize emotional barriers preventing you from reaching your potential.
However, acoustic distractions aren’t always external. Sometimes our self-criticizing ego bounces negative comments through our head. As cliché as it may sound, the “you’re not good enough” messages that accost us from almost every magazine or billboard advertisement also carry a lot of power.
It’s possible to catch this damaging voice and stop it from controlling you. While I’m no expert at this, moments of silence and solitude can reveal how both critical and compassionate thoughts can affect your daily life. Writing down or verbalizing your thought process as it unravels is a great way to release these emotions. And a heightened awareness of your inner-discourse can help you work through underlying negative comments when they pop up, preventing them from dictating your everyday choices.
Also, silence does not always involve intense emotional confrontations with yourself. It can engage both the scary and positive things hanging out in your subconscious. Sometimes, silence presents the chance to explore your creative side. For example, I’ve spent many long, silent drives revisiting my childhood and coming up with a storyline for the memoir I’m working on.
In the rushed rhythm of our daily lives, it’s difficult to enter a physical and mental space empty of distractions. While not all of us can go to the country for a weekend of peace, even 10 minutes of silent meditation before bed can relax your mind. On your way to school, give your ears a break from your headphones or the radio to let your mind wander. You may rediscover a part of yourself itching to stretch and explore.