The Affliction of Silence

There is a time when the practice of silence can be rejuvenating and positive. It’s purposeful and meditative. Practicing times of silence helps us to re-center and align our priorities once again.

However, for the majority of people experiencing silence it’s the antithesis of the above.  Silence becomes an affliction.  Its revolting, isolating, and excruciating at times. And like one song says, “silence like a cancer grows.”

When a person no longer feels safe to speak their needs, share their emotion, or reach to a significant other they are experiencing the affliction of silence. Human connection is imperative to healthy quality to life.

Is human connection really imperative?

Secure relationships are important at all phases of life. You can read studies of children in orphanages who fail to thrive due to lack of human connection. (See work by John Bowlby and Renee Spitz, who observed children orphaned in World War II).  And guess what, our need for connection never goes away. There’s no magical age in which humans no longer need a secure attachment. Certainly there is a period of significant impact when bonding and attachment are key (infancy). And sure, lots of adults go on with crummy bonds, but my question would be “to what degree of satisfaction?”

In fact, I’d like to suggest that this silence, which places people in a state of isolation is a driving factor for other mental health difficulties such as suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, self-harm, substance abuse, just to name a few among the array of possibilities.  So, could it be possible that we could lessen the impact of these mental distresses by improving relationships?

When thoughts become ingrained beliefs

When a person begins to believe statements like the following they shut down.

“I’m too emotional”

“They can’t handle me.”

“I’m too much.”

“I can’t handle how they treat me when I open up.”

“Their reaction is not safe”

“They don’t really care about me”

“I have to appear strong”

“I’m not allowed to have these feelings”

“I shouldn’t have these feelings.”

Unfortunately, when these negative thoughts begin to become a worldview, a way of expecting all people to be with you, self-fulfilling prophecies perpetuate these beliefs. Over and over again people prove to themselves the above statements in their relationships with others. The deeper these beliefs become ingrained the more hopeless and isolated one becomes.

The Sound of Silence

There’s a song, “The Sound of Silence” by Disturbed, that resonates with me regarding this topic. I think I’ve listened to it probably 100 times in the last week. It’s one of those that you keep thinking about the meaning. There’s nothing dainty about this song. It reverberates within. It’s emotionally evocative. Here’s the lyrics, and you just might get addicted to listening to it too.  The Sound of Silence by Disturbed

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left it’s seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains within the sound of silence
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed
By the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening

People writing songs
That voices never share
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence
“Fools” said I, “you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out it’s warning
And the words that it was forming
And the sign said
“The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sound of silence

For me, human connection is the answer.  Like the song suggests: “Fools” said I, “you do not know, silence like a cancer grows, hear my words that I might teach you,take my arms that I might reach you.”  In this statement I hear the songwriter beckoning to make connection.  Unfortunately his reach “like silent raindrops fell.”

Building meaningful, significant connections with others is the antidote to excruciating silence. When you experience safety and belonging in a loving relationship there is no more space for isolation. In a healthy relationship you have a safe person with whom you can go out into the world from and return back to. You develop a place of interdependence in which your personal needs are met and your ability to feel good about yourself and the world you live in increases.  And the focus isn’t on you alone.  In a safe relationship you become equipped to reciprocate the fulfillment of attachment needs in your beloved other.

To find out more on developing loving, bonded, secure relationships contact me via the contact form here or email me at:

About Heather Smith, LPC

Heather Smith, LPC offers marriage counseling and couples counseling, as well as treatment for Trauma, Depression, and Anxiety in Alexandria, VA. Heather’s passion for counseling comes out in her avid pursuit of continuing education and specialty training. Heather actively trains in the model of Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT) and has substantial specialized training in psychological trauma to include completing her Certificate in Level 1 Trauma Training from the Institute for Advanced Psychotherapy Training and Education.

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