I don’t cope with silences very well, especially if I also sense a bad atmosphere, which I’m very adept at picking up on body language, facial expressions, tone of voice and - silence!
So, I have had to learn to allow that space for others to share their feelings and thoughts.
It goes back to my childhood.
You see as a child I needed to be able to sense what kind of mood of either of my parents. If I spoke at the wrong time, it could end up with me being in the wrong, and I never knew at what point this could happen. I felt I was like living on a knife-edge, most of the time.
I knew to keep out of the way when I saw the muscles in my father’s jaw twitching. (you know when we bite down on our teeth.) But he would continually do it when he was not in a good mood As I saw it pulsing I would start feeling anxious. He would also go quiet at these times too. I realise now he was trying to suppress his anger. But as a child, I had no idea, just that he was in a bad mood and unapproachable. I didn't even know what I was fearful of. Although my mother often told me to keep away from my father.
My mother would also give me the silent treatment. I would ask her why she wasn’t talking to me, to which she refused to answer After several pleadings, I would ask what I had done wrong, to which she replied ‘ If you don’t know, I’m not telling you’. I would wrack my brain as to what I had done wrong but had no idea. I would then tell her I was sorry - still not knowing what I had allegedly done wrong, to which she would reply 'It's too late to be sorry now'. This would go on for days, sometimes weeks. I never did find out what I had done, - if anything. Or why she abused me in that way.
I can still recall those images of me sobbing at my mother's feet begging her to talk to me.
As a child, you can imagine I spent a lot of my time walking on eggshells, and those silences from either parent caused me a great deal of anxiety.
There are still times when those feelings come back to me, and whilst I have learned to listen to my body when those feelings erupt, I can generally use coping mechanisms to deal with the situation. But there are rare occasions when the situation overwhelms me, and I feel all of those sensations I did as that child. At those times I know I need to take myself out of the situation and take really good care of myself.
Those early childhood events were traumatic to me and the effects followed me into adulthood. Especially where my mother was concerned. I would feel anxious around her, at times shaking from head to foot. This continued until she died when I was fifty years old.
Traumatic events don't have to be huge incidents, such as being in a war zone.
Bullying, being hospitalised, major surgery, sexual, physical, emotional abuse, the death of someone close to you, parents divorcing, your own divorce………….the list is never-ending.
The magnitude of the event isn’t the issue, it’s the effect it has on the person who experienced it, and you definitely can’t compare your response to anyone else’s, which is what many people do. Or they brush those feelings aside because they feel those events happened so long ago. However much you feel you have put those ghosts to bed, they may continue to affect you at times.
A word, a colour, a face, a smell can trigger those emotions you felt way back when.
We can’t change the past, it happened. But we can learn to become more resilient so that we can support ourselves, especially at those times.
Fortunately, I have learned how to become resilient, so I can deal with those silences.
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