What's so healing about silence?
Why is Silence a Recommended Trauma Healing Tool?
In 2017 I read several books I'd recommend. One of my "Top 5" is "Silence in the Age of Noise" by Erling Kagge. Kagge is an explorer in the true sense of the word, and he is also the first person to reach the South Pole alone. Kagge spent fifty days walking solo across Antarctica accompanied only by a radio whose batteries he had removed before beginning his journey. "Silence in the Age of Noise" isn't as much about silence as it as about what silence has to offer. Silence, it turns out, has much to offer. One of the things it offers is an opportunity for healing. But how?
Throughout history and in a variety of religions, people have sought healing, transformation, enlightenment, and even God by turning to silence. Christian history is filled with stories of men and women enduring life alone and in silence in order to discover their "true selves" and in order to become closer to God. But why silence?
Erling Kagge's book on silence offers a variety of insights, and one of them draws upon the new brain science that is so influential in the field of healing trauma: dopamine loops.
Dopamine loops are complex systems of neuropathways in the brain that drive a person's thoughts, feelings, and behavior, causing someone to do something over and over again, even when the behavior is causing them problems. For example a soldier, home from war, who seeks shelter immediately (say, by diving underneath a table at a restaurant) whenever he hears the sound of ice tinkling in a glass of water. IEDs on the battlefield made that same sound just seconds before exploding. At the root of his "diving underneath the table" behavior is a dopmaine loop in his brain.
But what does all of this have to do with silence?
One of Kagge's insights is that the only way we can truly come to know ourselves and what drives us, is to separate ourselves from everything else --- all of the noise and business in our lives --- so we can properly listen to our thoughts and feelings, carefully observe them, and can come to fully understand how they affect us. Do they serve to connect us with ourselves, others, and God? Or do they serve to disconnect us from ourselves, others, and God? And if so, how?
He says spend 50 days walking through a sub-zero, frozen world completely alone with yourself, and you will come face-to-face (or should I say thought-to-thought) with what drives you: all of your thoughts, feelings, and desires, both healthy and unhealthy. Suddenly it will be easy to identify the root of your behaviors and what needs to be addressed and healed.
Kagge's book makes this point persuasively: In theory, says Kagge, walking to the South Pole is easy. You just put one foot in front of another until you're there. But in reality, it is extremely difficult to do this, not because of the harsh conditions --- below freezing temperatures and challenging terrain --- but because, for 50 days, you have to be alone with and ever present to your thoughts and feelings, and yet you must find a way to not let them keep you from moving forward on your journey."
Grace & Peace to you ...