'Click, Click, Click' these used to be the first sounds to enter my consciousness as first the radio, then the TV and finally the phone were switched on. There was no point in my day when I was able to hear 'background sounds', or even the sound of silence. From the radio in my car to my ipod constantly plugged into my ears when working 'quietly' to everyone else's music or endless chatter, I never considered that my quiet times were anything but.
Three years on from beginning to practise DBT skills, and mindfulness in my daily life, I have found that there are many times when I am enveloped in the 'sound of silence'. Everyday, after the initial alarm, I potter around my house doing my daily chores and even eat, drink and read in 'silence'.
If I'm honest, I have only recently become comfortable with silence. In the past there was an urgency in blocking it out. So much energy was invested in damming up the feared internal distress that both physical and mental 'busyness' became an ingrained habit. In the same way that I invested every last drop of physical energy in my paid work, I invested all of my time alone in noise to drown out my internal distress.
There is a reason that some of the torture techniques recently reported from Guantanamo involve noise. Either incessant blaring music or 'white noise', but then again the difference between music and noise is in the ear of the beholder! Walking in nature without my ipod is relaxing simply because I am no longer forcing into my mind noise for fear that I will be overwhelmed by the internal noise within.
What has changed is the realisation that I no longer fear the feelings that used to overwhelm and defeat me. I have learned to move on from my past and my present is no longer burdened with long remembered hurts. Some emotional pain is justified but it becomes suffering when I allow it to mar my experience of more positive experiences in the here and now. Scars exist and are a natural part of having survived trauma, but they fail to heal if I keep tearing the scabs from them. If I can learn to accept the feelings without trying to drown them out with constant noise, then the rawness of the scars will lessen and heal without the underlying distress keeping the emotional pain fresh.
Silence has an important role to play in healing. In silence I find space to feel, think, reflect - important that it does not become brooding. This is where the disciplines of mindfulness give me the skills I need to make the most of silence. Focus on the immediate, the here and now, ground myself in the present and when feelings which are unconnected with my current moment arise, let them go. The fear of being unable to cope with silence goes, the more I practise non-judgemental, one thing at a time.
Something else which making room for silence does, is that it allows me to enjoy even more the times when I listen to music or watch something. When I am able to enjoy the silence, then I am able to experience and therefore enjoy the non silence even more. Silence and space allow me to enjoy the times and experiences which fill the silence. I can appreciate the night sky most when I am in an environment which is far from artificial light - when I am far from light pollution.
The problem with my previous fear of silence is that in an effort to run from it I cluttered my mind and emotions with noise and mental pollution. If I can give myself space and time to experience silence, then it allows me a purer experience of life when it comes into that silence. The other thing about 'silence' is that outside of a vacuum, which none of us live in, it is never absolute. There is always something we can listen to, if only we could switch off the artificial sounds with which we swamp ourselves!