Topic for the week: Peace in the Pause and Silence
Growing up as a teen in the 1960’s, one of the messages I took from the culture and my own therapeutic experiences was I should always express my feelings, regardless of the impacts to others or whether it was an appropriate response in the given situation. As long as I was completely open in this way all would be well.
I gave it a try, but this transparency did not serve me well. When I did express feelings to family, friends, acquaintances, it was often from a place of anger in attack mode, leading to more relationship problems, not less. I truly didn’t have insight or skills to deal with my emotions and selfish was my middle name. This is one of the reasons I turned to alcohol when the going got rough and I indulged in a new pattern: numb the painful thoughts and feelings with alcohol, lose my verbal filter along with rational thought, decide to ‘express myself’ with this newfound liquid courage, wake up the next day with feelings of regret/remorse/shame/guilt for whatever emotional mess was on display the night before. Rinse and repeat.
Fast forward to my early days in AA… one of the phrases I heard often was ‘peace in the pause and silence’. I became curious to this contrary idea, paying attention to how others utilized this approach. In the past it never occurred to me that being quiet, not always expressing every thought on my mind just might be a better response. I didn’t realize that during difficult situations, sometimes being quiet and listening is more appropriate, peaceful, kind, and dignified. I didn’t recognize that the pause and silence allows time for needed perspective, hearing God’s will for me, and an opportunity to be a better listener.
There are definitely times when self-expression is important, but I’ve discovered it’s usually best to pause first, then consider my audience and timing carefully. For example… a couple of nights ago I got into a heated discussion with my husband on a very sensitive topic about our daughter and grandchildren. This was definitely an opportunity to put duct tape on my mouth and just listen. But instead my emotions got the better of me. I did not pause, I kept arguing my differing position, discounting his valid perspective. This created an uncomfortable divide between us, I was upset and later very frustrated with my response. Amends are now in order, and I regret how I handled the conversation.
I’ve learned that there are ways to express my feelings at the appropriate time without alienating others, from a place of vulnerability. Being vulnerable requires courage, I no longer see it as a sign of weakness. I’m grateful for these lessons, it’s been a significant factor in my sobriety and has brought added peace to my relationships.
Please feel free to share your perspective and ESH on this topic, and thank you for being here!