April 22, 2014
Silence is a rare commodity in today’s busy world. We are bombarded with sounds and noise from the moment the alarm wakes us up in the morning until we turn the light out at night and sometimes not even then. Not only can noise increase our blood pressure and heart rate, disturb our sleep and challenge our endocrine system it can also lead to stress response, mood disturbances and anxiety. These symptoms mirror those that can be experienced following a traumatic event.
Noise is processed subconsciously triggering the flight or fight response. This occurs even if the noise is tuned out. It is this involuntary response that leads to stress and anxiet y. The degree to which a person is affected is dependent upon the individuals’ social aspects and psychological stressors. This response arises from the instinctual need for silence to survive. Silence allows prey animals to hear predators and predators to hear their prey. It is a needed backdrop for the songs and calls of animals seeking a mate. Obviously people no longer have this visceral need for silence to survive but as an antidote for the ills created by the noise of the world silence is indeed golden.
Whole industries have developed around helping people to achieve silence and quieten their minds, the main tool being meditation. Other simpler ways such as camping and no technology weekends where cell phones, computers, TVs and gaming consoles are turned off are also popular. Finding a secret, quiet place that can be retreated to in times of excessive noise is also of benefit. Utilizing the silence is important too or the moment is wasted. It is important to be fully present in the moment, mindful of what is going on in and around you, without judgement. Practise meditation or visualisation, use affirmations or mantras, write in a journal, hold a pet or just let your breathing calm and relax your mind and body. The benefits of silence can include; decreases in psychological stress, anxiety, sleep disturbances and overall improvement in brain functioning, memory and perception.
For survivors of Trauma however, silence is not without its dangers. Unguarded moments of stillness can bring memories to the fore, creating panic and flashbacks. Under the guidance of a skilled practitioner, ideally with training in the field of Trauma, silence in the form of meditation and yoga can be utilised as part of the healing process. The primary benefits of both disciplines are the teaching of self regulation of emotional and physiological states. Yoga has the added bonus of allowing people to move from one posture to another while maintaining their control. This means that if a particular pose triggers any uncomfortable responses the participant knows that it will end and they can move on, reinforcing their control and their ability to manage themselves (Schmidt & Miller, 2004; van der Kolk, 2009).
Silence it would seem is not just a luxury we all yearn for, but a necessity in today’s noisy world. By seeking out a quiet space or experience we are actively healing the damage done simply by living in today’s noisy environment.