Silence. Often a blessed relief in a world overflowing with words and images and smells and information. Silence. A goal of meditation – when we quiet the mind we calm the soul. And yet, silence can also stifle us when we practice it as a means of avoidance or denial. Swallowing the words that express our concerns, our thoughts, our wants or desires. Eating our feelings. Repressing our disapproval as our boundaries are being violated by others. This mode of silence rarely stays silent for long.
What drives this tendency to lose our voice? Fear of abandonment, while sometimes overused, can be a telling awareness in this context. We fear if we truly say what we mean, say what we feel, express our needs… those we love or need will leave – our parent, our lover, our husband, our wife, our employer, our friend…
However, I was struck recently by the realization that the person who leaves when I swallow my truth is ME. I am ultimately abandoning myself.
This fear is often a subconsciously rooted, yet misguided notion that results in silent suffering and stuffing our voices deeply inside us, becoming overly compliant to the outside world. Avoiding conflict. Shying away from the scary conversation. Going along because it’s easier. Complaining quietly to ourselves or vocally to others.
I learned to swallow my true self at an early age. I grew up in a very authoritarian household with a backdrop of conditional love. Do what you are told. Get good grades. Be seen, but not heard… these earned love and some attention. Voicing emotion earned “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Disagreeing earned displeasure and emotional withdrawal. Compliance was safer. Silently swallowing meant love.
Swallowing my truth began to manifest physically for me in college when I developed anorexia my freshman year. Moving on to college after the challenges through high school with my father’s illness and the struggles following a bad breakup with my first serious boyfriend left me emotionally isolated. All of those unspoken words, fears, concerns, emotions, and violated boundaries began to fill me up. There was no room for food. I had discovered another way to feel safe and loved: control.
For others, not expressing their truth leaves them feeling empty or restless. There’s an uncomfortable anxiousness in the pit of their stomachs. Sometimes it’s a drug or alcohol or sex that provides short-term relief. That delivers that illusion of control and love. But often it is food, especially carbs, which trick the brain with their calming, drug-like qualities, temporarily calming the storm.
I’ve tried a lot of treatments over the years in an effort to feel better. To feel healed. But the truth that continues to fester and bubble to the surface of my consciousness is that the root of my health woes is not inherently within the external and environmental factors that I have worked so hard and spent so much money to control. It’s rooted in the suppression of ME. My authentic self whose voice has been silently screaming for years to get my attention through a multitude of both intermittent and chronic ailments. The one who has choked on her opinions, her displeasure, her fear, her anger, her desires, and her needs in an attempt to maintain what she wants the most – deeply connected, intimate relationships.
Author Brene Brown has a wonderful TED talk and amazing book, Daring Greatly, on intimacy and vulnerability. I highly recommend her work. Because through embracing its principles, I’m discovering that my deepest desire will only be fulfilled when I let go of my silence and begin speaking my truth. #brenebrown #daringgreatly
True intimacy develops from true authenticity. The most vital deeply connected, intimate relationship should be the one we have with ourselves.
So, I have set a very purposeful intention to explore, discover, and begin to reveal to myself and others my authentic self. To speak my truth (with kindness and compassion) in all circumstances. And to observe and chronicle what effect this freeing of my soul has on the freeing and healing of my body.
It takes courage to speak your truth and stay open to what comes next. It’s time to let your world hear your voice. Give it a try. You are more courageous than you think.