I do not feel comfortable with silence. I always need to have music or the TV playing in the background – even when I’m reading a book or eating my dinner. It’s completely bonkers, I take my iPad with me to the toilet so I don’t have to deal with even a couple of minutes of silence. It’s strange behavior, and it is only recently that I’ve realized why I’m doing it – I fear the silence because it means being alone with my thoughts and emotions.
My Wife is an Impressive Woman
My wife only listens to music when she is in the mood to listen to music – she only turns the TV on in the evenings when she is ready to sit down and watch it. Oa doesn’t do background noise. I find this concept as difficult to comprehend as I once did people who didn’t like to drink alcohol – weirdoes. My wife is perfectly content to sit in complete silence – I couldn’t be more impressed if she was able to do triple-somersaults around the house.
The other amazing thing about my wife is that in the 10 years we’ve been together, she has never once shown any evidence of self-hated. She isn’t always a happy camper (living with me can’t be easy), but she always appears happy in her own skin. Maybe it’s a cultural thing because I’ve never noticed any of my Thai neighbors show evidence of self-hatred either. There also seems to be a lot less depression here in Thailand– at least among the locals anyway.
I’m convinced there is a direct link between my wife’s ability to sit comfortably in silence, and her lack of self-hatred. Oa doesn’t need lots of distraction because she doesn’t feel at the mercy of her thoughts and emotions.
What Am I Afraid Of?
So what is it that is so scary about the silence? For me, the silence triggers a sense of wrongness – I can feel like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. It is a bit like turning up at a party to find that there is only one other person there – to make matters worse, this individual is someone I can’t stand being around. In this situation, I might try to make polite conversation, but it is obviously going to be fucking uncomfortable for both of us.
Learning to Deal with the Silence
I used to believe that my meditation practice was helping me to become more in tune with myself. It makes sense that sitting there in silence would be a great solution for somebody who usually needs background noise just to be able to go for a shit. It turns out that meditation can be used as another means of escape from my thoughts and feelings – it took me a long time to realize that this is what I’d been doing. Instead of learning to sit comfortably with myself, I’d been chasing altered sates of consciousness.
For the last few months, I’ve been working on self-compassion. I’m letting go of all the self-hatred and learning to trust myself. It is leading to a remarkable transformation – after all these years, I am starting to feel comfortable in my own skin. The other day I found myself just sitting in the garden just staring into space – no music, no books, no TV, no distractions. I might have looked like a bit of a nutter to passersby, but it felt so wonderful to be able to sit there like that.