Expectations, although often helpful, can have a shadow side that can produce unnecessary stress and pain. At the point of creation, an expectation can serve to facilitate our self-growth. Yet, with time an expectation can become unreasonable, and therefore unattainable, causing profound disappointment and difficulty in one’s life. People with a history of trauma like sexual abuse, are especially vulnerable to these swings in perception. We can ruminate over unmet expectations, amplifying our limiting beliefs and lingering pains. Enduring trauma can cause a person to become obsessed with maintaining control in their life. When control eludes us, we can face a debilitating crash that negatively impacts our self-worth.
To better understand the root of our expectations and whether they still may benefit our growth, we must be able to listen to them. To listen to them we must cut through the clutter of noise that surrounds us both internally and externally. This means creating periods of silence and silent reflection into our self-care routines. Explore the following three exercises to better understand how silence is or could be helpful in your journey towards Thriver mindset.
Exercise One: What is your Relationship with Silence?
Grab your journal and find some time where you can be alone and undisturbed. Read the following passages and see which one jumps out at you the most.
· “I often regret that I have spoken; never that I have been silent.” – Publilius Syrus
· “Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.” – William S. Burroughs,
· “In Silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.” – Rumi
· “You are most powerful when you are most silent. People never expect silence. They expect words, motion, defense, offense, back and forth. They expect to leap into the fray. They are ready, fists up, words hanging leaping from their mouths. Silence? No.” – Alison McGhee
· “True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.” – William Penn
· “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa
Each one of these passages has a unique relationship to silence. From hindsight, fear, rest, power, healing, to union with the Divine, silence never fails to teach us valuable lessons. Use these quotes as a doorway into your relationship with silence. Notice if you feel like you have one currently. If not, why have you avoided it?
Before you can learn to hear your inner wisdom and relate to your expectations, you need to be willing to enter into the void so you can see your situation and hear your insight as they truly are.
Exercise Two: Turn Off to Tune In
Begin by finding a time and space where you can turn off all your devices and be alone. Block off at least 15 minutes to get a significant impact from this time with yourself. Find a comfortable position either inside or outdoors and just be with your surroundings.
Pay attention to what you hear both externally, but more importantly, internally. This may be different from your meditative practices because your goal is to simply be and experience without any expectations or agenda. Notice how your senses become heightened. Lean into these moments and explore what you find soothing or bothersome.
Next, listen to any conversations going on inside your mind. What are they saying? What is helpful for you and what are you finding troubling? Engage with these conversations without expectations and don’t try to shift any perspective. Listen and learn! With time and repetition these conversations can guide you through crossroads in your life and spur your spiritual healing. While maintaining this period of silence, write down any insights and impressions that arise during this exercise, as well as any answers to underlying issues you might be receiving.
Exercise Three: What does “Silence” Teach You?
This is a time to go deeper into your journal notes to understand the lasting power of silence. Although noise can seem commonplace in our lives, it most often distracts us from the richness of our inner world. The noise either feeds our expectations or can distract us from a deeper connection with ourselves, humanity, and the Divine.
Grab your journals and find a space where you can enjoy as much silence as possible and free of any clocks or technological devices. Use this time to review your entries and see what new lessons begin to emerge for you.
Genuine silence is not emptiness. Instead it is a doorway to our Inner Wisdom and greater truth. It is a respite that allows us to heal our brains and soothe our spirit. It is a place of identifying and nurturing insights. In silence, we come to surround ourselves in healing light, commune with the Divine, and know both our own heart and the language of our soul. It can teach us appreciation of our natural world and spark curiosity as well as creativity.
What is the silence teaching you? Delve into how the presence or absence of “noise” creates and impacts your expectations. As you experiment with bringing more silence into your life are you finding certain expectations fading? Do you feel more centered in your body? Have you released any lingering limiting beliefs or persistent hurts? Are you becoming more comfortable with the notion of silence? Perhaps you still find it foreboding or causing feelings of boredom or restlessness. Record these sensations and impressions for future reflection and growth.
Silence is a salve to our physical brain, our mental state, and our spirit. Learning to cultivate a relationship with silence forms a connection with ourselves, our life’s journey, and with the Divine. By allowing our brain to rest and disengage from external stimuli we can better hear and listen to the thoughts, emotions, memories, and inspiration that form our Inner Wisdom. In this space, we can begin to free ourselves from unrealistic expectations and embrace a fulfilling life.
Silence allows ourselves to heal! Science shows two hours of silence daily produces new cell growth in the brain’s hippocampus, which is responsible for our learning, memory, and emotions. This means we can gain better clarity of our experiences, increase empathy, and boosts creativity. It also allows tension in the body to ease due to increased blood circulation and reduced production of cortisol by the brain’s amygdala.
It can require bravery to embark into silence. The void of “noise” and expectations means facing our innermost essence. This can be daunting as often this means confronting thoughts, emotions, desires, and memories we have repressed due to fear. Noises distract us for a reason – fear of further pain and disappointment. However, silence generates a blank slate that might be filled with hidden messages that once revealed can empower our spirit, our values, and our commitment to shine a light of hope for all those affected by sexual assault. Thank for being a part of this uplifting community. Share your experiences with silence by commenting on this blog series, sending us an email