You get home from work and almost before your coat is off and the keys are hung up, the radio is on.
You go to a friend’s for coffee and the TV is on in the background.
You sit in your car and give in to an almost physical need to tune in to your favourite station or listen to some music.
What’s going on?
Why do we have this incessant need to have ‘noise’ in the background?
Because it is a need.
If you turn the background noise off for someone, there is an instant physiological reaction that you can see in their posture and facial expression, especially in their eyes.
It’s close to panic.
Why is it that we have to have an accompanying soundtrack to every moment of our lives?
Years of teaching NLP and meditation have shown me a common trait in students:
We are scared of silence.
Something so natural, so normal, so abundant – we are so scared of it that we have to drown it out at almost any cost.
Why do I say there’s a cost?
Because there’s a problem with never experiencing silence.
On a practical level, it can impact our relationships.
The TV or radio in the background inhibits our ability to truly listen to the person we are with, which makes it less likely that we will talk openly and frankly. For families who spend most of their evenings in front of the TV, this can eventually lead to a near-total breakdown of the relationships – you can end up as near-strangers.
On a physical level, quiet time is essential for the body to rest and relax.
Having a background drone of bad news, controversial DJ or TV segments, designed to wind people up and keep them watching / listening don’t help. They can cause us stress and keep our adrenals on ‘fight or flight’ alert. The body never gets down-time and peace to recharge and heal itself. It’s a recipe for dis-ease – and eventually disease.
On a mind level, the constant background chatter feeds our own mental chatter.
Our thoughts can run wild. One of the most common symptoms of chronic stress is a mind that is never still; a mind that is never quiet. A baby’s mind is naturally still and calm. It takes years of training to get our Monkey Minds to run their analytical life commentary at the rate they do. Our thoughts are out of control and no longer helping us.
Learning how to quieten your mind, say, through meditation or mindfulness techniques, can make a life-changing difference. But this is severely hampered if we surround ourselves with noise. Yet silence – even just for ten minutes – is something that most people work hard to avoid.
So why are we so scared of silence?
I have a theory, based on my teaching experience.
We are scared of our thoughts.
We are scared of what our thoughts are telling us is wrong in our lives.
We are scared of the stories, the worries and the excuses that form the soundtrack of our inner world.
So we use ‘legitimate noise’ in the form of music, TV or radio to drown them out.
Sometimes we use surfing the internet or even compulsively reading books to create a different form of distraction – another form of noise – to drown out the thoughts.
Can you imagine how this leads to problems?
But there’s a secret I’d like to share with you…
The truth is never as scary as your thoughts would have you believe.
Whatever is happening in life, our thoughts are the source of our experience of it.
So if we’re feeling scared about something, it’s because our thoughts are telling us to.
(Ok, unless a sabre tooth tiger is at the door, in which case it’s the primal part of your brain, but true ‘survival’ situations are fortunately rare).
If we’re feeling worried or anxious, it’s because of the stories that our thoughts are telling us about the situation.
If we’re feeling angry or frustrated, again, it’s those pesky thoughts and their carefully crafted narrative that are the root of things.
Just pause for a moment and reflect on this:
The situation itself cannot make you think or feel anything. It is just a situation.
It is what you tell yourself about the situation that causes the problems.
Want to do something about it?
The brilliant news is that, although we might not be able to consciously choose each and every thought, we can choose which to feed.
And when we move back to a position of choice, we reclaim our personal power to influence our experience of life.
One of the most simple and effective ways to press ‘pause’ and come back to the present moment, getting off the conveyer belt of your thoughts, is a few minutes of mindful breathing. Here is one of my favourite techniques – it’s so simple but regular practise of it can change your life:
I’m curious – what’s your view?
Why do you think we’re so scared of silence?
How do you handle silence? Do you have any questions?
And what advice would you give others? Please feel free to share via the comments box below!