I was recently reading an article about the deposed monarchies in the world and the monarchs and pretenders that now have no job and what life is like for them. In the course of this, the grandson of the previous King of Ethiopia said that there had been so much bloodshed and horror during the overthrow of his grandfather, that he found the “silent comfort” of other relatives of deposed monarchs to be very soothing. He didn’t need to explain who he was or what his life had been like. He didn’t have to put words to the horrors so that people would understand. He could just sit quietly and be who he is now.
I found that really telling. When people come in to see me for the first time, I ask them to fill out forms that they may assume are like any “form” that they have filled out before. But in fact I ask specific questions that I am very interested to see how they are answered. It tells me more about what they need than they do when they are sitting in front of me. For instance, one question I ask is “What are the five illnesses, diseases or events that have affected you the most in your life.” Some people skip this question, some will put one word answers and others will write paragraphs about what they have gone through.
History is important to who we are, not just in our health but in our mind, our emotional life, the way we relate to others and our world. It even dictates what we choose to include in our world. But for many, the constant retelling of history isn’t always the way healing takes place. It’s rather like picking at a scab constantly so that healing can’t really occur. When I was five, I fell off my bike and skidded on my knees across the asphalt. For weeks, and in my five year old mind months, the scabs would keep breaking open, my knees got infected and it seemed they would never heal. This was often because I was wanting to run around or I’d forget about my knees and then bend down or even tumble in the grass and then it would be like I was back at square one on the hopscotch.
Sometimes silence is the most healing of all. Religious groups have known this for centuries with Marist retreat centers, Monastery silent weekends, treks to isolated places for reflection. I think it’s very telling that many of these places have disappeared because we are led to believe that the answers to our healing are in webinars, talk therapy, television talk shows, support groups. All of these things can be life-changing but for many the retelling doesn’t blunt the pain. Even after the hundredth time the wound is still open and raw. For these I suggest that a missing piece is the comfort of silence. Not having to talk, to tell your story, to be alone with yourself and your thoughts, or to be with others in the sharing of who you are now.
We have to stop picking at our scabs. Silent comfort can be the balm that heals the wound, that allows the innate healing power of the body to do its work.