In my family silence is a form of hiding. You know, kind of going off the family grid and not talking to anyone anymore, feigning disinterest in the ways of the family. Oh, I make it sound deliberate, but really it is a form of fear one can barely help indulging in. It is a form of hiding who one is from behind a wall, scared of being one’s true self, waiting for others to be in contact as some kind of proof that you are valued, even if, illogically you are willing to wait decades. But that’s okay. It is a form of coping that may be the best choice possible.
Paradoxically, I have noticed that the hiders seem to have a high degree of interest in what the rest of the family is doing. So although hiders are silent they are keenly attuned to the goings on of their relations. And it’s easy these days to Google the family member you’ve neglected to speak to for years, to see what they are up to, or follow blogs or Facebook pages or twitter. It is easy to keep tabs on who’s had a legal proceeding or a publication, a problem or a success, without ever having to admit to caring.
I know a little bit about this since my default setting for scare is to shut down and not talk, claiming to myself all kinds of irrationalities. Making all kinds of oaths to myself about what I will or won’t do next time. Convincing myself I am not worth shit. Telling myself words of hate and self-loathing, pressuring myself to do things that feel too hard or too scary. Carrying on the ways of my parents who taught me to regard myself this way, and in turn creating a kind of comfort in such practices. It actually feels good to hate yourself when that’s what mom and dad have taught you to do, be it deliberately or inadvertantly. And so it is hard to break out of such thinking.
And even though I am not guilty of searching for family members online, I know that is what happens. There is a certain kind of glee in being able to have the power of knowing what others are doing without revealing what you yourself are doing. Or what you care about or whether you are okay or not. In not putting yourself out there yet reaping the benefits from others who do.
It’s a form of coping. A way, learned in youth I am pretty sure, that keeps one safe from people who might hurt you with the knowledge of what you care about, of what you do, or where you go. It’s a way to protect yourself.
It’s a tough way to live, hiding all the time. Being out of touch and keeping silent to feel safe. But I understand. I really do. It’s what you have to do to get by.
I suspect, Jane, that many, MANY others out there can relate to this. And that once again, you have put into eloquent and sincere words what many of us can barely acknowledge to ourselves. Since ‘paradox’ came up here, I’ll add to this list. Namely, I have no doubt that most of those who are immersed in the patterns you describe conduct themselves this way because of programming and habit. But paradoxically (perhaps for me here, ‘ironically’ fits better) and no matter what it SEEMS like, the individual in such a pattern is not really controlling much, not really protecting him/herself from much. From a straw man, perhaps, or a phantom from the past. But in the present for a chronological adult, the pattern tends to result in stunted emotions, automatic pilot, and half measures of life. And in this manner, I think, the fear keeps its power.
Yes. All of this seems pretty likely. Thanks for reading and thanks for adding this great comment.