Almost a year after my first-ever actual heartbreak in life, I was shocked one day to realize that I had made almost no progress in processing and moving on. The months had stretched on, and I had felt the pain, but I had never managed to actually process any of what had happened. I remember that day, sitting on my bed and poring over the last months, wondering what had prevented me from healing and moving on. What could possibly have been so all-encompassing as to keep me that busy? And I realized that the only thing that had been consistent was the sheer amount of noise in my life.
Smothered in Noise
I realized that I had been using music and social media and Netflix and all of the noisy, colorful, moving things in my life as a defense mechanism. Now, this is not to bash any of the above activities; they can all be great, but the poison lies in how you can misuse them. I realized that I, seventeen and scared of my own emotions, had completely and totally smothered them in noise. I had drowned out my own ability to feel things out to their proper end with a constant stream of noise and input. And it was only after I made this realization and created some quiet spaces in my life that I began to heal.
Considering how the brain works in processing any event, this makes sense. If there’s a stream of constant input, your brain never has a chance to actually process any of it fully. Imagine you’re trying to put away laundry. You’re trying to fold and sort this pile of laundry, when a family member walks in and begins handing you more laundry, one piece at a time. You’re still trying to fold the first pile, but eventually, your hands are so full of the new laundry that you can’t. Eventually, there’s so much new laundry that you can’t even see the old laundry, and thoughts of folding or sorting it are long gone. This is how your brain works with too much input. If you’re constantly overwhelming it with new stuff, it never has a chance to actually handle any of the old stuff, and eventually, junk begins to pile up.
Imagine that you’re a very human sort of person. Maybe something tragic happens, like some sort of loss, or maybe it’s just an ordinary brokenness. Maybe you just begin to realize you don’t like yourself too much. But it’s kind of intimidating to try to begin the healing process, no matter how big or little, and maybe this one runs deep. It makes you uncomfortable to look at or think about. Keeping yourself busy begins to sound pretty nice, and before you know it, you’ve buried yourself in noise. It’s comfortable, in a sort of muffling, blinding way. You don’t have to think too much about the painful things. It’s pretty comfortable, right?
We’re all a little bit too comfortable in our noise. Too many people fall into the trap that I did in high school. In fact, our entire world has fallen into this noise-trap. I know plenty of people who admit that maybe their lives are too noisy and too hectic. But I wonder how many of them realize why. I wonder how many people notice that our world keeps adding more and more noise and input to smother the view of how broken we are. Instead of looking at ourselves and admitting how far we’ve fallen, we add more and more, make our screens bigger and our music louder, keep ourselves busy with too many activities, and try to ignore the mess around and inside us. Noise has become our world’s biggest defense mechanism, and it’s deeply worrisome.
Escaping the Shallow Shadow World
Without silence, on either the internal or external levels, we cannot survive. Our brains can’t function and process the way that they’re meant to. We’ll be living in the shallow shadow world that we’re already creeping towards, where everyone’s brokenness run deep and unattended for decades, manifesting itself unexpectedly and uncontrollably. Until we learn to be still, none of our broken people will heal, and we’ll continue to be isolated, ignorant, and overstimulated.
So what can we do? We must bring silence back into the world. Primarily, be aware of how much noise is in your life and be cautious. Limit the social media and Netflix and realize how much time you really have. Stop listening to music when you’re driving, or showering, or just sitting around. Take up journaling or some other quiet processing habit. And set aside a time in your day to sit in silence and do absolutely nothing for at least fifteen solid minutes. We have to remember how to be okay with being around ourselves, and the best way to do that is just to jump right into the silence.