In my world of engaging with women who are seeking to regain their footing in their own lives, I have become mindful of two critical components that contribute immensely to keeping women in check: the first is silence and the second is isolation.
One side of these is the need that women have to become silent, in an attempt to avoid reaction and diminish consequences. However, the other side is the willingness that other women have to not hear… and not know… caught in their own fear of becoming involved. Whether that involvement is with the woman they know whose life is in such turmoil; or whether that involvement threatens to stir the pot of their own lives, the outcome is the same: an unspoken agreement to ignore the obvious.
In this shared pact to embrace the silence, the eventual outcome is isolation. For many women, it becomes easier – and in many cases, safer! – to simply remove themselves from the presence of others rather than risk a slip of the tongue… or a moment of overwhelm and revelation… that will take a lot of effort to fix.
It is not unusual for women in these environments… to develop predictable responses as a way of protecting themselves from their experience of their abuse. Beyond the silence and the isolation, we develop behaviours and patterns of speech that indicate our tentative approach to the world; and that leave us on the periphery of our own lives. Despite the tremendous hunger to engage, we nibble cautiously at the edges, caught in the double bind of hoping that someone will notice and equally terrified that they will!
Their world becomes one of double-binds : damned if you do and damned if you don’t. A world of treading on eggshells. A world of profound external referencing as they become masterful at calibrating the state of another – or others – as a way of staying safe in what has become an unsafe world. In this intense focus on all that exists outside themselves, they lose touch with who they are and perhaps worse, who they might become.
The following closing thoughts can be found at the end of:
Episode 7 of ‘Reclaiming Your Self: Women Unedited and Engaged!’ on the topic of ‘Burden of Silence: Violence in the Home’.
Whatever your personal circumstances, we all have moments when we feel caught in the web of our own silence and isolation. In those moments – when it feels impossible for us to connect with another human being – take a moment to find a way to reconnect with yourself, first. Consider the following:
- Breathe! Make the time to pause… finding a quiet place – whether a trip to the washroom, a walk to the coffee room or a short drive around the block – and remind yourself to take three long, slow, deep breaths. Remember that an Earth breath will help you ground yourself in those moments when the vibration inside you makes it difficult for you to stay connected to yourself.
- Make time to allow your body to stretch… standing tall, feet shoulder width apart… beginning at the top of the head and slowly bringing your head forward… allowing the weight of your head to begin to curl your arms and shoulders forward… easing down only as far as is comfortable for you. Be sure to bend your knees if you have any problems with your back. Hold that position for a few seconds… allowing your spine to stretch and open… inviting blood and eneregy to be in flow through the entire body. In our moments of what we experience as ‘stress’, the body begins to tighten and curl in on itself. This simple stretch will be a reminder to the body that it is possible to mindfully choose to open and allow flow to return to our lives.
- Find the time to capture your own thoughts… allowing those to also be in flow… as they come out the ends of your fingers through the pen or keyboard… taking shape on the page in front of you. If you feel safe in doing so, store your thoughts where you can revisit them in 7 to 10 days. If not, just re-read what you’ve written and delete. The most important part is making way for the body to empty of these thoughts that you might make way for the next wave of discovery to present.
We live at a time when density and intensity are ramping up in ways that defy our understanding of reality. Ways that challenge the very fabric of our lives and what we have come to know as predictable or reliable, leaving us to explore and discover ‘How else might I choose to live my life, today?’
“Somewhere between rage, outrage and silence is the opportunity for us to redefine ourselves.”