If you’re a counselor or you’ve studied such a thing or have even been to counseling, you might know that one of the tools that a counselor can carry around in their backpack is silence. If you talk to beginning counselors, I think a lot of them will not like the idea of silence because it is awkward, but it seems to me that in my classes and in all of my training so far it is a tool that seasoned counselors like to use quite often. From what some of my professors and supervisors have said, they think that it can be a very powerful tool.
This is something that I have a hard time time. I understand wanting the client to express themselves and to openly give them space to talk, because that is one of the goals in the first place is to be heard by the counselor and know that they are listening to what you have to say without interrupting. From my own experiences though, silence is something that I don’t often welcome into my life.
In my daily interactions I’m usually always talking to someone, listening to music, etc. The only time that I long for silence is when I’m insanely stressed or wanting to fall asleep. Otherwise, I cannot sit in silence for a prolonged period of time. I’ve identified that it is mainly my own anxieties that lead to my steering clear of using silence, but it’s not something that I want to shove to the side as if it is not worthy of my time. In fact, in talking with my supervisor, it is my goal this week to use silence in session. I’m just not sure how I feel about long periods of silence. A few seconds is no biggie, and believe me when I say that it even can give me a little time to think of what I want to say next or where we could maybe head, but in a longer period of silence, I get anxious.
This is something that I’m constantly working on and it’s something that I never really paid much attention to. I think it plays into the fact that I am a more extraverted person than an introvert though I do like my heavy dose of alone time. In this alone time though I’m usually jamming out to some Nicki or spending my time looking for new music.
At one point in my life I was asked to sit quietly for ten minutes a day. The first day I tried it, I was able to sit for 4 minutes and no longer. I had to do something, there was no way that sitting there was going to help me accomplish something. It’s not that I feel that I should be doing something, it’s more the fact that I feel like I need to.
If you know anything about me, you know I’m a busy person. I welcome this. I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way, truly. Being busy is what keeps more going and keeps everything in balance. Leave me at home for one day, and it’s instant cabin fever which often equals me going for a walk to snap some pictures. In order for me to better manage my time, I have to have a lot to balance…which may not make sense to some people, but to me the more I have on my plate, the better I am at not procrastinating and getting things done.
In reading all of this, you may think that I don’t like silence. This isn’t one bit true. I’m just saying that I think it has been a real challenge to me to find this inner strength to allow myself to be more comfortable in those moments. It’s getting better, believe me. Last semester in group when we would sit for about a minute in silence, I would instantly start giggling. I’m not the type of person to always speak after silence, but I found myself more apt to generate conversation and work towards getting the conversation going so there wasn’t such an awkward pause.
My ability to deal with it has gotten better but it has a long way to go. I often wonder why I don’t like sitting still or what it is about continually doing something that helps me. It’s funny because my mom hardly ever plays music in her car and when I get in, I feel like something is missing from the ride. I love getting in the car and playing music, oddly enough, I look forward to it. I often learn the lyrics to songs that way and don’t notice that with every ride I’m learning a little bit more that song than before.
Thinking about silence in a therapeutic way is challenging for me mostly because I think if I were the client and my counselor didn’t say anything after about a minute of my response or their interpretation, I would feel like I did something wrong. My mind would seem to go elsewhere than thinking about what we were saying in that moment. It’s odd, I know to think about it so much, but it’s not that I’m worried about silence or that I can’t bear the thought of using it, lol, it’s truly just thinking about it and its uses.
Throughout the rest of the semester I plan to pay attention to how I view silence and how it can be a useful took. The beauty of it all is that we are all different and we all operate in different ways, it is just finding that for yourself. I recognize that some people think that I am too busy, but it works for me. I realize that some people can be doing one thing and think that it is enough for them. Like the old saying goes, whatever floats your boat. 🙂