I was drawn to the topic of silence through the writing of Weissman (2009) from Fractal Ontology, in regard to the occurrence of silence as “that shadow of language” (para 1). Such a differentiation between silence and that of language lead me to a statement by Crimes (2011), who informed “I contend that sound and silence are qualitative differences in degree, not kind” (para 1). Robbert (2011) from Knowledge Ecology wrote on the shaping of thoughts through language, where he directed the reader’s attention to an article, How Language Shapes Thought, by Boroditsky (2011). According to Boroditsky, “languages differ from one another in innumerable ways, but just because people talk differently does not necessarily mean they think differently” (p. 64). Though in silence, we can presume an existence of thought, in addition to how “languages influence what we remember” (p. 65).
“It seems clear that the effect of language on human cognitive development cannot be reduced only to underlying, universal structures of human cognition. Nor can languages be reduced to sociocultural contexts and historical events. It seems, rather, that even individual words can have impacts on human perceptions and cognitive development” (Robbert 2011, para 7).
My intention in mentioning language is to maintain a conceptualization of symbolism and metaphor within the moments of silence. Just as through expression, might we also consider an encounter, an engagement or acknowledgement of symbol in the spaces of silence? The intrapsychic processes that might emerge in the moments of silence intrigue me. Silence can be powerful; “it is important for us not to construe silence as a weakness or lack of language because it is rather the strength of language” (Olson, 2000, p. 44). In regard to the addict, might we just keep an interpretation of silence then as an existence?
I can interpret addiction to be an experience of silence. Malouf (2012) informed that there is a silence “not from within, but from without, and it becomes the silence of incessant thinking” (p. 2). From the aspect of addiction, silence can be seen as a vast void of experiences that allow for internal exploration to be sought from the environment, an environment comprised of seemingly attainable objects. Although due to the intrapsychic estrangement the personal relatedness to the external environment is partial and not whole. The internal experience then is an intrapsychic conflict bound to the external silence of helplessness. When we speak of an individual who is hopeless, the individual who is powerless and helpless, do we seek the meaning and understanding of what silence bears for the individual? It seems that in the silence an addict may slowly drift from that which is mindful; for the individual to be quiet, or still. Then in silence there is an anticipation of the unknown, which is the very act of procuring angst. There is “a little silence to help us feel the pains we have grown accustomed to not feeling, feelings we have buried deep within” (Malouf, 2012, p. 2). In addiction the individual is engaged within dissociative states that would not allow for such a silence to be acknowledged. The silence presumably found in the addiction then is a more desolate and helpless void marred by the chaotic tension of desire.
Assuming the existence of a more silent mindful state of existence, the dissociative states cannot be the dominating force. In silence one would need to embrace the profound experience, the knowledge of desolation, an internal fragmentation that awaits the conscious mind; the desolation and fragmentation that ferments within the shadows of the dissociative states. What I am alluding to is the impact of silence through communication by “knowing when to hold silence, when not to say everything is a conscious art which we should cultivate…the conscious will of silence” which alludes to the unconscious act of silence; a silence to be held by the observer (Kemal, Gaskell, & Conway, 1998, p. 338). This is a silence that would allow for the addict to be understood, seen, and empathetically embraced. I see the silence interpreted as the “essence of inwardness, of inner life” a silence that follows dialogue, where “there is still something to remember and not think about while one remains silent” (Kierkegaard, 1962, p. 69).
Boroditsky, L. (2011). How language shapes thought. Retrieved from: http://psych.stanford.edu/~lera/papers/sci-am-2011.pdf
Crimes, N. (2011). Beyond Sound: Listening through Musical Silence. Retrieved from: http://musicologyatpenn.wordpress.com/working-papers-2/the-papers/crimes-neil-beyond-sound-listening-to-musical-silence
Kemal, S., Gaskell, I., Conway, D. (1998). Nietzsche, philosophy and the arts. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
Kierkegaard, S. (1962). The present age: On the death of rebellion. (Trans. Alexander Dru) New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers.
Malouf, G. (2012). The power of silence. New York, NY: Morgan James Publishing.
Olson, C. (2000). Zen and the art of postmodern philosophy: Two paths of liberation from the representational mode of thinking. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Robbert, A. (2011). How language shapes thought. Retrieved from: http://knowledge-ecology.com/2011/12/06/how-language-shapes-thought/
Weissman, J. (2009). Quiet. Retrieved from: http://fractalontology.wordpress.com/2009/09/30/quiet/
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Erik J. Welsh, PhD
– Author of The Addiction Complex