Dear Quiet Minds,
Why do we hear the screams of our hearts in moments of silence?
When watching an episode called “Isolation” from the Youtube Red series, Mind Field, this question rose to mind. In the episode, a youtuber named Michael Stevens stayed in an isolated room for three days. Complete isolation for fewer than 3 days was said to cause brain damage. Before Michael Stevens tackled this experiment, he talked to a prisoner who had experienced solitary confinement. The former inmate discussed how in solitary confinement you are only left with your own thoughts and many of the prisoners who experienced this form of isolation for consecutive periods of time left the room mentally scarred. So why is silence so scary? Is it because of the endless boredom or the unlikely enemies you find in your thoughts?
I think that when encountering complete isolation, boredom itches its way into your surroundings first which eventually causes you to look within yourself for some entertainment. However for some people, stopping and looking at who they are internally is very frightening because they have to face their inner demons. Personally, I often struggle because my mind starts to wander and I’m consumed by my Thinker. Insecurities and Missed Opportunities crawl out of dark corners and saunter onto the stage to perform the musical of your worst fears. They wear their boxing gloves ready to give you a beating but in those lonely silences, your vulnerability doesn’t allow you to defend yourself. Ultimately, it boils down to the question of “Am I enough?”. Because of this inevitable vulnerability, you fear those silences and you need someone to pick you up.
I often find myself alone. My shyness and anxiety cause an outer shell to solidify around me and separate me from society. It’s funny, however, that even when isolated from society, societal constructs still find a way to weave themselves into the inner workings of your mind and permeate your thoughts. The famous question “Am I enough?” exists only because of who society tells us to be. You need to be pretty, confident and kind but still find a way to be different all at the same time. With all these celebrities and influential figures above our heads, we can only mimic, making it extremely difficult to be different. All these insecurities are buried in our silence and for someone who’s often surrounded by silence, I fear that I’m missing out on life changing experiences.
As said in the episode, human interaction is the only way to fully experience life. When you’re excited about something, the ideal thing would be to tell someone about. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside because someone else acknowledges your happiness and reciprocates it. This shared experience is what makes the experience valuable. But why are humans such social animals? According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, after receiving food, shelter, water and safety, humans need to feel belongingness and fulfill their need for love. This is accomplished through loving relationships with family, friends and significant others. Another fear many people struggle with is failure because after feelings of belongingness, you need to feel success to achieve self-actualization. Without human interaction, there is no way to fulfill those needs.
Unfortunately, silence can be a prison cell at times but it’s a prison cell that you have the key to. It doesn’t have to be scary or daunting because silence is not always bad. When you need to be alone you can enter it but as easily as that you can leave it. Don’t let it consume you. Clearly, this is easier said than done because sometimes it finds a way to take over, which allows self-doubt, social constructs and fears to pull you back. Therefore, I believe that isolation can appear to be torturous and inhuman because most of the times it’s self-inflicted. We put that isolation upon ourselves and even though we have the power to change it, we don’t. Maybe because of fear or cowardliness or maybe even because we just need help. Once you put yourself behind those bars, it’s difficult to find the strength to turn the key.
That is why the next time you feel your fears crawling out, listen to them but don’t let them define you or hold you back. And for those who don’t suffer this form of isolation as often as others, open your eyes. If you have a family member that is unusually silent, talk to them, but most importantly, listen. They’ve been silent for too long and just want someone to hear them and look at them with eyes that understand. Try to help them feel a sense of belonging because isolation is a lonely place and it only takes one person to turn on the light and wash away the shadows.
Links you’ll enjoy:
Mind Field: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqKdEhx-dD4