why do we stay silent?

it’s been awhile since i’ve written. needless to say, writing is a way for me to empty, to follow curiosity, to explore. so here we are. today, i found myself reconnecting with a friend and past love. and it surprised me as i shared with him that there were pieces in our shared history that wanted to be repaired. suddenly, my chest tightened as i began to recall moments when i had stayed silent with him whilst my body spoke out with needs. so why, why do we stay silent when there is so much to say?

a caveat before i write further…..when the #metoo movement busted awake, I found myself curious about the dance that happens oh to frequently, and i’ll speak to the heteronormative interplay: the woman consents, or doesn’t not consent, and the man moves forward without realizing what is going on for her. then, later, if/when she shares what happens, he is confused, even defensive. with cancel culture, this becomes intolerable. the all to typical defensiveness and blame arises as a result of confusion.

so why does this happen? i had to move my body, dance, to explore this question. and what i write here is far from the whole story. in fact, i hope you tell me more about how you receive these words, what your experience is.

so much at play. so many reasons one decides not to speak on behalf of their true experience. there is of course the overarching, third order view of patriarchy. A looming ghost that supports male bodied people to have a different level of freedom and autonomy than other bodies…to say the least. i can’t quite locate when i, myself, learned to heighten a male’s voice and preferences over mine. where i started to believe that their needs were priority, and mine were immeasurable. how i learned that they hold the power, and without that power, i am nothing. the thing with society is that we, humans, make it up. we are the ingredients of said society. the haunting nature and rules of it trickle top down and bottom up. so in our family units, the same insidious messages may be perpetuated. in my own family, i unconsciously learned that protecting connection was essential at all costs. for in our basic humanness, belonging is key to survival. and so even if that meant leaving my needs to meet others, i’d do it on all accounts to get whatever amount of love i could get. many of us may learn that if we do speak up, connection may be threatened. so to communicate needs we adopt an oppositional stance: either i need to pull away and protect or move outwards and blame. there is no middle way.

and then there is the somatic level. the freeze response that is an evolutionary, primitive response of survival. our body lighting up, aroused in lack of safety, while words get lodged in our throats. unable to move, communicate, we are stuck adopting whatever is happening. and this happens on the other side. when i told this friend that i wanted to discuss past misses, he became afraid, panicky. so many of us are shaped to have a fear response around confrontation, around needs, around misses and repairs.

what i am learning now is how to be in relationship through an anchoring in relationship with myself. a system functions best when all are grounded within their own systems, able to respond to their own needs. for so long, i’ve looked for others to give me permission to express what is alive for me, and i am now learning, with excruciating discomfort, how to speak what is true, learning (and unlearning) that the whole system benefits from my honesty. and fuck, even if it doesn’t, at least i don’t lose myself even more in the process. as i write that, it feels essential to respond to the reality that different bodies have been oppressed in different ways, thus impacting their experience of safety. so each of us have a variety of swamps to swim through in order to 1. decide it is safe enough to share 2. decide to risk self-exposure 3. decide it is worth it.

the thing is, at this moment in time, so many of us seek a system that will be the repair. “they” and “them” is thrown around like wildfire, and while there is work on systemic levels, we also need to pay attention to “us” and the multitude of micro-movements that we enact daily that reenact conflict-ridden, dominant, oppressive tendencies. i’m kind of obsessed with shared power. and yet, when i look for examples of how we can experience connection through shared power, how we can avoid power over and power under, there are limited (hardly any) examples of how to do this well. it makes sense that so few of us trust that connection can be maintained while having differing needs.

i have swallowed so many of my needs. i wonder if you have, too. and i’m getting tired. filling instead of emptying. smiling instead of speaking. if i disown parts of me to meet you, can i really meet you? and if out of my freeze, you freeze, how can we ever hear each other? how can belonging and care serve as the underbelly to growth? could it be possible to unfreeze together? to reach out? how can we evolve?

with love and warmth,

artwork bow

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