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SILENCE: BECAUSE WHAT'S MISSING IS TOO ABSENT TO IGNORE

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Abstract

What is silence? Is there a psychology of silence—and what does the literature reveal? The exploration of the concept of silence in the psychological literature reveals an almost biological entity—that speaks, grows, hurts, and conceals—despite being nothing at all. Humans are a verbal species, so verbal in fact that the very absence of sound seems to make humans uncomfortable. This verbal world—so dependent on manifest explanation—may make silence one of the most effective means of communication (even though it appears to communicate nothing). This research paper will explore the psychological literature, and show that silence speaks though it says nothing, grows though it has no substance, hurts though it can touch nothing, and conceals though it cannot hide from perception. Though it consists of nothing in particular, it generates psychological phenomena such as pressure, anxiety, suspicion, isolation, rejection, inner conflict, ambiguity, and agitation. Despite its lack of sound or meaning, the language of silence is spoken by all—and once silence is here, its missing explanation is too absent to ignore.
Journal of Societal and Cultural Research
Volume 1, Number 1
March, 2015
ISSN: 2376-399X
1
SILENCE: BECAUSE WHA T'S MISSING IS
TOO ABSENT TO IGNORE
Mary Ann O’Grady, PhD
Lonny Meinecke
Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University
Abstract: What is silence? Is there a psychology of silenceand what does the
literature reveal? The exploration of the concept of silence in the psychological
literature reveals an almost biological entitythat speaks, grows, hurts, and
concealsdespite being nothing at all. Humans are a verbal species, so verbal in
fact that the very absence of sound seems to make humans uncomfortable. This
verbal worldso dependent on manifest explanationmay make silence one of
the most effective means of communication (even though it appears to
communicate nothing). This research paper will explore the psychological
literature, and show that silence speaks though it says nothing, grows though it
has no substance, hurts though it can touch nothing, and conceals though it
cannot hide from perception. Though it consists of nothing in particular, it
generates psychological phenomena such as pressure, anxiety, suspicion,
isolation, rejection, inner conflict, ambiguity, and agitation. Despite its lack of
sound or meaning, the language of silence is spoken by alland once silence is
here, its missing explanation is too absent to ignore.
Keywords: spiral of silence, absence of explanation, biophilia, groupthink
definition, interrogation techniques, culture of silence.
What is silence? What is the psychology of
it? The literature is not silent on silence,
revealing an almost biological entity, one
that speaks, grows, hurts, and conceals,
despite being nothing at all. Humans are a
verbal species (Hauser, 2005). The absence
of discernable sound often makes humans
uncomfortable (Manassis, Tannock,
Garland, Minde, & Clark, 2007). The
presence of an empty span of conscious
time, such as the silence between an
expression of need or pain and a reply,
becomes spontaneously filled with an
urgency to fill it (Biro & Biro, 2011). This
Journal of Societal and Cultural Research Vol. 1. Issue 1
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verbal world is so dependent on language
that the absence of language, manifested as
silence, may be the most effective means of
communicating anything that remains
undefined (Ekman, 1998; Hauser, 2005).
Humans can spot an absence of explanation
from afar (Darwish, 2011; Elhammoumi,
1996; Vygotsky, Luria, & Rossiter, 1992).
When will the silence end? What goes here?
This research paper will explore the
psychological literature, and show that
silence speaks though it says nothing, grows
though it has no substance, hurts though it
can touch nothing, and conceals though it
cannot hide from perception. Though it
consists of nothing in particular, it generates
psychological phenomena such as pressure,
anxiety, suspicion, isolation, rejection, inner
conflict, ambiguity, and agitation. Despite
its lack of sound or meaning, the language
of silence is spoken by all, yet silence is
something that is so missing, it is too absent
to ignore. In the absence of explanation,
silence brings what is hidden into the light
and though we are urgent to fill this
emptiness with something, we can never be
sure if what we offer up to the Silence, is
enough for it to go away.
Language - Silence Speaks
How is silence a language? Silence
speaks an ineffable language everyone
seems to know but no one can say. It tells us
what is not here; it makes the obvious
ambiguous. It is nonverbal yet is has idioms;
it is like a pause between a question that was
not asked, and an answer that did not reply.
When the Absent are Present
Carbaugh (1990) states that how a
community uses silence to communicate is
at least as important to study as how that
community uses spoken meanings to
communicate to one another. How does
silence become such an effective means of
communication? How can “being silent”
communicate anything meaningful? The
reason is not the silence (which is manifest);
the reason is the expectation hidden in the
silence (which is not manifest). When we
anticipate something should be here, but it is
saliently not here, silence is the presence of
that absence. As Freud (1920) illuminated
long ago, what is manifest is already here,
and does not beg discovery; what is latent or
hidden in suggestion is not quite here, and
teases imagination.
By example, most are familiar with
the ritual of roll call, during which a list of
names is read, and, upon the breaking of the
silence after each name, someone says . . .
“Here! This habit we have of calling out a
list of labels of things we believe should be
here to verify that they are, is intimately
bound to the need for all of us to anxiously
await the unveiling of the absent response.
Time appears to stand still as we await the
appearance of the delayed agent who must
be attached to the label hanging in mid-air
(Gütig & Sompolinsky, 2009). Frequently,
activity cannot continue while this silence
pervades; so, having called the name of this
thing which is not here, this is when
Absence is here. A present thing would
reply, so that if an absent thing does not
reply, this Silence is very much like the
Absence saying . . . “Here! Silence may be
both the softest and loudest of all
communications, because like zero in a
denominator, it is simultaneously necessary
and meaningless, evidential yet undefined,
existent yet has no reciprocal proof it exists
(Quinn, Lamberg, & Perrin, 2008; Wagner,
2009; Weisstein, 2015). Though it is
quantitative, we can never determine how
quiet or how loud it is, guessing, instead, is
what fills our thoughts like epistemological
qualia (Haikonen, 2009). Silence is almost
the voice of our fear and of our doubt, or
like roll call, the sound of something which
should be here, but is not. Silence is such a
sound. It is so loud we can barely hear
Silence: Because what’s missing is too absent to ignore
3
ourselves think. Silence has not said
anything, yet it has our complete attention.
The Language Spoken by Silence
The power that written language has
over us lies in the suggestive power of the
arrangement of symbols we transit hopefully
or anxiously, and wherein the collision of
inner expectation and inference with
external latency and ambiguity often results
in far more words than could ever fit on a
single page (based on Chomsky, 2007). The
famous Noam Chomsky called this effect,
eloquently, “a discrete infinity of utterances”
which we might describe here as potential
responses whether uttered or not (Rieber,
2010, para. 24). The affective elevations
which arise from this intersection of forces
become the communicated meaning we
think we see. The author of any written
communication cannot disambiguate
everything his or her audience might ask in a
future which is not yet here, so that
whatever was left unsaid is often the
magnitude of hopes and doubts that give
meaning and intensity to the story. McColl
(2012) divides the language of silence into
two categories: for good, and for harm.
When silence is present for good, it
is a volume affording the diffusion of
elevating argumentative emotions. It is a
mutual silence, a manifest silence, whose
reasons for being present are clear and
mutually understood. It is an epoch of
agreed calm during which the emotions so
contentiously engaged may withdraw and
consolidate what has been said.
When silence is present for harm, the
injury arises from either the manifest nature
of the silence itself, that this silence is meant
to injure, or the intentional hiding, latent
nature, of any reason at all. Reflection by
the object of that silence on this hidden
explanation results in inner seeking of faults
within. For couples, good silence is more
defensive, avoidant, reluctant, not of the
partner but of the negative emotions
previously shared, and harmful silence is
aggressive, derisive, compliance-seeking of
the partner proper (McColl, 2012).
Reconciliation is the goal, either
way, but one is contributive and mutual,
while the other is withholding and unilateral.
Battered women sometimes carry silence
with them out of fear, as tribute to prevent a
partner from leaving, or as an offering so as
not to lose any more symmetry or privileges
(Lewis, 1996). Victims of domestic abuse
sometimes lose their personal identity
completely, in the silent substitution of “we”
wherever “I” should go during verbal
behavior (O'Grady, 2015). In this sense, the
reticent contents of Silence when meant for
good suggest hope, and the taciturn contents
of Silence when meant for hurt constitute
fear. The language of silence is deliberately
ambiguous.
The Hidden Lexicon of Silence
Whenever there is a presence of the
absence of something needed, the silence
that hangs in the air is like a hidden lexicon
of words that have been invisibly said. Some
of these hidden terms, in the silence, Capps
(2011) calls shame, omission, repulsion,
rejection, embarrassment, indifference,
punishment, and suffering, like a child of
lost synchrony during fundamental
attachment development, perhaps Augustine
himself. Reflection on words “spoken”
during the silence, can result in a harvest of
loneliness, isolation, lost opportunity,
hidden portents, or an ominous expectation
which never completely goes away because
it never completely arrived and told us why
it was here. Capps suggests that much of the
cold fog between strangers meeting for the
first time in every venue, is due to the fear
of the silent reply that may come as a
reaction to the timid hello. Neither love nor
acceptance withhold or inhibit themselves
Journal of Societal and Cultural Research Vol. 1. Issue 1
4
any more than tears of joy can hold
themselves back; but secret feelings of hurt
or harm often hide behind self-inhibition of
reply.
Silence is a nonverbal form of
communication with a nonverbal language.
Postural signals often form the semiotics
shared by participants in silence. Postural
silence is like a force of expectation that
puts pressure on one side of the
conversation, and indicates hostility or
disagreement (SheKnows, 2014). This kind
of pressure can induce palpable,
physiological anguish. Or, the language of
silence can indicate something profound has
happened, inducing respect, contemplation,
or awe. Well-known is the tradition of
taking a moment of silence to welcome an
empty span among the hectic ones, to allow
silent empathy to overflow the width of
moments normally afforded. Nonverbal
silence can cast a pallor of disdain, by not
replying to someone expecting acceptance
or at least tolerance. Additionally, an
effective listener can employ silence to
express a volume of positive regard that
welcomes any outgoing expression at all
(Rogers, 1961; Wittig, 2001). This kind of
unspoken communication indicates empathy
and compassion, two hearts sharing the
burden of one. Therapists often make
effective listeners.
Idioms for Silence: A Deafening Lack of
Sound
Language has its peculiarities, and
silence is peculiar. Our expression “the
silence is deafening” is a paradoxical twist
of reason. Silence cannot be heard, and the
deaf could not hear it even if it could. There
is a curious lack of corresponding words like
silence among the other human modalities
(e.g. the darkness is blindingly bright, or the
lack of aroma is intense). Perhaps it is
because silence implicitly suggests both
ends of a spectrum of sensory need. By
example, at one end Keller (2003) reminds
us of the terrible silence in the incapacity to
sense social contact, versus the comfort left
behind when social needs are silenced. At
the other, Sidransky (2006) reminds us of
the terrible inner cacophony in the capacity
to sense sound when there is no sound to
sense. Silence is like a crucible that tries our
patience, leaving only an unpredictable
semantic paradox behind.
Thomas Carlyle (1997) had a lot to
say about silence; for one, that there are just
two things which are impossible: to forget
something you know, and to ignore silence
without saying something. He used phrases
like under “cover of silence” (p. 59), a
darkness, a secret, a persuasion to yield and
cease trying, the tumult after death, flood, or
plague. In silence the plans of unseen things
are knit together in hidden gestation, and an
unspeakable cunning bides its time until
surprise is assured. In silence is meaning
between the concepts of what is latent and
what is manifest, and creatures often find
their only path to expression in it. For
Carlyle, silence was at once a virtue and a
lack of that, depending on whatever
anticipating listeners were last expecting.
Luna (2014) reminds that we can
come face to face with silence while utterly
alone, too, and that is a different kind of
silence. We will do anything to shut out the
silence, run from the silenceby putting our
hands over our imaginations and avoiding its
beckoning meditation. Suddenly devoid of
stimulation, the air is filled with noise from
somewhere deep inside us. Solitary silence
requires that the sole listener do something
about it. The more consoled we were, the
more non-seeking of conversation we were
before we became alone, the more
inconsolably seeking we will become when
we find ourselves suddenly alone (Kübler-
Ross & Kessler, 2005).
Silence: Because what’s missing is too absent to ignore
5
Nonverbal Silence, Emphasis, or
Disambiguation
It was Mehrabian (1981) who
suggested that as much as 90% of
communication is nonverbal when trying to
express like or dislike (Mehrabian & Ferris,
1967). Nothing is more nonverbal than
silence, and nothing is more silently
nonverbal, than lack of behavioral reply.
Nonverbal behaviors can be used to
communicate lack of response, emphasize a
verbal response, disambiguate a verbal
response, or misdirect interpretation of an
apparent meaning. This form of silent
message can either mask or reveal intent
(Swami, 2013). Hopkins (n.d.) explains that
strategic explicit interruptions of verbal
communication, silence itself, can provoke
feedback nonconsciously, and the relative
presence or absence of either speech or
gestures can be minimal or nil, and still
constitute an expectation of contribution. He
also relates that kinesics (nonverbal
communication) are eerily similar to audible
languages.
The purpose of language seems
simply an urgency to communicate emotion;
efferent feelings come out in body or voice,
and the symbols we use seem more like
airborne stimuli with the power to
disambiguate signals when they arrive,
rather than purely for the sake of
unemotional, factual data (Ekman, 1998).
Silence then, does not mean emotion has
stopped, only that the carrier wave is
unmodulated right now (either visually or
audibly). Ekman (1998) shares that the
eeriness extends to the level of subliminal
detection; microexpressions in the face can
occur so briefly neither party of the
conversation notes them consciously,
despite having exchanged them through
facial musculature. Darwin (1872) wrote of
the connection between emotions and
expression long ago, and how many species
share emotions without words. These
“microbehaviors” articulate in least visible
time a fine control of emotional
(dis)ambiguation, either intentional, which is
commensurate, or unintentional. The latter
occurs when breaches in the social mask
permit the disconsonance, between honest
but hidden feelings and dishonest but
manifest words, to circumvent conscious
image management. Investigative sciences
such as forensics document the effort to
micromanage nonverbal behavior, while
detectives and interrogators seek to uncover
malingering and dissembling (Harold &
Hall, 2001).
These subtle cues in facial
musculature, eyes, limbs, or posture allow
human visual pathways to function like the
air between an oral source and a pair of
listening ears. Surrounded by silence, the
urgent peripheral senses need to be filled
from somewhere, so that communication
may actually continue in silence as the
anticipative party seeks any clue at all in the
posture of the other. This pause between the
capacity and incapacity to interpret social
signals can be disconcerting enough to
trigger inner disquiet similar to nociceptive
signals (pain) that ache and ache
(SheKnows, 2014). Silence is the ostracizing
of the contribution most needed by some
locus of urgency; it is the exclusion of the
fundamental feeling of want from the
possibility of ever being perceived, so long
as this silence pervades and trauma’s
volume grows in its stead (Berkeley, 1979;
Zadro, 2013). Nothing is more nonverbal
than silence, and nothing is more silently
nonverbal than a lack of any disambiguating
gesture.
Culture - Silence Grows
How is silence a culture, and how
can something insubstantial grow? Silence
often grows like a question in a petri dish, or
a void that guesses fill. Once it has been
here, silence cannot go away. It is almost
Journal of Societal and Cultural Research Vol. 1. Issue 1
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like a culture of discomfort that blossoms in
the dark, or a city where things deferred in
youth may grow up to be permanently
ignored at maturity. It is like the dawn of an
absent sun and the diurnal presence of
absent light. Silence, perhaps, is the negative
equivalent of space and time.
A Rift in the Meaning of Here
What is silence? How can we
contemplate something which is not
present? It might help if we first ask
ourselves, what does present” mean? The
Western concept of “the Present” is very
exteroceptive, what time this is, and what
place this is. Awareness of noise or din, of
light or sound, in time or space, organized or
chaotic (according to James, 1950), is what
we call Presence. Lulls, which are
unexplained intervals of quiet, are
unwelcome impediments to the goal-
focused, time-urgent, Western vigilance,
which become frustrations if these
unexplained epochs are not quickly claimed
by actions (pre-selection for action, perhaps,
extending Allport, 1987).
But in Eastern thought, “Presence is
very interoceptive, and the gaps between
things hold the power of and over thought,
not the things themselves (Laozi & Mitchell,
2004). As Mulford (2011) would say,
thoughts are things, too. In Japanese
thought, the concept called ma is something
between things, between this moment and
the next (Pilgrim, 1986). Ma describes a
force of presence which is neither now nor
here, and yet its duration is so indescribable
and its presence so unavoidable, this
“negative space” called ma has more power
in its unseen silence than any visible din.
Ma, like the Western word for silence,
describes a state of time and space which is
indescribably indivisible (Iimura, 2002). The
power of this quiet which envelops
awareness forces us to listen, until the still,
small voice of silence that we know is
beckoning is finally here. While it is not, our
own inner voices rush upward and argue
over what should be here so that
consciousness does not seem to like a void
(Capps, 2011; Jonsson, Grim, & Kjellgren,
2014; Rüedi-Bettschen et al., 2006). In Zen,
a word stemming from the absorption of,
and being absorbed by, awareness; the
silence before the first sound that breaks that
silence is like the realization that semantic
intercourse has been happening in secret,
birthing its offspring into the open and into
the light (Zin, n.d.). Perhaps this is why
silence makes such an effective means to
elicit information from another.
Pilgrim (1986) reveals that the
Japanese word ma stems from the concepts
mon (gate or portal) and tsuki (sun or moon),
like the shafts of dawn’s light suddenly
bridging the gap between the light and the
dark, the known and the unknown. This
epoch of ma symbolizes the boundaries at
the edge of reason, where this silent but very
visible interval between meaning and
hope of meaning becomes a void that must
be filled. Silence then, when we are
expecting sound, is a rift in the meaning of
here.
In the Presence of Absence
Looking back on his own existence,
Darwish (2011) presciently gave us the
phrase “in the presence of absencein the
poignant title of his work. In one of the two
most prominent insights shared by their
author (the other being positive psychology),
Seligman (1967) revealed that the absence
of something does not make it go away. In a
dissertation exploring the phenomenon of
learned helplessness, the author found a far
more significant helplessness any of us can
become subjects of, waiting for the arrival of
something once present, but no longer
present. In that paper the thing awaited was
a zone of safety and comfort, but the insight
also revealed that Absence is a thing, a very
Silence: Because what’s missing is too absent to ignore
7
present thing. During the awareness of
Absence, lots of things are presentthose
anxious drives within urge us to guess what
should be present, but is not present. In the
fashion of Frankl’s paradoxical intent
(2006), the urgency induced by sudden
awareness of the Absence of something
results in its constant arrival to awareness. In
contrast, the initial awareness of the
Presence of something results in the
eventual absence of our awareness of it, as
urgency ebbs away. The Presence that
Absence brings to this constant upwelling of
motivations, to figure out what, exactly, is
not present, is the basis of the power of
silence.
Culture of Silence and Silent Cultural
Differences
As with any gathering of clans from
the ancient past to modern times, the social
and cultural trajectories that diverged
between gatherings diverged with respect to
the culture of language and silence as well.
Native Americans, for example, differ from
many other Americans, in that the latter are
direct and perceive verbal pauses during
discourse as awkward, whereas the former
view verbal delays as necessary, and
directness as improper behavior for
discourse (Heit, 1987). Fujio (2004)
explains that pauses and stops during
communication can mean vastly different
things to different cultures. Rhythmic timing
beneath language communicates different
things in different languages (Euler, 2013).
In the American culture, directness and lack
of pauses are expected to ensure progress
during business meetings. In Japanese
culture, however, such directness is
considered impolite, and pauses are
interjected to allow respectful intervals of
meditation and reflection, or to express
uncertainty politely. Fujio (2004) relates that
these pauses are received with frustration
and discomfort by Americans. Often these
silent intervals represent very simple
misunderstandings, provision time for
recalculation and rephrasing, or are simply
the result of inner translation. As Iimura
(2002) and Pilgrim (1986) explained with
regard to the Ryoan-Ji garden short film
subject, the Eastern custom of permitting
gaps (ma) in the rush of life express respect
and introspective focus. The sense of
absence elicited from silence in Western
culture, though, creates a cultural rift not
unlike ma itself, during which parties must
discover the missing meaning. To add to this
silent confusion, there is a sort of
comorbidity of intercultural differences
when it comes to intracultural differences,
too. The female gender in some societies
may be even more latent and reticent than
their male counterparts, for example.
By reason of the fact that much of
life is spent at work, businesses have also
developed cultures of their own. According
to Verhezen (2010), moral silence can be
bad for business, resulting in anonymous
complaints and word of mouth which fill
these silences with lessened employee or
customer loyalty. The author suggests
integrating open dialogue and corporate
governance, instead of the awkward
unspoken things which might be filled
variously with less positive guesses. A
culture of silence, as with more extreme
forms such as groupthink, discourages the
creative self-doubts that lead to positive
change and group growth.
Sometimes the presence of silence is
silently interpreted (or misinterpreted) as
opposition or passive avoidance, as Fordham
(1993) shares with regard to minority group
attitudes which are seen as threatening by
the majority or its representatives. Coplan,
Hughes, Bosacki, and Rose-Krasnor (2011)
explain that educators may perceive
externalizing, disruptive students as merely
in need of behavioral remediation, whereas
internalizing, shy students may be perceived
Journal of Societal and Cultural Research Vol. 1. Issue 1
8
as unintelligent due to their non-
responsiveness. Fischer (2006) suggests that
the deafening silence of student apathy may
be the result of differing learning styles,
however, and the need to add variety may
alter the silent channel-changing of student
attentions when the educator changes
channels actively.
Negative Space Can Become a Positive
Silence
The ma concept suggests non-space
and non-time, a negative space not quite
here, like a vacuum on the far side of a dark
and fuzzy looking glass (SciTechDaily,
2013). How can space be negative? How can
the need for time accumulate as negative
hours? Negative space-time does not always
mean negative affect; sometimes (like ma) it
is a positive invitation in our busy schedules
and anxious lives to seek and recover the
stress-free beginnings we began with.
Though silence seems personal,
silence is also societal, as exemplified by the
ability of certain societies to embrace the
healing and restorative effects of silence
(such as in the Japanese culture which
practices Shinrin-yoku). Practitioners are
encouraged to “forest-bathe” allowing
nature to enter their body through all five
senses, and to embrace the peace and quiet
of the forest (Shinrin-yoku, 2014). At the
present time, Japan hosts 53 official Forest
Therapy trails with a goal of having 100 of
these trails by the year 2022 (INFOM,
2014). The physiological anthropologist,
Yoshifumi Miyazaki purports the “back-to-
nature” theory which states that humans
evolved in nature so that is where we feel
the most comfortable. When we are
deprived of that natural contact or
immersion in nature, our psychological and
physiological functions do not function
properly (Bum Jin, Tsunetsugu, Kasetani,
Kagawa, & Miyazaki, 2010). Maybe nature
is silently calling us home.
If nature is calling us from the
silence, maybe we “hear it” beneath
awareness, in our more ancient processes?
Subjacent to efforts like Shinrin-yoku, are
the concepts biophilia and vagal theory. The
famous Erich Fromm (2010) described
biophilia, the love of life-like or living
things, as the positive opposite of
necrophilia, the love of death-like or
mechanical things. In some primeval trace
of what it means to be human, there seems a
memory of abundance versus scarcity; there
seems a memory of love of life, rather than
avoidance of death. This life focus,
biophilia, still persists within, but requires
we rediscover our natural beginnings,
outside the hectic din and confusion of
urban life that distracts us and makes us
fearful, frustrated, and selectively possessive
and defensive.
Perhaps as human beings we miss
our wanderlust, and need to get lost again so
we can find undiscovered, undescribed
personal meaning again, that place where
courage and worth can still be sought and
earned (Zilcosky, 2004). It could even be
that the repetition-compulsion mentioned by
Freud and elaborated on by Fromm (like
Freud’s Thanatos to Fromm’s necrophilia),
is a cognitive distortion seeking escape from
the lack of some singular affective
fulfillment in a multiplicity of unfulfilling
substitutes. This natural biology, Darwin
affirmed, is toward an uncountable variety
of infinite uniques which find survival in
being non-similar and unpredictable. Yet
anxious society requires persons and
outcomes be as similar and predictable as
possible to plan for the survival of its
urgently artificial conception of nature, an
anxious frequency of predictable similars,
instead of an unpredictable plural of
joyously differential potentials (Darwin,
1876). Perhaps the three-body problem of
chaos theory fame, like fractals in nature, is
Silence: Because what’s missing is too absent to ignore
9
nothing more than a hidden purpose
practicing imperfectly self-similar collision
avoidance, by forces respecting one
another’s struggle to variety (Andrews,
2013)? Fromm suggested that this dual
nature has but one urgency, to survive. He
also believed that the crucial condition to
develop biophilia (love of life) was to be
immersed in an environment that fosters the
love of life during critical human lifespan
development. When reach is afforded
positive social scripts to role-play and
become the persona that cannot wait to live
life, reach is disafforded opportunities to
acquire negative scripts that fear the loss of
life when anxiety and urgency call
(Holzman, 2014). Perhaps biophilia speaks
to us in the language of environmental
silence when we pause to reflect on nature.
Like Shinrin-yoku, biophilia alone is
a necessary but not a sufficient condition for
the feedback needed to dispel stress and
elevate well-being. For learning and growth,
for revision of unhealthy thoughts, feelings,
and behaviors, the conscious being must
have an interoceptive feedback level. This
visceral, perhaps polyvagal proprioceptive
feedback confirms well-being and
disconfirms malaise, by unavoidable
appreciation of the accelerating approach of
positive affect and accelerating departure of
negative affect (Garland, 2013). It is about
survival; Porges polyvagal theory suggests
we have a (silent yet audible) drive and
feedback system for affectively fulfilling
social engagement. However we also have
an intrinsic sympathetic/parasympathetic
feedback system to alert us to danger
(fight/flight). The conflicting goals of these
two require we be mindful of interoceptive
feelings so we can accommodate the needs
of both. Tsakiris, Long, and Haggard (2010)
argue that body ownership is experienced in
a conflict between the anterior cingulate
cortex (ACC) and anterior insula (AI),
which becomes a phenomenological
experience of emotional consciousness that
Craig (2008) terms the global emotional
moment. Lee, Dolan, and Critchley (2008)
contribute that this authentic self must
suppress itself and its manifest responses to
avoid perturbing an anxious social curve of
emotional expectation, creating a frustrated
agency attempting to perceive itself and be
perceived, but inhibited from doing either.
Just as there can be external silence when
ears neglect voices, there can be inner
silence when perception neglects itself.
To be complete, technological
options do exist to monitor and learn from
biofeedback, in contrast to natural transit of
waterscapes, forest settings, mountain
meadows, and grasslands. Garten (2011)
offers a neuroscientifically tested
biofeedback system which can provision
meditative alleviation of stress conditions,
without leaving an urban area. However,
many also caution that supplanting the
natural world with the artificial will come at
a cost. Though adaptation will continue
despite the silent loss of our capacity to
discriminate this accelerating divergence of
humanity from its nature, the love of living
things will not, becoming sublimated by the
craving for mechanistic affection
(necrophilia and technophilia). Authentic,
biological agency will quietly fade from
memory and not be missed, like soft rains
with no one left to appreciate them
(Bradbury, Leialoha, Woods, & Woods,
2002; Kahn, Jr., Severson, & Ruckert,
2009). Whether subsumed in and by nature,
or consumed by its pursuit in urban situ,
knowing thyself may help turn the silent,
negative space of deferred natural attentions
into positive fulfillment and private, positive
time.
The Manifest Purpose of the Absence of
Explanation
Purpose seems to be latent, whereas
the struggle for hidden purposes to be
Journal of Societal and Cultural Research Vol. 1. Issue 1
10
perceived and acknowledged seems very
manifest (Berkeley, 1979). It appears that in
the continuing absence of explanation we
begin to seek the purpose of it, so that it has
a chance to become manifest to all.
Otherwise, we just assume the most obvious
reason is the last one uttered. Spinoza
(according to Damasio, 2003), called this
hidden purpose conatus; Berkeley (1979)
called it the need to be perceived. Freud
(1920) called it the latent needing to be
manifest. Recently, Panksepp (2010) called
this unending default exigency SEEK. In this
seek mode, humans perceive meaningful
shapes in inkblots, clouds, even slices of
bread (Hadjikhani, Kveraga, Naik, &
Ahlfors, 2009; Kleiger, 2012; Zimmerman,
2012). According to an insightful analysis
by Du and Montiel (2013), the kinds of
latent questions we seek within and between
manifest stimuli are:
Was this to communicate or
miscommunicate something?
Was it for good or for ill?
Was it to heal or to wound?
Was it to cloak or to reveal?
Did it signal accord or discord?
Did it mean we should contemplate
or avoid contemplation?
Was it for courtesy or impact?
Was it a cultural accommodation or
to show disdain for culture?
Was it meant as a “projectile” aimed
to inflict discomfort and await
agreement, or a lowering of defenses
to welcome treaty?
Is this silence here to remove
argument and bring us together, or to
push the other away with an
unapproachable argument?
The common purpose of either
speech or silence, hides in the fact that
humans use the same anticipative process to
interpret one or the other (Du & Montiel,
2013). Silence is when we do not respond to
need, and need is more present than its
absent reply. Silence communicates
meaning by invisibly inducing an
ambiguous need to find it, just as speech
communicates meaning by attempting to
visibly disambiguate each prior word,
spoken or unspoken. The manifest purpose
of the absence of explanation is that it so
easily defeats our own purposes.
Prejudice - Silence Hurts
How can silence hurt? Silence can
separate the need to belong from its hope of
belonging. Silence can communicate the
urgency not to communicate. Silence can
hide in voices no one can hear, or foster
whatever social suspicions require to quietly
fuel conflicts.
Ostracized by Silence
Abraham Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy
of needs, which has found rich adoption in
many disciplines, describes a fundamental
need, just above the fundamental
physiological needs of food and drink and
durations of those supplied by security and
shelter, called belonging. Belonging is a
hunger inherent to being human, being
accepted, being loved and needed. Maslow
felt it so important he added an extended
version of this need above the apex of his
famous pyramid of needs. In transcendence
the individual ceases to fret over belonging
at all, because (as Kohlberg described) the
Self becomes subsumed in the needs and
satisfactions of the All, and one is as much
the other (Koltko-Rivera, 2006). In a society
of such belonging, to be ostracized by
silence is to lose access to a need as
fundamental as food and drink, security or
shelter. Marginalization by the group to
which the Self finds its identity fulfilled is
akin to physical pain, just as physical pain
would follow inaccessibility of food, water,
or warmth (Gerber & Wheeler, 2009).
Group rejection has a long history,
from the Greek practice of writing a feared
Silence: Because what’s missing is too absent to ignore
11
person’s name on an ostrakon (a bit of shell
or shard) to be cast out by secret vote (for
fear of one’s abilities), to the practice of
cherem and excommunication in the time of
Spinoza (for fear of one’s thoughts).
Damasio (2003) shares that this planned
group silence, often accompanied by a ritual
incantation calling down hurt upon the
feared differential perspective, caused the
flight of those who once belonged
somewhere, from place to place in desperate
hope of simple ideological acceptance. From
Portugal to Holland, Sephardic Jews cast out
for being Jewish marranos in Portugal, were
cast out from Holland for not being
appropriately Jewish in Holland. Spinoza
himself had his greatest works ostracized
even after his death, as though to erase like a
cartouche his name itself and never be
spoken again except in quiet whispers.
Gutenschwager (2013) relates that
acceptance outside the family is as
fundamental a need as family, and that
mutual regard in Epicurus’ garden was the
social glue, rather than the less intuitive glue
of social expectation of conformity and
similarity which tend to fear.
A corollary to the concept of
belonging, is the linguistic term clusivity.
Some languages have a “we” concept which
may or may not include the speaker (“I”). A
person may speak on behalf of the group
affiliation without inclusion of self in the
information expressed. The Oxford English
Dictionary (2014) defines clusivity as being
either enclosing (imprisoned, excluded) or
encompassing (non-imprisoned, included).
Criminal justice systems frequently use the
former form of clusivity by isolating an
inmate from social contact and conversation,
resulting in agitation and delirium in those
with no prior history of mental health
problems, exacerbation of symptoms for
those who do, and often future failure to
reintegrate with the prison population in
either case (Grassian, 2006). Public
disclaimers often use clusivity to detach the
group identity from opinions expressed
within the group identity (Strauss, 2004).
Ostracization, it seems, can work either way.
Securely Attached to Insecurity -
Groupthink
Nowhere is the use of silence and
self-silence more prominent than in the
groupthink phenomenon. In groups, silence
takes the form of various levels of
censorship, either for information coming
into the group, leaving the group, or
between members of the group. Cook (2002)
describes the use of pressure to mandate
self-censorship, for example, for the good of
the group. Group members often feel
obligated to be taciturn, deferring to the
apparent unanimity of beliefs. Groupthink
often arises from rigid hierarchical
structures within which the non-questioning
of superiors is expected, resulting in self-
censorship despite continuing dissention
(Lewin, 1951). One of the symptoms of
groupthink, relies on the human tendency to
doubt self and the self’s decisions when in
the company of social others, the majority of
which hold a different view. Solomon
Asch’s famous line experiments evinced that
group opinion could easily sway personal
opinions despite visual evidence to the
contrary (Jackson & Saltstein, 1958). In
studies of group conformity, we can think of
the self-inhibition of disagreement of
opinion as a form of differential silence,
even if the individual is not verbally silent
when stating agreement. Cook (2002)
explains that important group decisions
cause group stress and great insecurity,
inducing the need for quick agreement
despite a lack of consensual opinion. These
silent watchdogs of group identification and
group behavior inhibit verbal expression of
concerns, creating an envelope of secrecy
and silence. Groupthinkers are securely
attached to the group’s insecurity.
Journal of Societal and Cultural Research Vol. 1. Issue 1
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Silent Incentives to Remain Silent
Witnesses
Often, the same stimulation silence
induces to bring evidence to light, is useful
to ensure silence persists and evidence
remains hidden. Crimes that occur when
justice was not looking often have silent
witnesses who were. Criminal silence
though, has its own set of ethics that makes
overcoming that silent testimony a
challenge. Kocieniewski (2007) reports that
there are far more silent witnesses than
vocal ones in high crime areas, but snitching
is a cultural norm more significant than
justice where economic survival distorts the
value systems of neighborhood logic.
Witnesses fear to come forward for fear of
being ostracized by their own community
even if offering testimony might make the
community safer for all. Intimidation is
common; residents promote anti-snitching
campaigns via music and paraphernalia;
excommunication or worse is a real
possibility. Many witnesses in such
neighborhoods fear their own misdeeds will
come to light in exchange for testimony.
Law enforcement often fears to lose
innocent witnesses more than to catch guilty
criminals, and the concept of obtaining
justice can get lost in the more severe
outcomes that come as a result of testimony
rather than cautiously remaining silent
(Kocieniewski, 2007).
Bauer (2008) discloses that witness
silence can be bought, or witnesses can be
paid to come forward, both of which
challenge the ethicality of purchased
testimony. Laws exist to help prevent legal
counsel from seeking the silence of potential
human evidence that might be helpful for
opposing counsel (noncooperation and
secrecy), but ambiguity and interpretation
are also the specialty of jurisprudence.
Johnston (1997) asks whether compensating
witnesses should be different for the
prosecuting or defending attorneys, if it
might compromise the perceived integrity of
the process of adjudication itself. In
addition, like the scientific struggle to
“arrange randomness,” jurymandering
struggles to arrange judicial outcomes via
selective jury selection (King, 1993).
The elephant in the room that Pausch
poignantly prompted us to introduce
rather than neglect (i.e. a key witness who is
present but not allowed to testify) is possibly
the same reason that our silent conflicts
remain conflicts (CarnegieMellonU, 2008).
The solutions remain hidden in plain view,
where certain topics are not mentioned but
avoided (O’Grady, 2013). The very same
fearful stimulus that silence exudes to make
vocal our guesses about this missing
meaning, can sometimes become a valuable
reason to keep hidden those same questions.
The Silent Gender
In addition to key intercultural
aspects, intra-cultural differences express
pronounced dividing lines, with silence as
the veil between being seen and heard (or
just seen and hardly ever heard). Fordham
(1993) shares the poignant struggle of silent
success: African American women who
must pawn their cultural identity in every
way which might have given them identity
(race, gender, personality). In a patriarchal
society, one gender is invisible, and finds
promotion by not being “too loud”. When
gender is split by race, the “doubly-
refracted” must sever ties with everything
dear, diffusing sociocultural identity into a
social silence that finds its voice in
achievement. Surrendering color for silence,
gender for silence, and family ties for quiet
fit, Fordham sensitively expresses the
endless levels of indirect dis-individuation
required to rise above the din of prejudice.
To find acceptance, this silent gender must
give up any chance of being accepted for
who they are, letting the volume of who they
Silence: Because what’s missing is too absent to ignore
13
really are become a silent witness to self-
exclusion. But there is a light at the end of
the tunnel; as Gilligan (1982) intuits, the
female persuasion does not see a black and
white between silence and voice, either.
There is a “different silence” and a
“different voice” which can be used to say
what cannot be said. This is not a contest of
class, but an inter-relational web of need,
and those things which are not asked when
they should have been, must be asked
eventually. When they are, achievement will
answer them in the voices that were left out.
Coplan et al. (2011) relate that shy
teachers are likely to express more concern
for shy (quiet) male students, perhaps due to
social expectations of male assertiveness.
However, too, a match between a reticent-
like educator and reticent-like students
elevates the chance that empathy will
mediate the impact of attributions of less
intelligence on those who learn silently.
Doubtless, the most evident among
the silent genders, are those to whom neither
Humankind nor Nature have credited a place
to be natural selves when among social
others for whom “natural” means the
normative not authentic self. Kimmel (1994)
shares how those whose gender
identification does not accord with the visual
or functional expectations of others (LGBT
and more), must dwell in a silence of self
that is afraid to speak even for similarsfor
fear of recognition and social expulsion.
Moreover, though the proprioceptive self is
secure in its self-identification, the security
of the larger self, called society, may feel
threatened and label as illness what is only
called variety in Nature. Kimmel (1994)
likens the silence of those whose appearance
does not match either of our inexorable
dichotomization of choices, to childhood
games, like hide-and-seek. That game had a
phrase: “Olly olly oxen free free free” which
offered pleasant exception to the rules of the
game, so that all could come out safely and
play, with no fear of exposure, no threat of
punishment for those who had been hiding.
When we heard this phrase, we ceased our
trembling for fear of discovery in our hiding
places. But the social games that adults play
do not have an olly oxen. The unspoken
rules of the game keep us from being honest
with one another, and gender has a number
of social rules
Silence as a Means to Escalate or De-
escalate Conflict
Just as conflicts may arise with the
least number of participants: a pair, a
couple, or even a single mind divided by
conflicting needs, so too conflicts may
engender multitudes caught up in the need to
find calm again. Kempf (2002) explains that
the role of silence in large-scale conflict
resolution is often as a means to escalate or
de-escalate conflict, or silence can be
misinterpreted as either. Journalists are often
caught up in the struggle and must find
within the strength to report items that are
difficult to report. Sometimes to remain
silent is to allow escalation or to delay
information which might aid resolution.
Kempf (2002) states that every word spoken
or unspoken is often meant as a weapon, and
every word heard or not heard is often
interpreted as a weapon. Yet, periods of
silence might also mean a “cease fire” in the
constant barrage of words, too, just as in
couples therapy, allowing time for diffusion
of chaotic feelings and collective
introspection.
Waterman (2012) reports that
refraining from stating one’s position might
prolong the elevation of tensions, or permit
entangled parties to find solution in armed
conflict when your position is that of a
neutral arbiter of conflicts. This type of
silence is difficult, because keeping or
breaking silence might compromise tenuous
situations. Contentions over unexplored
resources and their sovereignty continue to
Journal of Societal and Cultural Research Vol. 1. Issue 1
14
challenge diplomats as they seek ways to
resolve potential conflicts in the absence of
data regarding the future value of those
resources, and silent evidence regarding
entitlement.
Time - Silence Conceals
How can silence conceal anything? It
can because it tends to cast a shadow on the
future, and acts as a lure to bring silent
things to the surface. It can because it makes
familiar things suddenly unfamiliar. It can
because it is an answer that does not
respond, and a nearness which is farther
away than anything should ever be.
The Shadows Cast by Suspicion and
Doubt
Though silence is not a visual thing,
the shadow of silence falls upon visible
things. The actualized self, described by
Maslow (1943), is a constantly changing
form, because shadows of doubt fall on the
pyramid he described whenever
physiological needs, or safety needs, or
belonging, or esteem rumble the foundations
of that apex, and remind this certain self
how uncertain life can be. Maslow’s
pyramid might be likened to a set of
concentric circles the outer boundary of
which is the actualized self, and silence like
a shadow threatening the inner circles.
Needs include the need to know one’s
future, without which the extended self must
ask and know, or withdraw to a lesser self.
When the future is silent, even when asked,
security is threatened, safety no longer
guaranteed. One of the fears from childhood
was the fear of darkness, and of shadows
moving in that darkness. Silence is such a
silent figure, to which we anxiously ask,
Quo vadis?(who goes there?). The steady
self requires a friendly reply, after which the
vibrations of trust in its future rumble back
down to the foundations, calming the more
fundamental needs. Silence can be the
instability at work and one’s future
employment situation (Wooldridge, 1995);
silence can be a world that does not seem
safe because media events occur which lack
explanation, so that every one of us asks . . .
Quo vadis?”. Silence can be the shape of a
future one cannot make out, because the
future has been quiet lately.
The Primeval Hunter and Hunted
One aspect of effective silence is
when it is used by a hunter of something to
uncover the hunted something. When silence
is a “probe,” it is like fishing with an
invisible lure for an invisible fish. This
human habit of “verbal angling” is not
unlike the Sargassum frogfish (histrio
histrio) that frequent Sargussum weeds, or
the deep sea anglerfish (melanocetus
johnson) that haunt the depths with
bioluminescent lures (Sea and Sky, 2013;
Wainwright, 2011). The hunter’s lure
attracts prey; the prey is fixated on the lure
and misses the predator. Like the anglerfish
and its hungry prey, human speech exhibits
a rhythm of apprehensions which can act as
a lure. We could even view silence as the
norm instead of speech, and thus view
speech as interruption of our normatively
continuous silence (Hudson, n.d.; Janniro,
1991). Psychologists often term this directed
affective stimulation cognitive priming
(Storbeck & Clore, 2008).
The silence in interrogation strategy
has to do with rhythm in communication
between the perpetrator and the interrogator.
When the interrogator changes the rhythm
by slowing or ceasing the communication, it
may result in the perpetrator feeling as
though he/she has to fill in the pauses or
voids of silence. These gaps in our rhythm
are like breaches in a defensive mind, and
that mind attempts to fill them before they
expose entry to safeguarded secrets. In so
doing, the fearful mind is apt to fill those
gaps with the very things being protected
Silence: Because what’s missing is too absent to ignore
15
from view (Janniro, 1991). Hopkins (n.d.)
notes that the complete absence of a signal is
not needed to infer that feedback is
expected, simply slowing or manipulating
the rhythm of exchange can be a strategic
tool. One caveat to this phenomenon is that
the simple act of perceiving oneself as
“prey” can elevate the same physiological
symptoms in innocents as it can in
perpetrators (Guyll et al., 2013). Defense
mechanisms are not tied to substantiations,
apparently, so much as to awareness of a
need for substantiations. As in the
paradoxical impact of silence which seems
to accompany every presence of silence, the
absence of explanation can be taken either
way.
Unheimlich - The Uncanny Valley
Akin to nonverbal silence, is that
uncanny feeling that accompanies
multimodal feedback, which does not quite
seem congruent. Freud (1919) thought
enough of this phenomenon to compose a
paper on it, describing the possible origins
of this dread that comes over us when what
we expect to see is dissonant with what we
see. Freud called it unheimlich, the uncanny.
When something rustles in the room or on
the ground that should not or could not
rustle, and apparently of its own accord, the
human alert system goes to high alert.
Humans have internally scripted
expectations of what can and cannot do
things, what they should look like, and how
they should act (Rumelhart & Ortony,
1977). When things perceived do not match
these innate or learned scripts because of
multiple conflicting modalities of feedback
(vision and expectation, or sound and
vision), alarms go off and vigilance is high
until this situation is resolved. Grey and
Wegner (2012) explored the uncanny valley
effect first discovered by Mori, wherein
human observers observe a robot which is
just “too” real, too untrustworthy, and
somehow spooky. They suspect there is a
division of vigilance between external
agency (the ability to plan and execute
behaviors), and experience (the possession
of a sensory consciousness like ours). As
humans do not trust one another, so too
humans do not trust human-like things (iva
& Vyas, 2007). Humans probably fail to
trust primarily because verbal expressions,
sounds, are frequently incongruous with
nonverbal gestures, vision. These, like a
discomfiting silence, suggest internal
planning and hidden intent (Gu, Mai, Luo,
2013).
Multiple studies have been
conducted with infants that suggest that
humans have an innate ability to discern any
incongruity between the visual and verbal
communication of information (McCartney
& Panneton, 2005). This would seem to
indicate that this ability is linked to survival
instincts that would help to keep the child
safe. Lewkowicz and Ghazanfar (2012) posit
that infants acquire this capability to detect
incongruity developmentally, as a narrowing
of focus and discrimination. Weikum, et al.
(2007) related that infants can even
distinguish the language underlying silent
speech. Uncanniness occurs when what
seems fully manifest is missing something
obvious yet ineffable, when something latent
is not quite here. The uncanny is a visual
silence in an ocean of sound, or an ocean of
visual clues oddly incommensurate with an
auditory silence. The missing information
wells up inside as a feeling of dread, eager
to be seen and heard.
Developmentally Attached to Silence
On the theme of infancy and human
development, not so long ago, Bowlby
(1988) and colleagues introduced a theory of
attachment, to help explain the widespread
anxiety and failure to find fit and
satisfaction in society. His theory was
founded on evidence that the parental failure
Journal of Societal and Cultural Research Vol. 1. Issue 1
16
to respond synchronously and sufficiently to
a child’s urgent developmental needs during
early nurture, would often result in future
impossibility of affective adaptation. The
silence that accompanied non-response to
desperate cries for affection would become
patterned into expectations. Studies of the
developmental trajectories of goslings (in
the footsteps of Karl Lorenz), brought this
possibility to the tragic surface with Feli, a
gosling experimentally denied parental
affective response during critical
developmental epochs (Fischer-Mamblona,
2000). The result was a mature gosling
attached to silence, its sole expectation
that its cries would go unheard, and utterly
lacking in the social graces with an urgent
awkwardness reminiscent of poorly
attached, human teens (Ian, 1974, track 2).
Silence, whether in the familial
environment of employed neglect to try and
survive economically while offspring often
have to fend for themselves, or in the peer
groups and social environments that use the
spiral of silence to neglect continuing
individual diversity of need, silence often
becomes the primary attachment (Bowlby,
1988; Scheufele, 2008).
Silence is a response, not a non-
response, to the urgent asker of care and
comfort. Silence is a loud reply that
indicates the non-worth of and apathy
toward an adult née an insecurely attached
child. The conversations that occur or do not
occur, invisibly between request and
response, fashion or revise affective-bonds,
so that an affective creature with a
longitudinal experience of silence will learn
to hug the silence in lieu of being held.
Bereavement: The Endless Silence that
Follows Parting
The last kind of silence we will
explore, is the lasting silence that follows
the parting of two hearts that once spoke
with one voice. Bereavement, in its wake of
intense grief, brings with it an even more
intense and uneasy calm. Over the long-
abandoned stage, a quieter curtain falls, a
veil of silence, a voice of longing so loud the
air around the stage trembles with
motionless quiet. Suddenly devoid of
stimulation, the air is filled with noise from
somewhere deep inside us. Luna (2014)
called this silence deafening, unnerving, our
deepest fear. This silence is the one we have
been running from every day, by turning up
the volume of everything else so we do not
have to hear it, even though it whispers to us
everywhere we go. Solitary silence requires
that the sole listener do something about it.
The more consoled and non-seeking of
conversation we were before we became
alone, the more inconsolably seeking we
will become when we find ourselves
suddenly alone (Kübler-Ross & Kessler,
2005). But even in such a lonely silence,
Klass (1993) spoke of continuing bonds, the
phenomenon of affective feedback that just
cannot let go, bonds between persons whose
futures were once inseparably entangled. We
might think of this endless absence of
conversational feedback, like reaching out to
hug someone and realizing there’s no one
there. We might think of this missing reply
as a whisper of endearment on the tip of our
tongue that catches itself, hushed into tears
that issue silently from verbally helpless
eyes. It was Ramachandran who brought the
phantom limb phenomenon to the world, the
bizarre discovery that a lost limb continues
to exist at the edge of reason and need, with
the mind anxiously, hopelessly awaiting a
reply which will never come again
(Ramachandran, Rogers-Ramachandran, &
Cobb, 1995). Parting is such a phenomenon,
an affective phantom severed from the heart.
The endless silence that follows parting
keeps the lost one near, as unexpected
mirror visual feedback when we pass a
mirror that once reflected his or her form, or
Silence: Because what’s missing is too absent to ignore
17
a voice we thought just called us from the
other room. Silence is an absent partner, a
heart that still beats nearby, but whose
absence is unexplainable to ours.
Conclusion
What is silence? There is a
psychology of it. The literature is anything
but silent on silence, revealing an almost
biological entity, that speaks, grows, hurts,
and conceals, despite being nothing at all.
The absence of sound often makes humans
uncomfortable. The verbal world is so
dependent on language, that the absence of
language, silence, may be the most effective
means of communicating almost anything
unspecified. This research explored the
psychological literature, and found that
silence speaks though it says nothing, grows
though it has no substance, hurts though it
can touch nothing, and conceals though it
cannot hide from perception. Though silence
consists of nothing in particular, it generates
psychological phenomena such as pressure,
anxiety, suspicion, isolation, rejection, inner
conflict, ambiguity, and agitation. Despite
its lack of sound or meaning, the language
of silence is spoken by alland once silence
is here, its missing explanation is too absent
to ignore.
Silence is here when we feel
something is not here but should be; silence
does not go away just because it lacks a
reason to stay. Silence is here because
“here” is an anxiety we have, not a place or
time we happen to occupy. Silence has its
own language, its own dictionary, its own
idioms, and all of them are deafening.
Silence is a semiotic signal, a nonverbal
suggestion, the pause before reply, the nod
that is not quite right. Silence is a culture,
with norms regarding who is affected but
not why, a visitor in a darkness who smiles
silently when we ask, “Who goes there?”
Silence is a forgotten wanderlust, a call from
an ancient nature to come home and find
comfort in sounds from earth and wind and
leaves and waterfalls eager to hug the
disquiet of anxiety away. Silence is an
opinion afraid to be heard, where fear of
opinion often leads to excommunication
from ever being heard. Silence is master and
commander of insecure groups of us which
steers us safely into silent insecurity. Silence
is a crime with no criminal, a testimony with
no audience, a barter between secrets
themselves. Silence is a silent self, afraid to
even be itself. Silence is unequivocally
ambiguous, unabashedly coy. Silence is a
predator of those that hide in silence, the
monster in the Id that investigation rouses
(Schary & Wilcox, 1956). Silence is so
uncanny at times that the dread this
emptiness or incongruity describes revives
ancient memories of beasts in human guise,
resurrected from our supernatural past.
Silence is a mother who will not respond to
her infant’s cries, or an absent womb to
cling to when society rejects us. Silence is
an absent partner who is still unexplainably
here. Silence is something that is so missing,
it is just too absent to ignore, the very
absence of explanation, and in the absence
of explanation, silence coaxes what remains
concealed into the legible, audible light.
Whatever it is, no matter why it is here,
regardless of this urgency to fill this
emptiness, we can never be sure if what we
anxiously offered up to this insatiable
Silence, is enough for it to hear what it came
for, and go oh so loudly away.
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... Our physiological functions have evolved in and have adapted to this environment [2][3][4]. When humans are exposed to a natural setting, physiological responses revert to their natural state, inducing a feeling of comfort and relaxation [4,5]. This tendency to be near nature implies that contact with nature may be an important component of well-being in humans [6]. ...
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Research Highlights: This study demonstrated that viewing forest landscapes induced physical and mental health benefits on young women. Background and Objectives: The health-promoting effects of spending time in forests have received increasing attention; however, there is a lack of evidence-based research investigating the effects of spending time in forests on women. This study aimed to evaluate the physiological and psychological effects of viewing forest landscapes on young women. Materials and Methods: The experiments were conducted in six forests and six city areas and included 65 women (mean age, 21.0 ± 1.3 years). Participants viewed a forest and a city area for 15 min, during which their heart rate variability and heart rate were measured continuously. Blood pressure and pulse rate were measured before and after the viewing. After the viewing, participants’ psychological responses were assessed using the modified semantic differential method, Profile of Mood States (POMS), and the State–Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Results: Compared with viewing city areas, viewing forest landscapes was associated with significantly higher parasympathetic nervous activity and lower sympathetic nervous activity and heart rate. Moreover, scores of the comfortable, relaxed, and natural parameters and vigor subscales of POMS were significantly higher with forest viewing. The scores of negative feelings, such as tension–anxiety, depression–dejection, anger–hostility, fatigue, and confusion, were significantly lower, as were scores for the total mood disturbance observed using POMS and the anxiety dimension observed using STAI. Conclusions: Viewing forest landscapes resulted in physiological and psychological relaxations in young women.
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Wood is a sustainable and natural material used in interior design for living environment. Knots are prominent features on wood surfaces, and they affect a user’s building preference and impression. Data on the effects of wood knots on human physiological responses are limited. Hence, further studies should be conducted. This study examined the effects of interior wall images comprising knotty or clear wood on physiological responses. Computer graphics were used to prepare wall images of knotty or clear lumber. A gray image was set as the control. In total, 28 adult Japanese female university students were included in this study. They observed two types of wood interior wall images for 90 s. The control was also set for 90 s. The oxyhemoglobin level in the prefrontal cortex measured by near-infrared time-resolved spectroscopy (TRS) and the activities of parasympathetic and sympathetic nerves assessed using the heart rate variability (HRV) were utilized as physiological indexes. TRS sensors, which emit and receive near-infrared light, were attached to frontal pole (Fp) 1 and Fp2, based on the international 10–20 method. R-R interval was measured using HRV sensors attached based on the three-point guidance method, and frequency data were analyzed to assess high frequency (HF), which reflects parasympathetic nervous system activity, and the ratio of high and low frequencies (LF/HF), which reflects sympathetic nervous system activity. The knotty wood sedated the right prefrontal cortex activity compared with the control and enhanced parasympathetic nerve activity compared with before stimulation. Clear wood sedated the left prefrontal cortex activity compared with the control and suppressed sympathetic nerve activity compared with before stimulation. Subjective evaluations revealed that compared with gray wall images, both knotty and clear wood images significantly promoted comfort, relaxation, and natural feeling and improved overall mood states. In addition, clear wood image had a more positive subjective effect than knotty image. Wall images comprising knotty or clear wood, when used as a visual stimulus, have a physiological relaxation effect among adult women in their 20s.
... Miyazaki has advocated a "back to nature" theory [44,45]. In this theory, he claims that human physiological functions are adapted to a natural environment because human evolution began from a subset of primates who lived in a natural environment until evolving into our current form approximately 6-7 million years ago [46]. ...
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... It speaks with no sounds, grows with no substance, pains with no physical contact, manifests and conceals although it does not have any physical energy to be traced. It creates psychological phenomenon such as anxiety, suspicion, rejection, agitation, and isolation despite its lack of sound [7]. Silence in music might also exert similar functions although the scientific understanding is still at its infancy. ...
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... Perhaps with/through biophilia, we can restore some of those child-like characteristics, and in so doing restore joy to living life (non-human and human)? & Meinecke, 2015]. Also, "thoughts are species too -well quasi-species anyway" which are determined to survive at all costs including the demise of all that we love and hold dear. ...
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The obligation to compensate victims of terrorism acts is a national and international legal obligation in accordance to its jurisdiction. The State is obligated to the tasks that individuals are unable to do, including those of crime control and the protection of individuals. In particular, the State has monopolised the right of punishment if it fails to prevent terrorist offences and individuals were injured as a result of its failure in the procedures which were supposed to be undertaken. The State is obliged to pay compensation to those affected by these offences and the victims and their families have the right to claim compensation for the damage they have sustained. The national legal obligation pays compensation to victims of terrorism, without prejudice to the extension of legal liability to States and international entities (non-State actors) fighting terrorism as an international crime which requires to be fought against and the punishment of the perpetrators.
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