Learning from Silence

March 29, 2017

Personal Growth

Miranda was raised in a nightmare of anger, criticism, and fear. Everyone thus wounded responds in a variety of ways to protect themselves, and Miranda’s favorite tool was controlling.

She called me and said, “The more I learn about Real Love, the more I see that I control people and situations all the time.”

“Yes, you really do,” I said. “You control your daughter, your boyfriend, the people at work, even people in your Real Love group.”

She sighed and said, “That’s true, and I feel bad about that.”

“No, wrong.”

“What do you mean, ‘wrong?’ Are you saying that it’s wrong to feel bad about controlling people.”

“Yes, pretty much. If you want to feel bad about it for a minute or two, just to reinforce that you don’t want to keep doing it, fine—like one or two minutes. I’m not kidding. But if you keep feeling bad about it, you’ll actually get two negative effects: first, you’ll feel less lovable, which will lead to your controlling even more; and second, because you feel bad about controlling, you’ll HIDE it and be less able to address it. Yuck to both. We’ve all been taught that we SHOULD feel bad for all our mistakes, and yes, it’s useful a little—as I just described—but more than a little guilt is counter-productive.”

“I never thought of all that. So if I don’t feel bad about controlling, what can I do?”

“Do you believe you’re a good person?”

“I don’t know. Not sure I even know what you mean.”

“That’s a problem,” I said. “Deep down, do you want to do the right thing?”

“I suppose I do.”

“Because I know you well, I can say that you DO want to do the right thing. That makes you a basically good person, who makes the normal and inevitable mistakes that we humans make as we learn.”

“So?” Miranda asked.

Because you are a good person, you have an inner drive to do the right thing. That means that you don’t have to ‘feel bad’ about your controlling. You need only to be more AWARE of it, and as you are, you will gradually WANT to control things less. You’ll want to do what is right and loving.”

“It’s that easy?”

“Well, it’s that simple, but not always easy. You need to enlist the help of a few people close to you and who won’t be intimidated by you, to tell you every time you’re controlling. Can you find some people like that?”

“Maybe a couple.”

“Better than none.”

“And what should I do when people point out that I’m controlling?”

“Put your upper and lower lips together firmly, and keep them there.”

“You mean shut up?”

“Yes.”

“If I shut up every time I’m controlling, I’ll probably never speak.”

“Actually, even when you’re not speaking, you’re probably controlling things in your head.”

“So I should just shut up all the time?”

“For a while, yes. Like a minimum of two weeks.”

“Do nothing for two weeks?”

No, not nothing. Pay attention. In the beginning, you can assume that everything you say is controlling. Also what you think. So pay attention to the controlling, and make note of it. Controlling is definitely a mistake, but so what? That’s how we learn. What matters is what you learn from this.”

I have a friend who once worked on a nuclear ballistic missile submarine. He said that they often ran the submarine very quietly, because they didn’t want other submarines to know where they were. And they detected other submarines with a wide variety of listening devices. Occasionally, however, a Soviet submarine could track them if it maneuvered into a position immediately behind the U.S. sub, because the propellers of the U.S. sub made enough noise to disguise the presence of another sub behind the propellers. In order to prevent this from happening, periodically the U.S. sub would stop engines and turn to the right or left. In that silence, they could detect the engine noise of any trailing sub.

In short, the U.S. subs learned more when they were completely quiet, a condition where they could detect what was happening around them. This is similar to what I recommended for Miranda. In her condition of quiet, she could hear her own controlling, as well as that of others.

In an earlier blog I wrote about the benefits of silence here. This blog describes yet another benefit.

Practice being quiet. You’ll hear a lot that you would otherwise miss.

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