And finally, let’s talk about being wrong: what if the assumption that silence is violent in itself is wrong?
Notice the context and privilege the client.
We judge asking questions as “being nosy”, while, in my experience, many clients prefer specific questions over an excruciating silence.
Let’s name this: conforming with unhealthy norms for fear of being judged and punished too is a poor form of allyship – doing nothing contributes to the harm done.
This can be a very subtle form of violent silencing, almost unnoticed: a micro-aggression, refusal to celebrate someone’s achievements, highlighting difference over humanity with no specific reason but to other the individual – you can spot it the moment you sense the presence of an ego or power imbalance.
Broken people design and cultivate toxic, unsafe spaces where everyone is punished for joy, achievements, authenticity, agency and uniqueness. Those unhealthy spaces can make people feel uncomfortable in that toxic silence as it reinforces the harmful status quo and forces us to suffer moral injury.
We used to think that trauma was the actual act of violence or neglect, when in fact, it is the unspoken, unshared and unprocessed impact of those actions and events.
The silent treatment can be a form of trying to contain our emotions not to hurt the other person in the heat of the moment. However, it can also be a form of ignoring a person to communicate power over them.
As we come to the end of the month, we are exploring the silent period of holidays, and this inspired me to think about the times when silence is not healthy, in fact, when it can feel violent. First of all, let’s remind ourselves that violence and abuse can be silent.
I am so proud to share this incredibly important TEDx Talk delivered recently by our Advisory Board member, Lewis Wedlock. Whether you work with men or not, I think this one is worth a watch as it raises important issues about the mental health and wellbeing of so many people in our communities. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Lewis!