Time Out

Reduce intellectual and emotional noise until you arrive at the silence of yourself and listen to it.

― Richard Brautigan

I am an introvert. There are no if’s and’s or but’s about this. I enjoy social interaction, I enjoy being “in relationship to”. I am even very proficient at managing social interactions. All this said, I am aware that such interactions (for good or ill) deplete my energy and take me farther away from my centre, my pivot point, my balance.

I don’t think introverts have the market cornered on this phenomenon. I do, however, think many of us are keenly aware of the need for personal space, time to reflect, opportunity to, as the quote above suggests, reduce intellectual and emotional noise so that we are better able to tune in – to ourselves.

What does this have to do with estrangement you may ask? I would say that the ability to reduce intellectual and emotional noise is central to recovery and healing, regardless of the issue. Dysfunctional or otherwise fraught relationships create an immense amount of intellectual and emotional “noise”.  We can become so caught up in the incessant chatter of problems, other people’s words or behaviour, our woundedness or our anger and fear that we lose ourselves in it.

Another metaphor.  Have you ever been working or doing something, and have the stereo or tv on in the background? Have you ever suddenly realized that this noise, chosen noise even, has suddenly become too loud or aggravating? Some of us will turn the stereo or tv off. Some of us will reduce the volume. How many of us however, determine we will never listen to music or the tv again?

Some of us see estrangement as the ultimate way of removing this noise. No matter how we try to find points of balance, to retain our peace, we are unable to do so whilst sitting in the noise of dysfunction. Some of us take frequent time outs from draining relationships and are able to more fluidly move in and out of them, without eliminating the relationship or our peace of mind. We are able to effectively “manage the noise”. Some of us are firmly stuck in noise, without understanding that we have the freedom to turn down the volume, or even turn it off. We may have forgotten how to seek silence and the space to reconnect with ourselves. Some of us, even after turning the noise off, are still living it, thinking about it, talking about it, reacting to it.

To heal is to reduce intellectual and emotional noise, whether this noise is attributable to other people, or our own noise. It’s to place a high value on our need and responsibility to tune in and deeply listen to ourselves. To heal is to realize that we have the ability to filter the noise that keeps us from tuning in and connecting … to ourselves.

We can turn the volume down. We can take a time out.

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9 Responses to Time Out

  1. Lisa says:

    Mess-age comes at the right time. Always seems to. I have been asking a fri-end to give me space and time, yet, to respect that I need this is so hard for her. So hard for many to really understand. To back off for a bit seems like an afront, threatening almost. I can’t move on in friendship if boundaries for my soul are not respected. Maybe I need to build a cave in between the walls of my apartment……..

  2. Susan says:

    I love my 3-year-old granddaughter more than I thought I could love anyone. Still, babysitting her for several hours leaves me completely depleted. I am an introvert, and she is a beautiful, delightful, loving and precious extrovert. She is the joy of my life, but I need a day off after I have spent any significant amount of time alone with her. Sometimes, it makes me feel like a bad grandmother, but I do know better. I can’t be the loving grandmother without the time in my “cave.”

  3. Maybe-Not-Quite-So-Cynical Sue says:


  4. Karen says:

    I have a white noise machine that I play at night and the selection I play sounds like the sea–crashing waves. It tends to lull me to sleep. The sounds are soothing and help to lessen other noises.

    I watched TV when I was recuperating from surgery, both prior and after because I couldn’t do anything else and now I’m so over it–I seldom watch it, nor can I tolerate it much. I don’t listen to music much either, but for quite awhile didn’t listen to any at all. I had no interes period in any one or anything, either than one friend, because he (unlike so many others) was very responsive to my needs. I longed for peace and tranquility as having to cope and deal with other people and their problems made me crave SILENCE from them. My life felt so out of balance with me feeling stressed and burned-out. I didn’t want their issues. I desired caring and connection, which few people seem willing or able to give, without all of their endless trauma/drama. Even the one person who I turned too had his own share of trauma/drama, but I endured with him only because I knew that he was capable and willing to reciprocate. If I watch any TV now I prefer to do so with the mute button on. I got burned out listening to people always in-my-face talking at me (not to me), and always about their stuff. Professional and otherwise I used to wish that I had a mute button to silence people who incessantly talked about themselves, unhappy people who were always wanting something from me–always resorting to manipulation or dishonesty or always trying to suck me into their issues and problems. If people were appropriate and respectful I wouldn’t feel nearly the disdain and contempt that I so often do. I hated listening to people and their talking at me. I disliked being around their incessant self-chatter and negativity and that is how I saw most all of them, not as positive or beneficial in my life. So yes, I can totally relate to seeing the incessant chatter of people as white noise. I’ve often shared that with a friend that I viewed people as aggravating white noise.

    “Some of us see estrangement as the ultimate way of removing this noise. No matter how we try to find points of balance, to retain our peace, we are unable to do so whilst sitting in the noise of dysfunction.”

    “Some of us take frequent time outs from draining relationships and are able to more fluidly move in and out of them, without eliminating the relationship or our peace of mind. We are able to effectively “manage the noise”.”

    This is what I try to do with my mother as much as I can. I don’ t know if I do this well, but it is essential for my peace of mind.

    “Some of us are firmly stuck in noise, without understanding that we have the freedom to turn down the volume, or even turn it off.”

    This was something that I had difficulty doing given my husband and his need to people-please and not being able to set boundaries on people or to say NO to them. He always wanted to turn me into the bad guy so that he could avoid their anger from them, but this wasn’t a happy position for me to be in and it created a lot of tension between the two of us, but I didn’t want to dissolve my marriage and there were plenty of people who tried to insert themselves into our relationship in a very destructive, negative way (my SIL being one of them).

    “We may have forgotten how to seek silence and the space to reconnect with ourselves. Some of us, even after turning the noise off, are still living it, thinking about it, talking about it, reacting to it.”

    This is very true for me in that I’ve always felt over-whelmed and continually under seige from one situation happening after the next or all at once and not enough time to fully process anything before the next seige or wave of destruction hits.

    I never fully identied with the introvert label though, probably because other people would label me about anything and everything and I tended to resent that. It always felt like another way for people to dimiss or demean me, rather than understand or know me and they were constantly trying to “FIX” me or change me. For instance I recall more than a few women approaching me and then asking if something was wrong and why was I always so quiet (and that felt so insidiously invasive). It was like some awful attack army was out after you. Why didn’t they just leave me alone to do my job. I’ve experienced this behavior frequently, especially from other women. Then I experience the exact opposite behavior from me (a man I once worked with who had taken to calling me, “Sunshine” for my positive, sunny disposition. I worked and managed an office alone and was basically apart from where most of the men worked and there were no other women, except one woman initially who basically kept to herself and engaged in respectful communication. Gradually when we hired another one, I started to feel anxious because she started to unload some of her personal issues and problems on to me. (She was older than me, and although a nice person this created anxiety.)

    This issue with people always trying to turn me into a listening/therapeutic service for them has been cumulative and I feel suspicious, anxious and distrustful of most people given their white noise of dysfunction. I’ve always wished I had a mute button that worked on them. I’ve craved their silence.

  5. tynsel says:

    I did indeed expect my choice to fully detach from my sister to shut out the noise. It and the ensuing semi detachment from my entire family of origin did just that. It was Hellish for a bit, (through the change) but now, my life is much calmer. Prior to 2 years ago. I had life full of people, busyness, appointments, dinners, chaos. Today I have quiet joy.

    I have been told by my sister and her husband to “enjoy my miserable lonely existence” and I am doing just that, only its not miserable or lonely, I prefer it!

    I live in rural southern Ontario (Canada), and am fortunate to live in an area of lakes and trails. Any time i want i can run or walk, canoe, or cross country ski, or skate. Right outside my door. I don’t take this for granted even after many years here. i am grateful everyday. I use those trails – HARD. I can and do drop the insanity and pick up the serenity right there on the trail.

    I would not have thought it, because i really am a social sort, and extroverted, (or am I anymore?) but I love my life of calm and quiet. i wouldn’t trade it for anything, I have no regrets, and am at Peace.

    Thank you again Fiona. I am so glad i found your site.

    Peace out!

  6. SmilingSmartBlonde says:

    In my last comment about the Divvy Up topic, I was complaining about being a victim of the “silent treatment”. “Not Cynical Sue” responded with pragmatism and mentioned how in legal matters, lawyers usually advise clients to “say nothing.” What’s more, from this article now I see that it is an important goal to “arrive at the silence of yourself and listen to it.” In other words silence is desirable. Silence is golden.

    Karen- I liked ” I’ve always wished I had a mute button that worked on them. I’ve craved their silence.” I should be thankful that in my situation intense acrimony is absent, and I should be grateful that all I get is the silent treatment.

    Maybe the silent treatment isn’t so bad as I previously thought. Maybe the silence is actually good because the “toxic noise” is completely gone.

    Tynsel- nice post. I can picture you walking in solitude near a lake. It is a peaceful image. Karen- I like how you asked for someone to “give me space and time” — I basically said the same thing last week when my sister-in-law gave her unsolicited opinions about our family rift.

    Reduce intellectual and emotional noise – yes that is good advice. Thanks Fiona, for your words of wisdom..

  7. Pamela says:

    Hi, everyone, I am having a sadness and it is OK because it is just that I shall be unaccompanied on my birthday tomorrow. Somehow it is not the alone-ness but the fact that most of my life history is one of painful relationships, resulting in my need to ‘switch off” the bad noise. Yet I did not set out to end up like this, having raised my children with love and attention to giving them experiences that would leave them with happy memories. I accept the situation and know that it was necessary to protect myself from ugliness, as well as knowing that there are women out there who are being denied access to the grandchidren, through some sort of extreme meanness. That is an even worse pain.
    Accepting all this, I know I will enjoy tomorrow, but just want to indulge myself by sharing with you that it hurts. Just for a day or two, before my birthday on Saturday, I feel the hurt. I do not need you to send me cheerful or sympathetic messages because I know you are all a great strength for me in that way.
    So, I thank you heaps for letting me tell you all this. Where would I be without this outlet?! Look out Melbourne, I shall be doing a grand walk somewhere tomorrow! I hope you all are having walks in Canada USA and elsewhere. Ciao, Pamela

  8. Pamela says:

    Follow up story: on the morning of my birthday, a Saturday, there was a knock on the door. It was the local MP’s office assistant and she had been told to deliver a letter from the MP, Judith Graley, in which I was invited to a High Tea at Parliament House. The accompanying letter said Judith hoped that would give me a smile on my birthday. How wonderful that she had noted my distress at that lunch and had wanted to help.

    Naturally, I have accepted and a female friend will come with me. I have had dealing with Judith when working on a committee and she had always been charming, helpful and a pleasure to know. I was unaware that she was capable of such thoughtfulness.

    Goes to show, doesn’t it? Kindness and lovingness exist all over the place and pop up unexpectedly.

    As it happens my older, estranged daughter has wanted us to celebrate with lunch, which will include her father, my ex husband. A strange trio, but it should be cordial with a few laughs, even.

    I wish a happy ending for all of you! Pamela.

    • Karen says:

      Hello Pamela, That is nice to hear and I’m glad that someone remembered you and reached out to you in a positive way. I spend a lot of birthdays alone as I’ve found a lot of people lacking in warmth, compassion or empathy and very shallow. There seems to be a focus on non-stop making fun or jokes about age, etc., which I find really bizzare and truthfully tiresome. I noticed this happening after I hit 21 years old and I wonder where this comes from. What I used to dream of is having a friend who would just want to go to lunch, say happy birthday and maybe do something thoughtful, but despite the fact that I’ve been considerate of others I’ve never met anyone like that. And that is why I no longer bother with people or Xmas either. All of the nice gestures that I used to make towards others I’ve stopped. All the attention that they seek and feel entitled too, I no longer am willing to give to them. Most people I’ve known will blather on and on about how I’m “too sensitive”, but they don’t merit my kindness or sensitivity given how completely devoid of feelings they seem to demonstrate towards others. They merit nothing. I wasted time and energy on unhappy people who through ugly, selfish carelessness had nothing to offer back, but more selfishness.

      I’m glad though that someone thought of you. I’m struggling a bit with health issues, so I’m not as consistent writing, but I do think of you and everyone here.

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