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No One Is Saved by Silence


Krystyna Sanderson

While it is common to keep our pain to ourselves, silence creates more trauma. Margaret Wheatley explains the healing power of telling our stories.

This article appeared in the Fall 2002 issue of Spirituality & Health. In Western culture, it is common to keep our pain to ourselves. The greater the suffering, the more we withdraw. We’ve been taught to bear trauma privately, to get on with life. And we who have not suffered trauma often silence the suffering ones. We don’t want to hear their stories because we won’t know what to say. When others voice their pain, grief, loss, and despair, we believe we must fix it or make it go away, that it’s not enough just to listen. The tragic irony is that silence creates more trauma. For the second generation of Holocaust survivors — the children of those who survived the death camps — the impact of silence is clear. When parents spared their children the stories of the horror they had experienced, the children grew up depressed, sometimes suicidal. Children know the secrets of their parents. They intuit that something important is not being shared and cannot interpret their feeling that something is terribly wrong. So, as children do, they assume responsibility for these bad feelings. As t …

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