Toward a Psychology of Silence

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Although silence is a common and potentially powerful human experience, the number of professional publications in psychology regarding silence has remained small and essentially unintegrated. This paper provides a metareview and commentary on the behavioral and experiential approaches to silence in psychology, philosophy, and phenomenology including reported research, selected theoretical and spiritual writings from both East and West, and the effects that intentionally practicing silence has on deepening one’s experience. Areas of psychological significance include developing mental and emotional stability, opening to unconscious processes, increasing intuitive sensibilities, being aware of the distinction between cognitive understanding and prereflective knowing, having a quieter and less reactive mind, resolving inner and outer conflicts, promoting physical and emotional healing, increasing spiritual awareness, and exploring one’s own inner self. The applications of these areas are discussed in the context of individual psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, group therapy, and utilizing mindfulness and other meditative practices in psychotherapeutic and integrative health settings to deepen the experience of silence. The paper concludes with a proposed classificatory system of 10 forms of silence that range from the most external worldly manifestations to the subtlest most inwardly attuned discernments. This typology will hopefully serve as a foundational template for future research and a more integrated inquiry into the nature and purpose of being silent.

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