A wise old owl lived in an oak;
The more he saw the less he spoke;
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?
All good therapists know the value of silence, but there are different kinds of silence and for some entering analysis for the first time this can be scarey. Yet certain kinds of silence can be deeply healing.
In his book, Feet of Clay, the eminent psychotherapist Anthony Storr introduces Mother Meera, an Indian guru who never speaks. Andrew Harvey, in Hidden Journey, describes his first encounter with her in 1978: ‘When she came in, she sat on a chair, saying nothing. One by one, in silence, the people in the room went up to kneel to her and let her take their heads between her hands and then look into her eyes. The silence she brought with her into the room was unlike anything I had ever experienced – deeper, full of uncanny, wounding joy.’
As Anthony Storr observes, ‘Mother Meera’s silence is the most riveting thing about her.’ She says nothing, ‘thus opening the path to self-discovery rather than proclaiming a doctrine’.
And Storr then tells the story of a client who once lay on the couch for fifty minutes without saying anything. At the end she commented that this had been the best of all their sessions. Clearly in that deep shared silence something very important had been resolved.