For an aphasia therapist, there is perhaps nothing as disconcerting as silence.
It can seem like failure: failure on the part of the client, who cannot find the words he seeks, floundering in an ocean of deepening waves. And failure on the part of the therapist, for whom silence is the moment of truth, evidence of her inability to help.
I remember as a beginning therapist, that I could fill those silences so quickly, rushing in with a cascade of words to cover the dry language riverbanks my client had revealed. Establishing myself as an enemy of silence seemed like an imperative. And I took away a tool that the person with aphasia could use, and from which I could center myself, and learn.
Audrey Holland is so very right. In silence, there is mutual acceptance of the relationship. And there is time and space for the person with aphasia to find his voice, free of one’s own verbal juggernaut.
The very first time I observed someone with aphasia, I was struck by the silence. I saw and felt it as painful. So used to the rapid exchanges in conversation, words tripping over one another in a rush, that I could not bear the moments when, lost in his own verbal whirlwind, the client slowly cleared the fog, and travelled a sort of internal journey on his way to bringing the thought to fruition. How many times, I wonder, did I interfere with his efforts, by my constant barrage of language?
True listening involves silence.
Like the drip of water from a faucet, silence makes us listen for what is coming next.
It is very, very hard work.