4 things I learned from Audre Lorde’s Essay “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”
My high school history teacher gave me Audre Lorde’s essay, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” in 2006. I use her words as a road map to help me transform even the most painful silences.
Stay in Integrity: “I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”
Although I feared speaking my truth as a teenager, journal writing gave me space to find concise language for my experience. I spent more time telling the truth in my journal than I did to people. In that sense, I wrote my truth before I spoke it. Since then writing, activism and teaching have been a constant threat to my silence and conformity.
Gain Perspective: “I was going to die, if not sooner than later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you.”
As an educator, I returned to the text often, asking myself and my students, ‘What are the tyrannies you swallow and attempt to make your own?’ and ‘What do you need to say?’
Recognize the inevitability of Truth: “Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter, and if you don’t speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside.”
When challenging emotions want to get my attention they show up in the form of aches and pains in my body. When I’m sure it's not a medical condition, I practice tolerating and fully feeling the sensation. What I know is that emotions are information carriers, and if they are neglected on the emotional plane they will find more invasive ways of getting their message across.
Commit to Growth: “We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of silence will choke us.”
Years later I still find that I don’t have language for some of the challenging experiences I’ve lived through. Sometimes I do have the words but I fear rejection and isolation. So, I practice. I consider it research into Audre Lorde’s hypothesis that truth telling is the active ingredient needed to heal the body, mind and community.
I also wanted to provide some different perspectives and tools for those of you wanting to know your emotions, silences and fears in a deeper way.
Here is a video by one of my favorite somatic psychologists talking about how to self-regulate during a trigger.
Expand your emotional vocabulary and identify your feelings during a trigger with the Emotional Wheel.
BODILY MAPS OF EMOTIONS
If you find that you don’t have language or emotion markers for the intense sensations that come up in your body. Here is a report that might help you identify which body sensations correspond with feelings. Perhaps this will help you to find more language for you experience.