Monday, March 8th, 2021

R Shopper Columns


When we do not make quiet time for ourselves,
we tend to run our lives on the surface
and, consequently, can be blindsided
by the emotions that are within us.

We know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening, speaking no longer heals, that without distance, closeness cannot cure. ( Henri Nouwen)

In previous articles, we have been exploring the causes of stress and offering ways to cope. Being stressed has been compared to stretching a rubber band..

We can stretch the rubber band beyond its normal size but if we leave it there for too long or do it too many times, it will break. We human beings are like that. We can get over loaded and stretched too far. We have to find a way to release the tension. One way of handling stress is by making 'alone time.'

It is our quiet time for being still, resting the body and mind, reflecting and listening to our inner healthy voice.

You would think that making alone time would be something all of us would do, but many of us find it uncomfortable. Could this be why when we do have a moment for ourselves we fill it with the noise of television or we leave our cellular phone on?

Many of the conflicts in our relationships are battles over the need for 'alone time' or 'breathing room.' We find ourselves saying, 'I need space.' Unfortunately, it feels like rejection because by the time we ask for it, we are feeling smothered, overwhelmed and controlled.

When we do not make quiet time for ourselves, we tend to run our lives on the surface and, consequently, can be blindsided by the emotions that are within us. This reminds me of when my Dad would take my brother and me fishing. Sometimes, walking by the lake, Dad would find a flat rock and skim it across the water. We would have a contest to see how many skips we could make before the rock sank.

For many of us our lives are like this illustration. We bounce on the surface from one thing to another, not making time for reflection. Then some event happens and suddenly we are aware of the emotions that lie beneath the surface. 'I have been depressed and did not realize it until now,' we say.

The power of silence or solitude is a wonderful way of getting to know ourselves and what goes on within us, according to Henri Nouwen, without a quiet time for reflection, 'our relationship with others easily become needy and greedy, sticky and clinging, dependent and sentimental, exploitative and parasitic, because without the solitude of heart, we cannot experience the others as different from ourselves but only as people who can be used for the fulfillment of our own, often hidden needs.'

Other benefits of 'alone time' are that it allows us to be more creative. A recent study of teenagers discovered that the most talented and gifted teenagers demand more alone time. Studies have shown that people who have alone time have lower blood pressure, higher mental functioning, enhanced creativity, and a more positive attitude.

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700