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Learning to Listen for the Silence

Our puppy, Flash Gordon, lying in my mom's arms on Christmas Day eve. He was so excited he barked nonstop all day long as he dashed around tearing up wrapping paper, bows, boxes....but his sweet puppy barks I don't mind a bit!
Our puppy, Flash Gordon, lying in my mom’s arms on Christmas Day eve 2015. He was so excited he barked nonstop all day long as he dashed around the house tearing up wrapping paper, bows, boxes….but of course we never let him bark like that outside where the neighbors might be disturbed. Wish everyone was like that!

Over the last 13 years, I have moved 8 times.

So the fact that I really don’t like moving should be significant. And it is significant, except that I have always had a really good reason for needing to move from one place to the next.

Often, that reason has boiled down to one of two factors: neighbors or noise.  Or both. There was also rent to consider, and thanks to Houston’s newfound reputation as a great place to find jobs, rent hasn’t always been a factor I could control.

But then again, neither is neighbors or noise. I have had some truly awful neighbors – the kind you call the cops about (or just fantasize about calling the cops about). The worst kinds of neighbors are noisy, nosy neighbors – the ones who seem to live to make those around them miserable, whether or not they realize that is what they are doing.

Which means that the outcome of having nasty neighbors is often noisy surroundings. And, as I mentioned in this blog post, I am not a huge fan of most kinds of noise.

For instance, I don’t like “people” noise. This includes lawn care machinery noise, construction noise, loud music noise, loud car or motorcycle noise, loud party noise and other similar noises. I also don’t like loud barking dog noise (although I do like most dogs – but I don’t blame the dogs when they are barking a lot!).

How does this relate to me moving frequently? Well, every time I make a move to a new place, I have to get used to a whole new set of noises. This happens on a few different levels. While conscious-me is getting used to which noises are associated with what neighbor, place or activity, limbic-brain me is getting used to which noises should be activating its “fight or flight” emergency response system.

So for the first few weeks or so, my limbic brain is putting out SOS calls all. the. time. We are both on high alert for any and all noises, until my limbic brain can sort them out and assess which ones require panic and which ones are no big deal. 

Because of this, I often feel like I am literally marinating in a sea of noise right after a move – my own noise and the noise of others. In between the noise of ripping open taped boxes and unpacking and stacking and sorting and storing and all that, I am moving back and forth from doors to windows to identify each noise in turn and assign it an appropriate threat level.

I often also have “renters remorse” during this initial time period, thinking that no way was the noise I just left in my last place worse than this new noise where I am now.

This last move has been the most stressful one yet (although, to be honest, I say that about all my moves). In particular, I have really struggled with the incredible number of barking dogs in this new neighborhood. But, not wanting to endure the SOS limbic brain categorization process in its fullness yet again, I have been attempting to do things differently this time around.

Specifically, I have been meditating on listening for the silence instead of listening for the noise.

How this works is – let’s say a dog starts barking next door. My limbic brain notices and begins issuing alerts. So here I have two choices. I can follow my limbic brain’s lead, listening harder to the barking (which of course makes it sound even louder), and then starting to panic that it will never stop and I will be trapped next to this loud endlessly barking dog forever…..

Or I can stop. I can choose to turn off the limbic brain SOS, since after all it is just that same barking dog and not something much worse (like drone warfare or the end of the world). And I can then focus on listening for the silence IN BETWEEN barks.

I have been discovering that listening for the silence actually helps. It is there. There is the barking, and there is the silence in between the barks. Listening for the silence doesn’t take all of my frustration away, but it does ease it. And every little bit helps.

Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever tried a technique for dealing with unwelcome noise that worked well for you? If so, I’d love to hear about it (and I’d bet there are lots of other readers who would love any useful suggestions for dealing with noise and neighbors as well!).

Learning to Listen for the Silence

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2019). Learning to Listen for the Silence. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Dec 2019
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