The things we don’t say

When interpreting prose or analyzing rhetorical devices in a speech important is not only what is said but also what is left unspoken. What is out there, existing, but for one reason or another isn’t put into words? The choice between what is said and what is left out can be seen as a decision of what the audience is allowed to receive and what it isn’t, a way of steering attention towards specific things and out of others.

On Monday morning in the office corridor someone asks how we are. We don’t answer it isn’t going that well. We don’t say we might be too exhausted to struggle through this week. We don’t tell that after being the weekend alone with our thoughts we don’t really know how to be with other people. We don’t say that sometimes it feels like we are invisible, or that we don’t exist. We don’t say that we are one step away from falling down.

We don’t say we enjoy the feeling of boosting our social status by spending the lunch breaks with the popular person we actually detest. We don’t say we have the unpopular opinion. We don’t say we bullied someone in the primary school. We don’t say we are betraying the one we promised to love because the excitement of stranger skin on ours and the urge to feel ourselves desired is stronger. We don’t say we use someone just to ease our loneliness. We don’t say we stole someone’s happiness. We don’t say I love you when we know we won’t hear the same.

We don’t say we go home to someone with whom we are stuck in a non-functioning relationship but are too scared to leave, too scared that no one will ever love us again. We don’t say that sometimes we feel completely alone even though there is someone breathing deep right next to us. We don’t say someone violated or humiliated us into pieces and we couldn’t save ourselves from it. We don’t talk about the shame we have caused by our own actions. We don’t say that sometimes we hate ourselves. We don’t say that some nights we lie in bed hoping we wouldn’t wake up the next morning. We don’t talk about the flawed and broken parts.

An essential part of creating our identities is to talk about ourselves to other people. It’s about building and rebuilding the self-image as well as the facade we let the world see. We think it’s necessary to represent ourselves in a good light, the best way possible. We want to give the right impression, and it’s fully understandable. We have the inborn right to be the editors of our public stories, we can leave out the things we don’t want to be a part of our feed. We might hide them from ourselves too, pretending they don’t exist if we don’t acknowledge them. Silence is a nice little shelter to stash things.

When we get close with someone we might reveal them that there are issues we keep only to ourselves. That there is a limit of what we can say out loud, and no one is allowed on the other side. Because it’s too painful, because it’s better to think and talk about something less difficult. Because it isn’t so simple. But that’s not the whole truth: there are things we don’t let even the closest know because we are too afraid to show ourselves completely as we are, without filter. There is pain we don’t verbalize because we fear the consequences of uncovering it.

Just recently someone told me that there are old ghosts in his life he doesn’t want to talk about. He said he is never ever going to share them with me or anyone else. I said that the silence can kill us. He said he knows it but there is no other option. The thing that I don’t say is that nothing he would tell could scare me. Nothing he says will make me judge him because I already have made up my mind and that’s why he doesn’t have to try to impress me. But I don’t say that because it would scare him and make him disappear. Because it wouldn’t be fair to demand something that I’m not myself able to do. These things I don’t say because we both have our stashes to keep in safe.

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