Noise Pollution and Sound Trauma as a form of Torture
Have you ever experienced noise pollution or sound trauma?
Those are my words for it, and in my definition, sound trauma is an overly long, extended exposure to a loud, uncomfortable, grating, penetrating noise. For that matter, I suppose the noise / noise pollution could be quieter, yet when it gets repeated extensively, it would still be effective in creating emotional turmoil and internal distress. Has water dripping from your faucet ever driven you nuts? I suppose almost any unstoppable sound — repeating over and over again, digging into your brain and creating tension, anxiety, irritation, frustration, overwhelm, etc — qualifies as noise pollution, sound trauma, or sound torture.
That was my day yesterday.
One of my lovely little ol’ neighbor ladies needed to trim one of her giant trees. This tree is very very old, super tall, and some of it’s limbs are getting brittle and starting to break and fall. She didn’t want any of the giant tree limbs to fall onto her house, or to hurt anyone, or to cause damage from breaking off during a storm. The tree was beautiful but it was becoming a dangerous hazard, so she hired a local tree business to help with her problem.
Now this is a big tree. A super big tree. It was probably 6 or 7, or maybe even 8 stories high. Its trunk was so big no one person could wrap their arms all the way around it. I have no idea how tall this tree was in feet or metres, but it was way-way-way-way up there.
Yesterday, a day packed full of important things to do, started like any other normal day. I was working on our new Forum — which is a wonderful but busy place — so I had a LOT to do!
However, by around 9am, a team of about 10 guys arrived at my neighbors house, driving 3 or 4 big trucks, hauling a variety of saws, mulching machines, etc. There was tons of equipment and a huge group of people wandering all around. While this tree was clearly growing from my neighbor’s yard, the limbs were spread out all over everywhere, including over my backyard. Naturally, these worker guys were in and out of my area as well.
Of course, in trimming the branches off the tree, dozens and dozens of tree limbs dropped with loud thuds into my yard. The workers were repeatedly driving in and out, in and out, revving their big truck engines, speaking loudly in order to communicate with each other. Several workers climbed high into the tree, carrying noisy chain saws. The painful cracking of breaking limbs falling down was heard over and over.
And with all the nearby danger of falling tree limbs and numerous large moving vehicles, both my dogs had to stay indoors during this whole time. Barking. Growling. Guard-dogging their area. They wanted to play, and how dare such a noisy crew interrupt their play day! Who are these people, woof woof woof.
The biggest noise problem came from the unrelenting sawing and mulching.
It went on and on and on.
Hour after hour.
And another hour.
Thank goodness they took a very short break for lunch, but then it went on for more hours.
In fact, it took that big ol’ group of guys a full 7+ hours of noise, noise, noise to trim all the branches off that giant tree.
Let me say real quick — for you who are worried about the beautiful tree — the tree isn’t dead, and it will be okay. It’s had a significant haircut, but new branches and limbs will be able to grow from it in a safer, more secure manner.
But the amount of excessive layers of unrelenting loud noise for the entire day yesterday was just exhausting. It felt traumatic. Overwhelming. Unbearable.
There was too much noise to do Phone Consultations, so my plans for the day were interrupted. To watch TV, the TV itself had to be blaring loud to be heard, so that didn’t help. The beautiful birds I love to hear were far far away. Everything everywhere was noisy.
It would have been a great day to do errands, except I just did all those the other day.
It would have been a great day for shopping, except I didn’t need to buy anything.
I probably should have just done chores, but yuck! Who wants a day doing that?! 😉
I couldn’t concentrate on writing so I turned my energy towards other simpler tasks. I made some soup — all you Saddest Little Bear people know how much I like soup! I did a few simple tasks, and rearranged the rest of my week to recover from the day of interruption. I had a million things to do and yet wasn’t highly productive at anything so it was frustrating. Stressful. Tense. Exhausting.
What made such an impact on me was how devastating NOISE could be.
I wasn’t injured. I wasn’t bruised. I wasn’t battered. But oh my goodness, I felt like I had been in a battle all day long. A battle against excessive sound, noise, and chaos.
Have you ever been in a battle against sound?
Have you ever experienced sound trauma or noise torture or noise nuisance?
Have you experienced noise as a form of psychological torture?
My day yesterday was highly uncomfortable, off-putting, irritating, and frustrating. But it was one day, and the source of the turmoil was obvious, and relatively short-lived. I could see what the problem was, and I had the option to walk away / drive away. It was inconvenient to restructure my plans, but I had options. I didn’t like it one little bit, but I wasn’t trapped.
However, this unplanned, unexpected, overwhelming day of noise was definitely enough to remind me, in no uncertain terms, of the dissociative trauma survivors who have experienced noise as a repeated form of torture and trauma.
Has that happened to you or for anyone in your system?
Do you have certain parts that have a real sensitivity to noise?
Do you have inside parts who have been abused with sound, on purpose, by their tormentors?
Sound torture definitely exists. It doesn’t leave a mark. There is no bruise. But it can be horribly effective because of the amount of pain and turmoil, distress and anxiety it creates within the person.
Noise is hard to stop. It digs right in there, and some sounds feel impossible to block. After awhile, you can feel it penetrate through your whole body. Now maybe your dissociative skills can help separate certain sounds from reaching all the way in, but that would certainly require a lot of energy and a lot of strength.
How do you help your insiders who have noise trauma?
What do you do to help them feel more comfortable and settled?
How do you protect their ears now?
What do you do to shield them from overwhelming noises?
What about Inside Noise and Chaos?
Oh boy, when I think about how many times I’ve heard dissociative trauma survivors say they hear constant yelling inside, or constant screaming inside, or ongoing cries from babies, I think about how all that internal noise must be so incredibly difficult to hear for extended periods of time. Or for always.
Is your head ever quiet?
Can you sit peacefully, and ONLY hear the birds, or the wind, or the crickets, or the gentle sounds in your environment?
Has your whole head — or whole self — ever been able to listen to one simple thing at a time?
If these situations feel impossible for you, my heart goes out to you. Maybe you can’t relate to the concept of complete peace and calm, and oh my goodness, we’ve gotta teach you how to find that.
Because genuine peace and calm is a beautiful thing. It’s restful. It’s quiet. It’s so very soothing.
The more you can teach each of your insiders, one by one, that screaming and loudness and constant noise isn’t necessarily helpful anymore, the quicker you can find that internal peace and healing.
Of course, addressing the internal noise means addressing the reasons for the noise in the first place.
- Why are those inside babies crying? Who can help tend them and meet their needs?
- Why are those angry ones yelling? Who can talk with them and help them find other ways to express their anger, or to resolve the conflict they feel?
- Why are those other ones screaming in pain? Find ways to rescue them from their internal trauma, separate them from any internal perpetrator / introject parts, and move them to safety.
- Who in your system experienced purposeful noise torture / psychological torture, and what are you doing to help those parts? Sound torture can be used sadistically for mind control purposes. Are any of your insiders reliving that pain?
Are you hearing all that noise inside?
Because if you are, that’s a LOT.
Internal noise and chaos is an absolute indicator of internal work not yet done.
It’s time to do more System Work!
No one in your DID system has to be silenced or denied expression or refused freedom of speech — shoving and hiding all that deep deep inside is how so much of the inside noise was created in the first place. You probably weren’t allowed to express your feelings in your outward life, especially not in front of your perpetrators, so your system folks learned how to internalize all that inside your inside worlds. It has to be expressed somewhere, and maybe your inside world was the only option.
It could be years later, but your insiders are still expressing their very deep feelings, and their pain, and their fear, etc. What they are experiencing is very real for them, and while they may be caught in a different space and time, they are not crazy for having such strong reactions to what they experienced. They definitely need your help, and the help of your therapy team to find the safety and the freedom to have a life not centered around their abusive experiences.
Finding appropriate and healthy outward opportunities for emotional expression can help reduce or eliminate the constant internal expression. This is a long-term goal — it doesn’t happen quickly — but allow your insiders to gradually, and safely, express their feelings externally. The more they release it for real, the more it can be genuinely released.
And of course, as your insiders achieve more healing, they will be able to exist with more peace, quiet, and calm. As their pain, anguish, emotional distress is resolved, they can have a more gentle and softer experiences in life.
That internal noise level can definitely get quieter.
Increased Noise During Difficult Times
In times of heightened fear, anxiety, PTSD, trauma memories, etc, the intensity you feel inside — and the amount of noise and chaos you feel inside — can increase. You may look quieter on the outside, but feeling more noise and chaos on the inside.
When this happens, it’s time to do a combination of responses.
Do whatever you can to help calm the inside ones.
Also, do everything you can to create and confirm both inside and outside safety from harm.
Your insiders will need a lot of reassurance and a lot of extra help seeing the outside, external, here-and-now world. They will likely be stuck back in time, and feeling terrified of whatever they are remembering. Help them to see NOW, and HERE, and hopefully, both now and here are much safer places than what they are re-experiencing.
Listen to their stories, as you can, and try to understand why they are so scared and upset. You don’t have to hear details, and they don’t have to explain details. But the more you can at least understand the general ideas of what has happened for them, the more you will know how to help them.
Balance your listening with comfort, gentle caring, meeting their needs, and providing genuine safety.
Go away, Noise.
It’s not great to experience noise, noise torture, noise trauma. It gets horribly uncomfortable and debilitating. Noise is everywhere in the world, so the parts in your system who are Noise Sensitive need a lot of extra care and tenderness to cope. It’s not their fault, and their sensitivity to sound is a normal PTSD response to the trauma they experienced. Have compassion for these insiders. Their pain was extreme.
I do encourage you to do what you can to address the needs of those who are noisy inside.
I also encourage you to find ways to decrease the amount of external noise and chaos you have in your life.
As always, I wish you the very best in your healing and hearing journeys.
Copyright © 2008-2022 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation