Using Silence to Control

Updated: Mar 20

Dr. Stephen Phinney

Christ | Culture | Creator


One of the more deadly forms of blocking Body Life in Christ is resistive silence - a habit dominating the Christian world.


I know this label is new to most, but Proxemics is “the branch of knowledge and behavior that deals with the amount of space people feel necessary to set between themselves and others.”

God designed the human brain to process all information allowed to enter the mind. When too much information enters on a repetitive basis without proper processing time, the brain goes into what is called by most “information overload.” The science world calls it chronemics“the study of nonverbal communication to allow processing; brain pauses, which force Proxemics.”

While it is true that many people use resistive silence to punish others, researchers are noting such a trend that it has become the talk of the internet. If it is a cultural problem, it is worth reviewing.

My old boss once said, “Silence is the most powerful and effective way to control others.” I tend to agree with him. But there is a more scientific view to resistive silence.



The human mind demands social contact rituals, which involve maintaining specific areas of one’s personal space. When outsiders intrude on such space without permission, the mind is obligated to slip into defense mode to protect itself, which is when Proximus comes into play. Proximus includes how close you stand in a conversation with someone during social interaction, habits in responding to others or not in social networks, face-to-face communications, written content, emails, or generalized texting.

Proxemics reveals that the more direct the communication, the higher the temptation to use resistive silence. When culture shifts into resistance against authority as a norm, covertly, the unconscious structure is established in their involuntary response system, which means the reactions of distancing and resistive silence become subconscious. Over time, the outcome of this subversive behavior places the person in a position of replacing authentic Authority with themselves, resulting in a society that cannot be told what to do. In my terminology, I call this “self-as-God.”

While respecting an individual's private space is important, humanity from the Garden forward requires directives from authority figures to maintain spiritual, psychological, and social growth and guidance. When a society is forced into resistive silence as a norm, it becomes next to impossible to guide them into directive doctrines of transformation, leading others to Jesus Christ for salvation and daily directives for spiritual health. The Church then becomes impotent.

Child development is centered and based on directives. Without these directives, the child is forced to establish their self-perceived book of rules, which typically causes them to be self-centered. By the time they reach the phase of Concrete Operational Formation (7-years), their logic becomes deeply flawed. While this is a critical stage, it also serves as an essential transition between earlier and upcoming stages, when kids learn to think more abstractly and hypothetically. For children to understand abstract reasoning, there must be a set of rules pre-established by an external source, as in the Bible. Suppose the child is robbed of these standards. In that case, their inductive logic has no basis for comparing itself, resulting in the formation of their involuntary self-rule system, which advocates a refusal to reversibility.

Reversibility is the most important developmental stage of childhood (teenage years). A child raised in external standards knows that actions can be reversed via a healthy conscience. Keep in mind that human conscience is formed through an external source of rules. If the child’s ability to reverse actions is flawed, their earlier childhood development stages become the norm for adulthood. For example, they will usher their comic heroes into daily activities as adults and display a grave appearance of never growing up. That is because they don’t.

As a part of the transition between Concrete Operational Formation and adulthood, when authority figures or their directives intrude on the child’s make-believe world, the habit of resistive silence becomes their norm. In the counseling world, we call it “zoning.” Zoning is a subconscious mental system established by the brain to cope with directives that oppose their now concrete belief system. While many teenagers use zoning to ignore their parents and other directive authority figures purposely, it doesn’t negate that an involuntary resistance system has been established.