Updated: Mar 21
Dr. Stephen Phinney
Christ | Culture | Creator
USING SILENCE TO CONTROL OTHERS
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.
HERE ARE THE FACTS
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.
When these teens enter full-on adulthood, their ability to logically function within the final stage becomes impossible. God created a phase in humanity for all humans, saved or not, to share and give up one’s personal space to others. Since the Concrete Operational stage has imploded on self-rule, their ability to be non-egocentric is lost, as is their ability to let authority figures rule them. In other words, these adult children are unable to start thinking about how other people view and experience the world, but they also lose their ability to assimilate governing rules when making decisions or solving problems. Each one becomes their individualized island.
ARE YOU SOCIO-CENTRIC?
Suppose the child was raised in an environment of external rules established by a bible of sorts, hopefully, the Word of God. In that case, they can understand that other people who adhere to a guide/standard outside of themselves might be correct. At this point, the child is aware that other people have a unique perspective, but they are also aware that this perspective might be absolute and transforming, while their self-rule might be flawed. In other words, they can be evangelized and made new by the standards of the Living God. This is only done through the conversion process of receiving the indwelling Life of Jesus, who once was an external source but now becomes a Life for internal living.
Since a non-compliant adult-child grows in their ability to manipulate information to match their now innate belief system mentally, they seek a place for their efforts – as in the internet’s social platforms. While this appears to be a healthy arena for their mission, it is a one-way street, which means they have no intention of learning or changing their depraved thinking but instead only collecting ideas, methodologies, and ideologies that match their beliefs. When others front them with the complexities of absolutes, they're not only void of how to respond, but each one slips into resistive silence to cover their ignorance.
Before Eric Erikson (fond supporter of Piaget's Cognitive Development) died, I had the privilege of spending time with him. In our conversation, he said something interesting. Erickson noted that each stage of Cognitive Development is critical. Further, he stated that if a child skips or is forced to miss any of the stages, they cannot experience constructive adulthood. People actively construct their worldview knowledge based on the interactions between their ideas and experiences based on external influences, such as parents, schoolteachers, and spiritual leaders. After he confirmed that he was a born-again believer, I asked him if he would change any of his theories about child development after his conversion. He said, “Absolutely not!” He shared that the reality of his conversion was heavily influenced by early childhood teachings, which he didn’t assimilate until the later phase of his life. I asked if he believed there is a direct connection between schemas (formation of an intellectual framework) and a person’s conversion probability. He assured me that early childhood directives and mental frameworks also cause us to include pertinent adult information, which confirms our pre-existing beliefs and ideas formed through our early childhood external influences. Without pre-existing teachings and directives, conversion to external sources is next to impossible. It would require a miraculous intervention.
Erikson & Piaget maintained their belief that a society without proper Cognitive Development would cause a world to implode upon itself. I doubt Erikson would have viewed himself as a prophet, but his words became prophetic. We now live in an era where two generations have missed out on proper child development. As we gaze into culture today, people's pride levels are so out of control that they comfortably slip into resistive silence when fronted with external absolutes – a mode of covering ignorance.
Maintaining respectful communication in an information age is part of the solution. Tapping into the Life of Christ to respond through us is the ultimate solution. Yes, it is true; You can’t respond to all forms of communication; it’s impossible, nor should you. You must break down your communications into four categories: intimate, personal, social, and public. While today’s norm is public, social, personal, and intimate, this is not the proper order.
Intimate. When a spouse or close personal relationship sends you a communication, respond immediately. If you can’t respond for some reason, keep them at the top of your list.
Personal. When a friend or loved one sends a communication, respond as soon as your schedule allows you to reply. I have a general rule of replying within 48 hours when I note the communication has arrived.
Social. These are communications that arrive through social networks, emails, and other sources of social outreach. Prioritize these communications. The closer you are to a relationship, the higher they go on your response list. My general guideline is to respond within five days. If they are important to you and need time to construct your message, send a quick message of “got it, will respond soon.” Keep your word AND respond.
Public. These typically are people you don’t know interpersonally. Most of these communications are usually from virtual strangers. I only respond to the individuals who send information, which prompted transformation. An example would be an article I read that influenced my thinking. I will click on reply and send a thank you and at times, a short testimony of their work's impact on my life. I have learned these kinds of public replies frequently lead to friendships. If they don’t reply, they go to the bottom of my list.
If information overload is an issue in your life, you cancel replies from the bottom up. Not replying to the first two categories (intimate and personal) is nothing short of being selfish and rude.
We live in a society where being rude is fashionable. Non-replies might be confessing you are indeed rude; frequent non-replies might be confessing ignorance. If you don’t know how to respond, tell them or ask a question to get clarification. Minimally, send, “got it.” Have you ever been in a face-to-face discussion when the person you are talking to you won’t talk back, but they just stare at you? How is this any different? It isn’t. Use commonsense rules of engagement in person or online and break that nasty habit of resistive silence. If you do, you might find a friend.
Finally, there is a little more science hidden behind our resistive silence. According to our online survey, when people pray, not only do they expect God not to respond, but they admit to not hearing Him when He does. They have been duped into thinking that their communications with God are one way. I can assure you that our Lord is not rude, ignorant, or nonresponsive. But keep in mind that He responds with a whisper, which requires us to listen and wait.
Life is coming at us fast, Faster than at any time in history. The temptation will be to shut-out everyone. Don’t. Hang on to those important relationships. A few words go a long way.
Thank you for reading our Christ, Culture, and Creator article. This entry is from chapter two of my new book, "This Preeminent Darkness, 30 Cultural Movements Rising Against Christianity" - to be released in June, 2022.
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