Honouring quietness

19 Sep 2022

Sometimes a description in a book will snag you, interrupting your flow and impel you to go back over the words. Recently I was deep into a non-fiction work where the writer was detailing how a fellow author had slipped away to avoid a celebratory meal at a festival. He had, he said, of late become ‘a connoisseur of quietness’ and preferred to return to the peace of his home. I liked this explanation because it honoured this part of his character. So often us noise-dodgers get a bad press.

A few years ago I was travelling by train in the opposite direction of most commuters. My stop was at the start of the journey and I would settle down with my coffee and newspaper in the empty Quiet Coach with some trepidation. Inevitably by stop three someone would get on barking into a mobile phone. With a polite hatchet face I would get up, point to the sign and ask them to stop. Remarkably they usually did. The problem was that by stop five more yakking passengers would have got on. To keep the peace I would have had to patrol the carriage like an unofficial railway inspector. I bought some very expensive noise cancelling headphones instead.

It's not unusual for extraneous noise to make us grumpy but some of us react so badly that murderous thoughts ensue. There’s even a name for it now – misophonia. It’s defined as a strong emotional response to sounds with three key emotional responses – anger, disgust and anxiety. Some sufferers are unable to eat with their family because the sound of loved ones masticating is unbearable. I had a lovely health-conscious colleague who would eat at her desk. She would crunch her way through celery, carrots, apples and crisp breads. She must have wondered why I would I would bolt for the door when she snapped open her lunchbox.

There’s of course a balance to be struck between being reclusive and enjoying the human race in all it’s variety - but with the sound turned down to a moderate level.

I wonder how many Moodscopers are misophonic too?


A Moodscope member.

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