Things We Are Unable To Say

Anais Nin quote

What are the things which we are unable to say? Why do they exist? How does this happen that words get caught inside and don’t come out?

It is an overused gimmick in soap operas to have a character on the verge of saying something to another character which needs to be said but which they are afraid to say, and just when they have mustered the courage to speak… an interruption occurs… or the character who needs to listen doesn’t, perhaps they are too intent on speaking and so the person who should be speaking keeps quiet while the person who should be quiet babbles… and so the opportunity to share a piece of information which must be shared is delayed again and again and tension builds leading to some event where everything comes out into the open in the worst possible way.

Or something like that. I don ‘t watch soaps anymore partly because that particular gimmick annoys me too much.

A similar gimmick is used in many films and TV shows and books. Crime thrillers like to kill a character off just before they spill the beans. You can see it coming a mile off. As soon as the words – I have something to tell you but I can’t do it here, over the phone, now when I should do it, meet me in an hour, over there, in some dark abandoned building, later when I will give someone else enough time to shut me up forever – are spoken. Tick tock, life counting down to death.

Blackmailers love a good secret to get a stranglehold on a victim. But are the things which we are unable to say really secrets? They don’t always start out that way, they become secrets over time. Perhaps they started out as things we said and we learned or were taught that these are things which must not be said, discussed, ever mentioned. Don’t say that!

Once it starts, where does it stop? Once we start being unable to say things… we add more and more until our collection grows into a museum, and eventually the things we are unable to say outnumber the things we are able to say. Then what? A retreat into silence… a fixed smile on the lips… the light in the eyes grows dim… the madness of outer quiet and inner cacophony.

I saw some writing advice which encouraged editing out all the words people did not want to read. How do you know what people don’t want to read? Maybe the words you take out are the very ones others want, and the ones you leave in are the ones they don’t. What if you end up taking out the best words? What if all that is left once you’ve finished editing is a very cleverly constructed piece of writing which would get top marks in a writing course, but which has no soul remaining in the words to guide them to the eyes which need to read them?

Perhaps the trick is to remove what has been said before by writers past and present, and leave in that which has not been said. To be a voice who speaks the words held in the silence. But what are those words, are they the same for all of us or do we each have a different set? And can they ever be spoken… are they the words which no one listens to, is that why we are unable to be say them?

So, what are some things which you are unable to say?


  1. Thought provoking, Ursula. Pertaining to your last paragraph…. This is something I am understanding for my own self: To be a voice who speaks the words held in silence, as you stated, is really for me to listen to. Others who read my expressions will have their own perspectives and filters; and I really do not know what they listen to or hear within themselves unless they tell me what they ‘heard’ reading my words. And if someone does comment, usually what they heard was different than what I expressed. Each person hears their own story. The more I voice my silent words, the more I hear… my self and selves, perspectives and stories. I love that quote by Anais Nin.


    • Thank you Anna. I agree, we see in the words of others our own words, sometimes finding words we have lost and need to express that which lies within us unexpressed. Our voice is sometimes the voice of many, and when we speak we are at times speaking for those who are silent, those whose voice has yet to awaken, and sometimes it is just our voice for us to be listened to by ourselves so that we can know ourselves better. Learning to listen is a very beautiful and profound act, especially when we listen to ourselves. ❤


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