Stress is your constricting reaction to someone or something you perceive as potentially harmful to you. Are you too afraid to say something in response to what someone else has said or done? Are you free to object, to complain, to talk back? Or are you scared into silence? The more imbalance in power between the one who has freedom to say anything to you while you have no freedom to speak, the greater the stress you experience.
The one with power speaks. The one without power is forbidden to speak. To be silenced is to experience powerful stressors that take the form of threats of what will happen to you if you speak. Whether the threat is overt — "I will kill you if you tell" — or whether it's implicit, if you're the one who is silenced you know that your survival depends on remaining silent and keeping secrets.
Being forced to comply with such demands is a powerful stressor. You're being commanded to do something against your will because you'll lose something if you don't. How do you respond to such threats? Do you speak despite the threats? Do you submit to enforced silence? Do you tell anyone else? Whatever you do, threats that demand your silence are profoundly stressful and can have lifelong consequences.
[Original Post November 12, 2015]