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For many ageing Millennials, myself included, the recent two-part Australian Story special on Silverchair was a trip down memory lane. With it came flashbacks to a time when we’d wait up to watch Rage on TV, when CDs were the shiny new technology, and only the most affluent households had that new fandangled thing called the internet.
The special detailed the trio’s journey from ratty teenagers living in Newcastle to unparalleled global success, and their eventual decline into disharmony and dysfunction and the fractured relationships that remain today.
Chris Joannou, Daniel Johns and Ben Gillies of Silverchair.Credit: John Stanton
Despite the illustrious careers of Daniel Johns, Chris Joannou and Ben Gillies, I hadn’t kept abreast of the ups and downs of the band over the years. My awareness of Silverchair peaked when I (and the band) was in my mid-teens. I voted for Tomorrow on Triple J’s Hottest 100, purchased the Frogstomp album (along with three million other people), and went to an underage Silverchair gig at Bells Beach. But a sense of nostalgia drew me to watching the Australian Story special, which coincides with the release of a new book co-written by Joannou and Gillies on the band’s history, and one statement in particular struck me.
Speaking about his now estranged relationship with Johns, Gillies said: “Daniel and I need to talk … all I think we need to do is sit down and talk.” Upon hearing this, my ears pricked up. My eyes widened. I stopped scrolling on my phone. I found myself mouthing “no” and shaking my head at Gillies’ statement and the TV.
I won’t pretend to know anything about the intricacies of the relationships between the three men. Conjecture and speculation are not useful. It’s clear that Joannou and Gillies remain close mates, but Gillies and Johns are no longer on speaking terms. For his part, Joannou aptly describes himself as akin to a kid stuck in the middle of a messy divorce.
It may seem paradoxical for a psychologist to discourage sharing thoughts and feelings in a bid to resolve conflict. But this is precisely the approach I encourage for some patients.
While Gillies says they need to talk, Johns has already done quite a bit of that. In a statement posted to Instagram explaining his refusal to participate in the series and his subsequent successful request for the first episode of the two-part special to be removed from ABC iview, Johns explained: “I was asked at the end of filming to be interviewed about their contribution to the band and although I wished them well I respectfully declined for one reason.
“I haven’t been involved in the book nor am I aware of the contents. I’ve asked on many occasions to read the book and haven’t been sent a copy, consequently I was uncomfortable being interviewed to help promote it.”
He further explained: “I wish Ben & Chris nothing but success and happiness. I have never sought to block their book, I merely asked to receive a copy in advance to fact-check it. I was concerned about my personal health records being discussed, I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”
The assumption that our thoughts and feelings should be heard – and specifically heard by the person we perceive as responsible for our pain – is common. Our modern way of life encourages sharing every titbit of information and finding neat resolution to every issue.
Ben Gillies and Chris Joannou are set to release a book about their time in Silverchair. Daniel Johns did not participate in the writing process.
We live in an age of immediate communication and instant gratification. The ease of sharing has resulted in a sense of entitlement to do so. Patience is a lost skill. Arguably, this instant, live-feed stream of our inner lives has diminished our ability for self-reflection and self-regulation.
While Gillies may genuinely believe hashing it out face-to-face will lead to resolution, it is often erroneous to assume that the person who hurt us will be the one to heal us. Think of the anguish of a relationship break-up; many of us have experienced the thought that talking to or seeing that person again will remedy our heartbreak, but it rarely does.
Far more often, the status quo of the relationship is maintained, in terms of there being no real shift. But healing does not necessarily come from digging up and sifting through old trauma.
Meaning-making lies in expression, rather than reception and response. We cannot control how another person may react. Dialogue may further deepen the rift we are wishing to heal, and if someone has already been hurt or traumatised, the risk of entering into a no-holds-barred conversation may not feel safe or like a productive exercise in healing.
The person you wish to speak with is not obliged to agree to your request. Nobody is owed an audience. Remember, the one who hurt you, or the one you hurt, won’t always be the one to heal you.
Dr Bianca Denny is a practising clinical psychologist based in Melbourne.
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