Updated: Jul 2, 2020
A Call for Solitude and Inner Self-Evaluation
Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash
The most ironic concept about loneliness is that all humans, at some point, collectively experience it — but separately.
This is something that I have personally struggled with throughout my life, despite having an adequate amount of close friends. In most cases, alone-ness has been misapprehended as loneliness, however, there are times when I tend to withdraw from my network — including closest friends — due to the feeling of not being anyone’s priority.
Often caused by certain stimuli, I have a propensity to set foot in periods of brief, and sometimes long-lasting ‘funk.’ Smell of your favorite breakfast in the mornings can immediately cause a feeling of starvation and hunger. Similarly, an image, a thought, or smell can also trigger the feeling of loneliness.
Human beings are instinctively social animals. Dosage of love and need for belonging to a community is hard-wired in our genetic makeup. This social instincts enabled our ancestors to form relationships wherever they went — a very beneficial evolutionary advantage. Evolution drives us to the maintain social connection for survival, which is why the feeling of loneliness activates regions of the brain associated with agony, distress and rumination, sometimes giving rise to chronic physical pain.
Triggered by rejection from others or the feeling of not truly belonging to a certain tribe, as well as isolation from social situations is a perfect breeding ground for self-critical and destructive thoughts. Our inner enemy begins constructing faulty thoughts by convincing us to believe that we are not enough and that there is something inherently wrong with us. We are unloved, undesired, unvalued, and disliked.
Lack of notifications from friends and jealousy of others’ exaggerated lives and relationships on social media usually prompts my own loneliness. Seeing others possess something, or someone, that is valuable to me is an unsettling feeling. A literal feeling of being a ghost behind an iPhone screen, staring at my friends’ pictures/videos of them having fun without me is a reminder that maybe I am invaluable and invisible to others? Maybe I am just an extra member of the group?
The feelings described above are felt by the majority of us at some points in our lives. If not, then you must not be spending enough time in singleness.
At some point, most of us reflect on someone we used to date and think, “What the hell was I thinking?” Fabricated reality and disconnect from surrounding inhibited us from seeing the truth behind that person. Similarly, loneliness causes us to see life through a lens that also does not reflect reality.
When loneliness intrusively knocks on our doors, it is the beginning of awareness that we are being under-nurtured somehow. Exploring this lack is absolutely necessary to not allow loneliness to reside in our homes for an extended period of time.
Instead of dealing with this recurring feeling, we indulge in behaviors that bring us immediate, but fleeting joy. However, depriving ourselves from this feeling by entertaining consumerism, binging on food and drugs (distraction comes in all shapes and sizes) is not a sustainable solution.
“The cure for loneliness is solitude.” — Marianne Moore
Although the terms loneliness and solitude are used interchangeably, there is a world of difference between them. Loneliness is a negative state, however solitude is the state of ‘being alone without feeling lonely.'
“It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company. Solitude is a time that can be used for reflection, inner searching or growth or enjoyment of some kind. Deep reading requires solitude, so does experiencing the beauty of nature. Thinking and creativity usually do too.” -Psychology today.
The cure to loneliness, as I have come to realize from my own pursuit of avoiding it, is reflecting on our inner-self and immersing in a state of creativeness, such as art. Propelled by lifelong chase for acceptance and connection, I now understand that the remedy of my pain is stemming from lack of inner satisfaction and wealth.
The process of self-reflection and meditation permits us to deeply connect with ourselves to break-down the fundamental cause of our negatively realized emotions. Although a perpetual struggle, I have concluded that my discomfort with being alone needs to be confronted through a better understanding of my inner fears, thoughts, and toxicity.
“Surrender and catch” theory developed by Kurt Wolff advises that “when you have these moments, don’t fight it. Accept it for what it is. Let it emerge calmly and truthfully and don’t resist it. Your alone time should not be something that you’re afraid of.”
Internal exploration of our nature is a very uncomfortable and agonizing process, but if not practiced repeatedly, it can (and will) lead to lifelong struggle with feeling of intermittent isolation.
Going on walks or being alone without the influence of external stimuli, such as music and background noise from TV, was how I started to slowly discover inner solitude. These were the times when I started to become an observer of my thoughts and feelings.
“You will never find someone who will love and support you.”
“Your life may never be as fulfilling as you want it to be”
“None of your friends find you interesting”
These, along with numerous others, thoughts occupy my mind from time to time. Now, the only difference is that I become a mere observer of these thoughts, letting it pass through me. I know that none of these statements above are true, but simply an attempt to suck me in the state of darkness.
The task of our minds is to generate stories, analyze, judge, catastrophize, for which the only escape is increased mindfulness and self-awareness.
Learning to see loneliness as desperation for connection, and mastering to transform it to solitude by connecting with ourselves is a crucial step towards transformation.