“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”
Developing an Acceptance of the fact we are Alone in this World.
“Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. Never expect to outgrow loneliness. Never hope to find people who will understand you, someone to fill that space. An intelligent, sensitive person is the exception, the very great exception. If you expect to find people who will understand you, you will grow murderous with disappointment. The best you’ll ever do is to understand yourself, know what it is that you want, and not let the cattle stand in your way.” ― Janet Fitch
Becoming comfortable with one’s aloneness, developing an awareness that, ultimately, we are all on our own and feeling at one with this, is crucial to our mental health and self-development.
It may never be possible to find that ‘perfect’ other, who will keep us company on all levels, and understand our every need.
What may transpire is that, in time, we could find a person or people who may be able to offer us some comfort and share in our lives in a fulfilling way.
Loneliness and Relationships.
“To be able to listen to oneself is the necessary condition for relating oneself to others.”
Loneliness in itself, as we have seen in last week’s post, can be very painful, but with awareness and imagination, this can be transformed into creative solitude.
Having a relationship does not necessarily mean that we will not be lonely. In all relationships, a degree of self-sufficiency and independence is necessary for both partners, otherwise they may use each other as a means to escape from their own inner loneliness.
The highest, most decisive experience is to be alone with one’s own self. You must be alone to find out what supports you, when you find that you can not support yourself. Only this experience can give you an indestructible foundation.
Building up our self-understanding, through life experience, learning, or through psychotherapy, developing a strong sense of self and our ‘capacity to be alone,’ will, perhaps somewhat paradoxically, mean that we can have better relationships.
What the great thinkers, writers and poets of our time knew about the benefits of solitude:
Wordsworth knew that being alone could be creative and reassuring, enabling us to make journeys of discovery:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high or vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils.
“Be able to be alone. Lose not the advantage of solitude, and the society of thyself.” Thomas Browne
Productive work, love and thought are possible only if a person can be, when necessary, quiet and alone.
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more”
Solitude is a state prized by many of those who write, paint and compose music, people who are creative in so many ways. Rilke speaks of a kind of intensity, an enrichment that occurs when he is alone with himself.
For him, being with himself offers an opportunity to connect with the past, with memory and with knowledge that is preserved and treasured:
“I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.”
Solitude by Frederic Leighton (1890)
In the book Journal of a Solitude, the poet May Sarton once wrote that
“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.”
Storr sees solitude as something that is ‘as therapeutic as emotional support.’ He explores the idea of the retreat, which can provide serenity and calm, away from the hectic pace of everyday life. He quotes from Wordworth’s The Prelude:
When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.
Many religious people discover great insights from their aloneness; solitude can be inspiring, enjoyable, a welcome escape from external pressures and distractions.
It can offer an opportunity to re-energize, a freedom to be oneself and do the things one needs and wishes to do, unencumbered. It is a time to face oneself, to nourish the self, in silence, in peace.
“The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.”
Developing an ability to alone with oneself is a strength; it is character building and demonstrates resilience.
It facilitates creative mind-wandering, a re-finding of memories; it enables reflection and contemplation……..