I have been reading a number of books on Loneliness in support of healing that part of myself, and in doing so, bumped into the idea of Solitude, which I had the opportunity to read a little on as well. I should note that I very much enjoy “me time,” but never gave that enjoyment a name – solitude.
The book that I last read (Positive Solitude by Rae Andre) suggests that loneliness is the outcome of a feedback gap that we create by always having people around as we grow up. So by filling up that gap with ourselves, we can rid ourselves of loneliness.
It is an interesting idea, which I would agree is very true to some extent, but left me with the question of how the solitary person would live in relationships with others. Of course, we could rid ourselves of the need altogether of human emotional intimacy, but do we really want to do that? Isn’t that part of the enjoyable part of the world we get to participate in?
As I tried to frame both Loneliness and Solitude vis-à-vis Self and Community, I came up with this model in an email I sent out:
“In truth, Loneliness and Solitude would seem to sit on a spectrum of being alone, while Loneliness and Togetherness seem to sit on the spectrum of being in society. Since we are people who are both alone and in society and the same time, both aspects must be considered. But considered differently.”
While I liked that idea a lot, it didn’t quite sit well with me. It kind of worked, but not quite. Close, but no cigar.
So I continued thinking about it as well as continued to struggle with how to live happily in Solitude without denying myself the pleasure of intimate human relationships.
Which is when I realized that in truth, solitude is nothing other than intimacy with oneself. It is that time when we are in total connection with ourselves, and nothing else really matters outside of the small secure quiet world we have created for ourselves. It is much like an intimate emotional relationship, when we can be totally open with our feelings, due to not feeling vulnerable with the other person we are with, solitude seems to work the same way.
Interestingly, solitude can only be found when alone, much like emotional intimacy with multiple people is impossible – at least at the same time. When you are fully present with one, we can’t be fully present with another.
Loneliness, as I have experienced things, is the feeling I get when I want an intimate emotional relationship with others, but don’t have it (for whatever reason). The fact, that I could have an intimate relationship with myself at that time, doesn’t assuage my feelings of loneliness. In fact, it is my desire for intimate connect with others besides myself that drives my loneliness.
So if I am honest, I am a little stuck at this point. Do we need people or not? Study after study shows that that we do. And we would intuit the same.
However, it could be that our intuition is totally off, due to the societal reality that we grow up in. Meaning that it might be that we only need people when we think we need people, which results in the negative results we see when we don’t have people. If the person realized that they didn’t need people, they wouldn’t have the same negative outcomes when they don’t have people and studies would show different outcomes.
Having said all of that, I think most of the above is highly academic.
People are a pleasurable part of our life, and to rid ourselves of this “need” would result in restricting pleasure. Better to keep people in, and figure out how to minimize the negative impacts of loneliness. It is kind of like restricting coffee, due to the fact that you don’t want to be addicted to it. In my view, life is better with a need for coffee, and coffee in my cup, than without. So too friends.
In truth, the book I read on solitude I think will help minimize these negative impacts by allowing me to bring to mind the fact of what creates my loneliness, and as we all know, often simple cognizance makes all the difference.