Contrary to what first springs to mind when the word ‘solitude’ is uttered, it may be one of the best gifts we’re received.
Solitude and loneliness are two very different things, although they may look the same from a third person’s point of view. Loneliness is a sort of grief that you experience when you are isolated. Solitude, however, is the kind of isolation where one can be alone without feeling lonely, revelling in silence, without the company of another.
In this exceedingly hyper-social world that breeds interconnectedness, we’re always caught in the web of conversations. If not going somewhere and doing something, we’re talking to someone about going somewhere and doing something. Never alone.
“What’s wrong with that? Being social is a good thing.”
There’s no denying that our interaction with others brings us great pleasure, but as Schopenhauer once said,
A man can be himself only so long as he is alone, and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom, for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.
I argue that it is time to bring back the lost art of solitude; being comfortable in your skin, without reaching for your phone to fill the gaps, to enhance the kindling love for yourself without the prickle of self-doubt, fear, or worry.
Here’s why the lost art of solitude should be brought to practice:
Get those colors/words/concepts bubbling
In an age where collaboration and ‘brainstorming’ are heralded as stimulants for creativity, Susan Cain noted in this popular article in the New York Times, that it may not always be the case.
“The reasons brainstorming fails are instructive for other forms of group work, too. People in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others’ opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure.”
Every book, movie, song you’ve ever read, seen or listened to is a result of someone else’s solitude. Archimedes only discovered the Archimedes Principle when he sat alone in a bathtub, J.K Rowling thought of Harry Potter on a train ride alone to London.
Understand that person you see in the mirror
If you’ve studied Psychology, you’re familiar with Maslow’s Heirarchy of needs and the ‘self-actualized individual’. Well, an important feature of the self-actualized human is being comfortable alone; they “positively like solitude and privacy to a definitely greater degree than the average person.”
We all let the things we like define the person we are, but with human beings being the most complex creatures on earth, you have about 20,000 genes that make you the person you are. Do you really know all 20,000 bits of you?
Who are you, minus what you like and dislike? Minus the roles you play [bother, mother, boyfriend, dancer, creative]?
Gain some perspective
If you’re stuck in a messy situation that is seemingly impossible to get out of, sit by yourself, give it some thought and make a pros and cons list instead of avoiding the situation entirely. As inviting as ‘deny, delay till it goes away’ sounds; remember, you can only untangle a pair of earphones with time and a lot of patience.
The next time you get a day off, go take a hike [literally], get lost in a good book, meditate or just breathe because you are the best company you could possibly have.
This entry is a part of The Idle Diaries: The journey of a self-proclaimed passive aggressive 19 year old, transitioning from high school to university, with four long months to use her powers for either good or evil.