Just when does solitude turn into loneliness? In my life, "solitude" has always been a positive word, while "loneliness" has been a word that has described some of the most painful feelings I've ever felt. I can't begin to count the number of days that loneliness and a sense of isolation have developed into severe depression, and to be honest, I don't want to count them or even think about them much. They're in the past now, and I sincerely hope that they're not a part of my future. I can't know this, but I certainly can hope.
Solitude signifies being on one's own with one's own thoughts. For many people, this is a healthy, desirable state in which to be--it's relaxing, refreshing, rejuvenating. It allows us to check our perspective, to practice introspection so that we may clarify ideas and thoughts. Being on our own, away from the input of other people's ideas, gives us the opportunity to come into closer contact with who we are, with our sense of morals, with our character, with our goals and hopes and desires. We're away from peer pressure, from job pressures, from social obligations, and we can use that time to experience some of the quiet that's missing so often in our daily routines.
In a way, solitude helps us from becoming addicted to other people, or to break the addictions to others that we have. How can we be addicted to other people? When we use being with others as an excuse not to be with ourselves, then we're addicted to others. When we can't spend a moment alone without the television set or radio blaring, then we're addicted to being with others. An addiction is something that we do or use to avoid dealing with problems or insecurities--the alcoholic doesn't love alcohol as much as he or she wants to avoid dealing with personal issues. The drug addict is doing the same thing. Both of them will tell you that they do it for the "high," but the fact is that the high wears off pretty quickly, and the more one drinks or does drugs, the less of a high there is.
Being with other people keeps our minds on other things--we can talk about sports or television or the weather, all the trivial things that fill our lives day to day, without even thinking about the problems we have. This is why so many people need therapists later in life--because they've spent their youthful years avoiding contemplation and solitude. They've never been able to come to grips with who and what they are, to accept themselves and to set up challenges for themselves.
Some people search out solitude without even thinking that they need to do so--it's an innate urge with them, something that they do as a matter of course, without even thinking about the psychological benefits of being alone. These people are very fortunate, for they help themselves in a very important way on a regular basis.
Other people are given solitude involuntarily--with me it came from my insecurities and my inability to fit in with others. For me, solitude was very often loneliness, and very often painful. But I know now that I made it painful because of my perspective, and I regret losing so many opportunities that being on my own opened up to me--I'll never be able to get them back.
Find or make time for yourself to be with yourself. Spend time thinking about who you are and who you want to be. Examine your strengths and focus on possibilities. Find the friend inside who has accomplished a lot, and learn to love yourself on your own terms. If you can do this, you've taken a very important step towards being able to help others to learn about themselves and to be more content with life.
Solitude seems so much fuller than alone time. It has the added elements of peace and time. Busy mothers can get alone time, and yet they would open a vein for solitude.
Solitude gives us time to let our hair down and see what we need, do what we need, and have the quiet to explore its benefits. When we have alone time, we can take a quiet bath. When we have solitude, we can use the quiet bath to explore what we I need to do with our solitude.
Busy people may be able to squeeze in alone time now and again. And people who are living in balance require solitude. Solitude is that quiet mist of peacefulness that enters our ears and makes its own music, enters our eyes and creates its own art, and enters our pores and imagines its own muse.
Solitude returns us to ourselves while expanding us beyond our boundaries. Solitude is precious and essential.
~Anne Wilson Schaef
Yes, I felt closer to my fellow human beings, too, even in my solitude. For it is not physical solitude that actually separates one from others, not physical isolation, but spiritual isolation. It is not the desert island nor the stony wilderness that cuts you from the people you love. It is the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost and a stranger. When one is a stranger to oneself than one is estranged from others, too. In one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others. How often in a large city, shaking hands with my friends, I have felt the wilderness stretching between us. Both of us were wandering in arid wastes, having lost the springs that nourished us--or having found them dry. Only when one is connected to one's own core is one connected to others, I am beginning to discover. And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be refound through solitude.
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh