THE NEED FOR SOLITUDE
Why I need time alone to be a better social creature.
Because our culture places such a high value on sociability, it can be rather awkward having to explain how much time we, as hyper sensitive souls, need to be alone.
We may try to pass off our desire as something work-related: people generally understand a need to finish off a project. But in truth, it’s a far less respectable and more profound desire that is driving us on:
Unless we are alone, we are at risk of forgetting who we are.
We, the ones who feel suffocated without periods by ourselves, take other people very seriously. Perhaps more seriously than those in the uncomplicated ranks of the endlessly gregarious. We listen closely to stories, we give ourselves to others, we respond with emotion and empathy. But as a result, we cannot keep swimming in company indefinitely.
At a certain point, we have had enough of conversations that take us away from our own thought processes, enough of external demands that stop us heeding our inner tremors, enough of the pressure for superficial cheerfulness that denies the legitimacy of our inner melancholy, and enough of robust common-sense that flattens our peculiarities and intricate weirdness.
We need to be alone because life among other people unfolds too quickly. The pace is relentless: the jokes, the insights, the excitements. It is a quirk of our minds that not every emotion that impacts us is at once fully acknowledged, understood or even truly felt. After time among others, there are a myriad of sensations that exist in an unprocessed form within us.
Perhaps an idea that someone raised made us anxious, prompting chaotic impulses for changes in our lives. Perhaps an anecdote sparked off an envious ambition that is worth decoding and listening to in order to grow. Maybe someone subtly fired an aggressive dart at us, and we haven’t had the chance to realise we are hurt. We need some quiet time to hear and console ourselves.
We are more vulnerable and tender-skinned than we’re encouraged to imagine.
By retreating into ourselves, it looks as if we are unsocial introverts, but our solitary moments are in reality a homage to the richness of social existence. Unless we’ve had time alone, we can’t be who we would like to be around our fellow humans. We won’t have original opinions. We won’t have lively and authentic perspectives.
We will be, in the wrong way, a bit like everyone else.
We’re drawn to solitude not because we despise humanity but because we are properly responsive to what the company of others entails. Extensive stretches of being alone allows us to be a better friend and a properly attentive companion.