Posted in Of Psyche

Of Solitude and Loneliness


It’s as if they couldn’t pick one word for it like, say, love. Love can be both good love and bad love, but being alone * good = solitude and being alone * bad = loneliness. It is the same state of being, perhaps even in the same circumstance, with completely different, always internal, perspectives. I’ve been thinking a lot about the two, trying to decide which one it is I am feeling. A better way of solving the dilemma is, maybe, exploring what they mean individually. And what better place to do it than here, where you’ve had to put up with my ramblings about both this whole year.

I am not an introvert. I am a loud, talkative, open, overenthusiastic person who also happens to be cripplingly shy and highly anxious. Doesn’t make the easiest of company, which is why I’ve often found myself alone, even if I could manage to be constantly engaging with people if I wanted to. Part of my shyness and anxiety certainly stems from being afraid of whether the social environments I am in will be receptive of the bigness of my personality. Thus, it takes me time to warm up to people, which also can cool down after a point, mainly through their lack of enthusiasm.

Then there is the thinking. I’ve never really thought of myself as a deep thinker. Some people get surprised by the superficial, silly, gimmicky, happy, poppy things I like. They think I am more likely to read Foucault for breakfast, to give affected opinions by lunch time, to dismiss him totally and hail myself as the next big thing by dinner. It’s not me specifically, it’s the assumption that goes with people who are interested in thinking. I tag my posts “philosophy” but, apart from a MOOC from Edinburgh University, I’ve had no formal contact with philosophy. The great advantage of having studied English literature is that I can express an opinion on anything, without having to be an expert in anything. I can talk to you about Charles Darwin, but that doesn’t mean I am an evolutionary biologist. Even though I was a spectral presence throughout my education, mainly due to the afore-mentioned anxiety, it enabled me to be unafraid of picking up a book, any book , and believe I can get something out it. And say something about it.

But, I am fully aware of how isolating the above character traits and circumstances make me. Which means that, ultimately, the difference between solitude and loneliness becomes a purely hypothetical idea, since the condition for both is isolation. Solitude is easier for an introvert. I know such people exist, I’ve known them closely, and I envy the comfortable quietness in their life, the confidence they feel in going about almost everything by themselves, how they are perfectly able to keep themselves entertained without a soul around them. And I’ve tried to learn their ways, but it only turns loneliness to despair for me. If I admit I am lonely, I can at least do something about, even something simple like calling up a friend. If I decide that I am going to make solitude work for me, well, it doesn’t, unless I actually want it. Unless I actually feel engaged in writing, or listening to music by myself or something else that requires me to be solitary, but not aware of it.

But, solitude is one of those great life lessons. Even I can see that. The older you get, the more streamlined your relationships get with people. You have less time to waste, and so you give your best to those who matter, whether they are strangers commenting on your blog, or your family. It doesn’t mean you can’t be lonely when you are young. Everybody has, throughout their lives, whether they want to admit it or not. I can’t imagine there being anyone with a considerable amount of life behind them who hasn’t been in circumstances where they wanted to connect with somebody, but there was no one there. Or, even if they were, they just couldn’t connect meaningfully at that moment. Some explain loneliness as a disease for the privileged, or just symptomatic of modern life, but it has always been possible. And probable, whatever your life may be.

I find being alone so very difficult, because I make people the whole business of my life. I like engaging with my species both in theory and in practice. I’ve always been fascinated by you, it’s only because I am stuck with myself so much of the time that I end up studying myself more. Even if I mastered solitude, I’d still like to fill it up with the lives of others in literature, music, film. And life, of course. That’s why I’ve got mine, isn’t it? Not just to get to ‘know myself’ (yes, yes doctor, I am working on that), but primarily to know everything around me. Is that too much to ask?

Do you enjoy your solitude?

For my poem on solitude, click Solitude


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

13 thoughts on “Of Solitude and Loneliness

  1. Great post once again. Very thought provoking. I could break each paragraph of this down and discuss it in fact! But to answer your question I do enjoy my solitude. Until fairly recently I considered myself and my entire life up to now as being of a shy person. I was painfully shy in my youth. Embarrassed easily and afraid to do even the simplest things like raising my hand in class. Gradually I got better with the shyness but people still always labelled me as shy, when in fact I was an introvert. That is perhaps a discussion for another time, but being an introvert does of course lead to desired moments of solitude. Whereas when I was single I could always find times throughout almost any day to find the solitude, I now have to seek it in other ways now that I am married. That isn’t an indictment of my wonderful wife who understands all of this, but is just the day to day reality. So I find it in small ways like putting my Ipod on and meandering home, rather than taking the direct route, gaining myself a few extra moments of solitude. Where I work we don’t have many lunch places available, but lately I have been going to one in particular and taking my break while (again) drowning out the world with music and reading my book or jotting down blog ideas. We also take time to give each other space. Me to go have a drink or two at the bar while she binge watches Dr. Who at home! Or me to be able to play my music (that makes her cringe) while she is out shopping. Both scenarios allow us to have our own types of solitude we need. My wife is very outgoing and not shy in the least! But her mind is always going and it does her well to have her own types of solitude!

    Sorry I haven’t been liking or commenting on your posts recently.Been struggling with some things, which includes blog ideas. Have a good one but I’m stuck on the music because I am working in reverse the way I normally do. But I’m sure it will come at some point. Hope you are well otherwise. I know there is flooding in parts of India so I hope you aren’t effected by that.

    1. No, I’m not. It’s unnaturally hot, even for us, everywhere else!

      Frankly, I can’t imagine ANYTHING being an alternative to Doctor Who, but that’s just me (and millions of Whovians spread across the universe!) but it certainly is necessary for the people in your life to give you space, and vice versa. In a way, texting and social media has helped with that. Before, you’d call a person or meet up with them, which wouldn’t always be convenient. Now, unless it is urgent, you can always text them. It doesn’t make the relationship healthy if that is the sole basis of your interaction, but it does help in enjoying your solitude, where you can always read your texts and emails whenever you want to.

      Many shy, anxious behaviours are obviously formed in childhood. I don’t need to go to a therapist to investigate what made many of these things happen. But, most people either reinforce their behaviours based on that knowledge, or try to overcome it. That is why introspection can be an unhealthy thing. After all, we shouldn’t be explaining ourselves through our behaviours as children. We’d be unable to have new experiences with an open mind then! Perhaps, accepting what’s become permanent (like overenthusiasm in my case or shyness in yours) and what can be worked on will make us feel more comfortable with ourselves. It’s worth a try!

      I hope you are well. Did you watch Dylan Moran’s Monster?

      1. Glad it isn’t, but sorry for the heat. No, I haven’t watched Monster yet. The personal issues have cut into free (down) time. I totally agree with you about the therapist and the idea of investigating the ‘why.’ I think too many people do that these days. I can lean towards introspection at times though, but for me it is more of a statement, and less of a lament, which I think is a distinction. I was lonely for years, but I can own it now and I don’t let it control who I am now because I have surpassed it in so many ways. And therefore like you say, it helps with new experiences. Which is a perfect reason for accepting the traits we possess rather than trying to run from them.

      2. There is a Nietzsche quote where he says that it is a gift to be able to look at yourself with “an uncorrupted gaze”. That is so true, because even if we are introspective, we are judging ourselves as others do, harshly or not. Being true to yourself, and being truthful about yourself to yourself are quite different things, aren’t they? This is an idea for an entire essay, but I do wonder if anybody is able to, at all, see themselves completely without exaggeration/avoidance of some kind. I feel it would be against human nature, at least to that extreme.

      3. I agree. How many times do you hear someone describe their faults as “I’m my own worst enemy”. I have heard that Nietzsche quote before but its true meaning bypassed me until now I think for much the same reason. I agree though that this could be another post for you. I’m stuck on one at the moment!

      4. Btw, I wrote a post on music and nostalgia yesterday. Just letting you know, as I think it might interest you. No rush in reading it, as I know you said you’re busy at the moment!

      5. I did see it and will read it today. And fyi, I wrote a new post about a Beatles song but a WP glitch means it shows it was published 6 days ago and not yesterday. Going to have to reblog it but you can find the original on my page 😄

  2. I really like this post! Thank you for sharing. I agree. As we get older, our time becomes more precious, and we have limited energy…so we tend to spend it with those who truly matter.

  3. As an introvert, I need time by myself. And when I mean by myself, I mean in my room with the door closed for hours on end. And I’m happy. After a weekend of going out every day and night, I would need another weekend just to stay in so that I can balance things out for my energy. That’s just who I am.

    So yes, I value my solitude. It’s when I’m in my natural state of solitude for a while and haven’t had meaningful contact in a while that I begin to feel lonely. And that’s when I have to make myself reach out to others to get that connection going again.

    So for me, it’s a matter of balancing preserving my energy and sharing it with others. It depends on what matters to me at the moment.

    1. That is spot on, Camille! It is so necessary to rest and recharge your batteries, but at the same time, it must get lonely even for introverts who, by definition, are better at being by themselves than others. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Beautiful post!! I’m the exact same way!! I have learned to love solitude more then I probably should but it’s I got to know myself and learn to love myself. I do get lonely sometimes but not as often anymore.

    1. It makes you learn more about yourself, and become stronger, doesn’t it? I read somewhere recently that if you acknowledge yourself as lonely, you will feel even lonelier. I guess, making it into an experience of solitude instead will help us feel better!
      Thank you for reading and sharing!

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