Embracing the Power of Solitude
In life as we pursue the deep sense of belonging, we can easily become engulfed by the overpowering desire to be found in the company of others as we shun our own company. Social connections are beautiful, warm and often comforting. When we are in the pleasurable company of our family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues, we become engaged in other matters and dialogues that often take us away from the present realities in our own lives. Social connections are necessary for our vitality. Nevertheless, our personal development is threatened when our over-indulgence in social company takes over the precious moments that we ought to invest in times of reflection, reviewing and planning ahead. Dialogues are powerful, they help us to appreciate different opinions and worldviews. They sometimes entertain us and help us to forget our worries. Dialogues become ruinous when they overtake the critical internal voices that monologues bring. Meaningful monologues are very difficult to engage in when we are constantly in dialogue. What kind of emotions do you experience when you are alone? Do you feel bored? Do you feel unhappy? Do you feel miserable and fearful?
The power of Solitude
As human beings, we are social creatures and, without others around us from birth, we would not even be able to stay alive in this world. Social space plays a crucial role in the development of our personality, as the direction of our development is determined by the expectations of other people and our desire to meet those expectations. We enjoy the company of other people and the activities that allows us to connect to people. If you feel miserable and unhappy when you are alone then you may lack the power of solitude. The power of solitude is the expression that is used to describe the trait that allows a person to feel good and adequate when they are alone. What makes a person unable to stay alone is their external dependency which is the desire to escape from their bad mood by doing anything that could keep them occupied. The more miserable you will feel in your own company, the more likely you are going to be dependent on someone else to escape from your negative emotions and to avoid facing your problems. Escaping to social life when you have big problems is not bad in itself provided that you work on a solution instead of ignoring the problem. People who escape from their problems and never try to solve them end up depressed. Creativity flourishes in solitude. It allows you to dive into ideas, focus on problems, think outside the box, and reach deep within yourself and your imagination in a way that is not possible around others.
Where can you be addressed?
As human beings we exist simultaneously on many levels (body-soul-spirit), which are interconnected and synergistic. Henri Nouwen, in his book Making All Things New says that “one way to express the spiritual crisis of our time is to say that most of us have an address but cannot be found there. We know where we belong, but we keep being pulled away in many directions, as if we were still homeless. ‘All these other things’ keep demanding our attention. They lead us so far from home that we eventually forget our true address, that is, the place where we can be addressed.” Clearly, social wellness is an integral part of overall health. As with anything, however, social well-being is about balance more than absolutes. We need others because we have many unmet needs. The more unmet needs we have the needier we will be when it comes to spending time with others. If you constantly need reassurance or attention, then you might find yourself unable to stay alone even for few hours.
What is shaping our hearts and minds?
Our modern culture brings with it more complications. We are often impelled by the technological imperative to stay connected. People take laptops on vacation, their smart phones to bed with them. With the constant access to virtual if not actual socialization, experts wonder if we have forgotten how to be completely alone, wholly cut off for a time. Can we truly submerge ourselves in solitude when we’re fighting the urge to check email or Facebook “one more time”? It is no secret that we are bombarded everyday with countless messages. The advertising industry gladly spends billions of dollars into communications because they know that over time, they will shape our minds, hearts, and spending habits. All of these messages inevitably begin to shape our lives. Our heart and mind is indeed influenced by the messages that enter through our eyes and ears. And our life is slowly whittled away and re-formed by the loudest voices that get through. Being alone allows you to be with your own thoughts and discover your own voice. It is in these moments of solitude where you discover your true identity and means of expression. You are free from any interruptions or outside opinions. It is just your own voice.
How do you use your Alone time?
The power of being alone should not be dismissed. Unfortunately, our culture has transformed the idea of being alone into some sort of eccentricity that the well-adjusted individual should not experience. In this case, we are talking about being alone and not being lonely, although it seems the distinction has been blurred. Solitude has much to offer in all facets of our lives and a conscious effort should be made by every individual to experience it regularly. Four quadrants to consider in life are Alone time, People Time, Work Time and Play Time. Alone Time allows for reflection and defusing. This time enables one to unwind and evaluate. We need to use alone time to process our relationships and recalibrate our sense of self. Solitude provides opportunities to rediscover our lives. By electing to intentionally withdraw from human relationships for a period of time, we are able to remove the shaping influence of others and “re-centre” our hearts on our deepest values. Often times, we realize that these shaping forces have been incorrect all along and we have lost our lives because of them. When we embrace solitude we intentionally remove the influence of others for period of time. We intentionally remove the expectations of others and are able to hear our own heart speak. In solitude we find rest and refreshment, we also discover that others can live without us. Moments of solitude help us to adequately reflect on our past and chart our future. We break the cycle of busyness in our lives. We become better equipped to show patience with others and we feed our souls.