Alone But Not Lonely

“Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape” – Hooks

I absolutely love this quote. I love, love, love this quote actually! Have you ever read something and it just perfectly captures what you have been mediating on lately? That is what this did for me. I came across it and just knew it was going to be a blog topic.

I think the reason it resonates with me so greatly is because as a counselor I am often asked to guide people into becoming more emotionally self-sufficient and self contained in general. Many of us were raised to believe that unhealthy dependency on others is actually normal and a sign of love. But it really isn’t. Unhealthy dependency leads to all sorts of lopsided relationships and is the breeding ground for more loneliness than ever desired.

The ability to enjoy solitude is a character trait that should be fostered; if it doesn’t come naturally. Some of us just hum well alone. We enjoy our times of quiet and reflection. Others of us are very uncomfortable with being by ourselves.  So far in life, I have experienced both sides of this fence. For many years I did not do alone well. At all. I was constantly seeking out companionship and actually dreaded the feelings and thoughts that came when the room got quiet. But in my old age (that’s a joke, I am only in my early forties and refuse to act old) I have really come to enjoy solitude. What made the difference in this shift? Peace of mind.

In order to do exactly as the quote above says, we have to work through the barriers to becoming comfortable in our own skin and with our own companionship. Folks share that when things quiet down too much, feelings of depression and anxiety start creeping in and they don’t like it. Therefore, they stay busy, busy, busy with people in order to keep unwanted thoughts from overtaking them. The first step to appreciating solitude is to work through the barriers that rob us of our enjoyment of it.

People who are comfortable with solitude will naturally have a smaller group of friends orbiting in their life and that has to be ok. When people don’t use others as a means of escape  they will have a few key people in their lives but it won’t be cluttered with vastness of companions who are enjoyed at varying degrees.  There is no need for a wide circle of friends and acquaintances when are not using people for our own emotional needs. Our friendships become about quality rather than quantity.

Being able to enjoy our own company leaves us room to truly love another person because we don’t enter into the relationship looking for a need to be met that is being falsely projected outward, rather than finding it within ourselves. Only emotionally healed people can really love another person unconditionally and completely.

Do you enjoy solitude or are there barriers to enjoying it that need to be removed?