Blaise Pascal once wrote, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
People do all kinds of wild shit to avoid the existential dread of loneliness. Sure, humans are social animals and the very fabric of our existence is comprised of relationships, but it is absolutely essential to cultivate the capacity for spending time with yourself. For simply being instead of doing.
Solitude is for the soul what sleep is for the body — vital rest and recuperation. It is the out-breath of life.
Furthermore, as Marshall Rosenberg says, “All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain derives from other people and that consequently those people deserve to be punished.” And blaming your problems on others is a predictable consequence of the avoidance of personal responsibility inherent in a life devoid of self-acceptance.
Looking In The Mirror
A client recently told me that “being alone is better than being around shitty people,” which is proof-positive that she’s healing. So many people rush headlong into awful relationships as a distraction from the awful relationship they have with themselves. In a way, it’s like externalizing their inner conflict as a way to get a good look at it. This actually wouldn’t be such a bad thing if folks weren’t so inclined to immediately blame that awfulness on their partners.
I often say that people date at their own emotional level and that all “relationship problems” point to a personal problem that they’re projecting onto someone else. Certainly an unpalatable proposition, but true as far as I can tell.
The depth and quality of your romantic relationships have a funny way of mirroring the depth and quality of your time alone. Hence, why dating actually isn’t a long-term solution to loneliness, contrary to popular misconception. I know plenty of people who feel lonely as ever, regardless of their marital status or how many people they’re sleeping with.
Being alone means you’re not near anyone. Being lonely means you’re not connected to anyone. You can be alone without feeling lonely, and you can feel lonely without being alone.
The two aren’t nearly as correlated as one might suppose.
Money and Relationships
People say they want money, but that’s not true. What they want is the freedom, security, power, etc. they believe money will afford them. And, as the cliché goes, you won’t have to look very hard to find a rich person who still hates their life.
The same is true of romantic relationships. It’s not that people want them, per se. They want all the things they believe a relationship will provide. And likewise, getting into a relationship seldom solves all the problems you may have wished it would.
Now, let me make haste to reassure you I’m not saying you shouldn’t want a relationship or that healthy people don’t yearn for connection. That’s ridiculous. What I’m suggesting is that it’s better to want a relationship like flowers for your table, not air for your lungs. When you place your “I’ll be happy when…” into some future relationship, you’re setting yourself up for a major disappointment.
The problem usually isn’t that you lack something. The problem is that you think you do.
And so it makes perfect sense that becoming whole requires you to believe you already are.
4 thoughts on “Alone But Not Lonely”
This was amazing Adam!! Everyone needs to hear this message. We all go around chasing money, relationships, etc because we believe we will then feel the way we want to feel. It doesn’t work!
I am “consciously single” for the first time in my life, and though I find there is a bit of loneliness at times, I also truly enjoy my alone time and I know I’m growing so much as a result.
Love it! I was partnered from the ages of like 12 to 30, haha. But that year+ I took off was soooooo good for my soul. Grew a ton. Then continued that growth in my next relationship 🙂
I agree with your overall message here, but as an isolator, I also know the dangers of going too far into that aloneness (for “safety”).
Oh, for surrrrre. Love and belonging are irreducible human needs. One of my favorite sayings is “One man is no man.” We need people. No doubt. Aaannnd… sometimes our childhood teaches us that relationships aren’t safe, so we withdraw, avoid, and isolate as you said, for “safety.” That is where loneliness can get dangerous. I once heard of a study that correlated loneliness to suicide, but I can’t recall what book it was quoted in at the moment. So yeah, I agree as well. Solitude is healthy, but fear-based withdrawal from human connection is usually a good reason to go to therapy 🙂