If you want to be more deeply connected, spend time alone.
That’s not a fact, underpinned by research. It’s a reflection. An anecdote. But it may have value.
If you came to me and said – I feel empty, or – as if something is missing – if you complained about feeling blocked or stagnant or that negative drama (gossip, shouting, pointing the finger) made you feel more alive – I would say: think about spending some more time alone.
That’s regardless of being an extravert, introvert, or even ambivert (think happy middle ground).
These are just personality types.
The value of being alone transcends categories. It’s a deliberate practice of not seeking someone (or something) other to fill you up. I believe it’s a deep human need, as vital as connection.
A walk changes when no one’s babbling in your ear, either because they’re beside you, or in your headphones.
Sometimes silence has to accompany solitude, but not always. Music can help. It appears to take you in the same direction as aloneness (down, in, towards emotion). I don’t know why. (If you do, please leave a note.)
Being alone can mean sitting on the couch, but with the TV and laptop, tablet or smartphone off. You can read (some kinds of) books. I am not sure what makes one type of input a distraction from self and the other a path to it. But so it is.
(Does this take me in the same direction as music? That might be a way to decide.)
There was a massive response to Susan Cain’s book on Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking last year. I have yet to read it, I confess, but I liked her manifesto and I read much commentary that followed its release.
It seemed to me that there was a collective sigh that someone had at last articulated what many wish they could say in response to group projects, planned activities, holiday ideas: leave me alone. Others were quick to point out the substantial research on the benefit of collaboration when it comes to creativity or generating ideas.
Some took sides as if it were a competition, with a right answer, that could be won.
Fascinating reaction, because let’s face it, even with a bit of quiet thrown in most other time is spent with others, or being distracted.
Mostly we are:
- Not in silence
- Not meditating
- Not on solitary walks
- Not by ourselves in an office
- Not staring out the window at rain
- Not alone.
But it really stirred things up. Everyone wanted to know what the truth was. What the research showed. What made people more creative? Alone, or not alone? What was the best way to generate new, exciting, interesting ideas? Alone, or in groups?
These are all important questions, but this is not aloneness, or at least, the kind of aloneness that I am talking about.
Aloneness is not a transaction. (I’ll give up some people in exchange for being more creative; alternatively, seek some out so that I can generate better ideas.)
I am talking about being alone for the sake of it. Not even to see where it leads you, if it leads you anywhere but because it’s needed. Just like other invisible, hard to define qualities (meaning, love) where deficiency is difficult to quantify or event detect but has an impact.
So why do some find it frightening?
I don’t know.
I have, however, noticed that when you’re alone for long enough, sooner or later, you tend to drop into what you are feeling, and I mean what you are really feeling, rather than the official version. And that can be good or bad.
Don’t ask me why emotions tend to present as high notes, then move to disquiet (I’ve got to get out, eat something, have another drink) to whatever is underneath.
Is what’s underneath important? I think it drives a lot of what we do.
We do a lot to avoid this process. And if we do not guard our downtime zealously, others will not hesitate to commandeer it to avoid theirs.
Chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter. Do, do, do.
It’s so exhausting.
Being alone guides us towards the ‘underneathness’ (to use a scientific term). And it doesn’t even have to be about understanding the hinterland of unconsciousness, or what little we know of consciousness, once we are there.