Being Alone but not Lonely
Most of us have a morbid fear of being lonely, and in many cases we equate 'loneliness' with being on our own. But does one follow necessarily from the other?
At this, the mid point of my life, I feel I can answer that question resoundingly in the negative. First a word of caution: I am a self-confessed introvert. This means (at least according to Jung, and Msrs Myers and Briggs), that I derive my energy, and recharge my batteries, from being alone. However even we introverts aren't immune from feeling lonely. In fact if anything we tend to be more prone to it, since we can find it difficult to make friends, and find kindred spirits in those around us.
However, that said, I can honestly say that I've experienced the most profound moments of loneliness in my life, when in the presence of an unfriendly or indifferent group of people, or when around a friend or romantic partner I've become alienated from for some reason (or who is no longer interested in my company).
In contrast, some of the deepest experiences of calm, contentment, and peace, have come at times when I've had only myself for company, and to rely on. These include times I've travelled to foreign countries on my own, or spent an entire weekend at home without talking to another soul. Some might think this is very odd, and may label me a recluse. Well that's fine, I'll take the label and wear it, if that's what society needs to call me to justify the strictures we are given about how to conduct ourselves.
From an early age we're told by parents and teachers that we are strange and antisocial if we prefer our own company at times to that of others. We become the 'loner' that others worry about. They fear for our mental health and happiness. If we choose to spend time alone, we are told that we're "isolating" ourselves -the implication being that we should always want to be around others.
I'm not denying the fact that we are fundamentally social beings. We're given the power of speech, and emotional centres in our brain, to allow us to interact with our peers, and form relationships. But even social beings can derive profound satisfaction from those moments of complete communion with self. It can happen out on the lake with a fishing rod at dawn, sitting alone in church, or taking a walk, revelling in the beauty of nature.
It's at these times that the chatter dies down, and we can rest in perfect peace and harmony with ourselves, and perhaps even achieve a better understanding of who we really are.