How to be Alone by Sara Maitland

It is extremely easy to be alone. But is it easy to enjoy solitude? You cannot understand how people can take vacations alone. The conversations around you make it difficult to concentrate. You conclude that being in a bad relationship with someone is better than being alone. You want to explore nature. You feel that if you have not lived with yourself alone, you have not fully lived.. The author lives in a very secluded area with very low population density. She became fascinated with silence as it was a thing of beauty. Silence can improve your sensory awareness. Is it silence that is causing the benefits or is it from being alone? Natural noises can still be considered part of silence. You can be both or be one and not the other. Most people have a social and psychological problem towards solitude. The author likes being alone.

Society values individualism but not being alone. It is very strange. Being alone is being associated with sociopaths. It could indicate a lack of social skills. ‘Why don’t you have a partner?’ My grandma thought that living alone and enjoying it was being selfish to others. There are different extremes of being alone and the length of time matters. Even if you watch tv and read books, they are all produced by people. How much solitude will it take for you to be bad or mad? Solitude may be unnatural because people tended to be in herds before. Many psychologists confirm that people are happier when they are in good relationships. Solitude is more dangerous because no one will save you when you’re in trouble. Some more absurd arguments are that solitude is self-indulgent and escapist in nature, it is antisocial and is a form of evading social responsibility. The mass media makes money out of fear. The word ‘loner’ was coined and has many negative connotations. Greta Garbo was a famous loner who was successful.

Fear is the reason why many don’t want to be alone. The author feels that the values of Christianity and classical civilization do not really fit. In the past, societies thrived when they had a cohesive, patriotic culture. The rich then could only really work for the government. People were judged back then on whether they could serve the state nobly. Even showering was a social activity. This was the Greek and the Roman era. Christianity was more about one’s relationship with God and holiness, humility, obedience etc. Since Rome fell in 410AD, society has been troubled by these two conflicting ideals. The eighteenth century or the Age of Enlightenment was particularly conflicting for mankind. Later on, the Romantic movement was more about being alone and emotion triumphed over intellect. Despite this, collective movement in the righting of human rights etc was rising. In addition, sexual and emotional satisfaction was becoming increasing common. Even today, it is still a fragile battle.

Everyone is at risk of solitude. It is not wise to live in constant fear and therefore, we need a change in attitude. It will not do much good to label someone as miserable, selfish etc. Online social relationships are also not ‘true and intimate’ relationships. However, social media has benefits if it can connect you to like-minded people. Our attitude should be to see the positives of being alone.

Robin Dunbar argues that there is a neurological limit to the number of people that most human brains have a capacity to perceive as fully developed, complex individuals. Dunbar fixes the number at 150. – Sara Maitland

Change your attitude. You can be around people but still live alone. Scapegoating is a feeling of fear. Many people nowadays fear losing touch of the world when they lose their mobile phones. A way of overcoming phobia is to experience solitude for low doses at a start. Who knows? You may realize that you actually like it after all. Now, the author realizes that she finds it joyful. Most of us grew in a social environment and it is normal to feel a little afraid. There is no evidence that solitude can lead to decline in physical or mental health. Research in this area has been lacking. Are there effects of solitude on health? There are cases of people never being to recover after a prolonged period of solitude. The key is that the individual must have chosen solitude. Solitary confinement is completely different and cannot be compared.

Do something alone. Solitude is not a ‘new’ sort of time. Sometimes, we socialize too much in the day and need some peace. Reading is one of the most obvious habits. We do seem to have a lot of leisure time. However, in the past, people had a lot more. Nowadays, we own a lot more but need to spend more time taking care of them. We become leisure-poor. Perhaps you might want to reconsider spending some time alone during your leisure time. Walking alone can be very joyful and you learn to experience your environment around you more.

Running alone can be a meditative experience where you get to really think and concentrate or completely clear your mind and zone out… You have to practice letting go of the inner chatter that can get in the way of what you want to accomplish and that’s something you have to do on your own. – Cindra Kamphoff

Explore Reverie. A child has the ability to enjoy solitude. However, along the way, we were brought up in an environment with too much stimulation. Freud decided to enter a state known as ‘reverie’, which means to day dream actively. Then he will document his experiences in notebooks. Recall moments of joy being alone. This is one of the ways to enjoy solitude.

Look at Nature. In early religion, humans should form social units. Reproduction was the key to our survival. Primates are 98% similar to us and they are often seen in a pack. Humans, in the past, also hunted collectively. While all the above is true, humans can also spend time alone. Gorillas forage and sleep alone. Research has also reviewed that there is greater success when people hunt alone. Solitude is something that can be a part of our lives.

Learn Something by Heart. Being knowledgeable enhances creativity. Solitude is an aid to creativity. Being with others distracts you from your real core. Rote learning is now frowned upon. However, the fact is that rote learning is very powerful and can be internalized. We can access this knowledge when we are alone. If you access your memory bank, you will feel better during solitude. Examples could be trying to write poetry etc.

Going Solo. Circumnavigation has been lauded even if you do it alone. Many find it romantic and fascinating. It is easier to make it an adventure rather than just staying at home. You will be less regarded as being crazy if you do an adventure alone. However, you need to be well prepared mentally and physically. You will be able to experience something to the fullest. It brings out the free individual in you. The Scotland north of the Highlands is a place where is very remote. Push your own boundaries. Know yourself and achieve a sense of achievement. Learn to push boundaries. Solo travel will broaden your mind.

Train the Children. Solitude is a learned skill. We do not protect children if you do not let them experience solitude. Solitude can also help to build resilience once in a while. One can look at the child without talking or engaging him/her. Let your child play alone in the woods. Read them children’s stories. A little boredom won’t do them much harm. Do not provide them with a mobile phone unless necessary. Only interrupt them when you have a good reason to. You can never truly understand your child if you have never let him experience solitude.

Respect Difference. There are two broad personality traits, extroverts and introverts. They react differently to different stimuli. Some researchers believe that happiness is a combination of the 3 factors: self-esteem, optimism and extroversion. Culture of personality vs culture of character. It is normal for people to like different levels of solitude.

The Joys of Solitude. The broad 5 categories of benefits are as follows: (1) A deeper consciousness to oneself; (2) A deeper attunement to nature; (3) A deeper relationship with the transcendent; (4) Increased creativity; (5) An increased sense of freedom

Consciousness of the Self. In the desert, you can find yourself.

All men need enough solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally. When that inner voice is not heard, when he cannot attain to the spiritual peace which comes from being perfectly at one with his true self, his life is always miserable and exhausting… If a man is constantly exiled from his own home, locked out of his own solitude, he ceases to be a true person. – Thomas Merton

Attunement to Nature. Solitude provides clear undistracted perception and fusion between oneself and nature. Nature is shy and you have to go quietly. Being alone allows you to experience more. No one is there to challenge you. You will feel connected with the moment. It doesn’t happen when you’re with others.

Relationship with the Transcendent. It might be God. Buddhists also used silence as a vehicle of transcendence. All of the famous religious figures spent a lot of time in solitude. There are tribes which celebrate the uniqueness of the individual. Rites of passage can be found almost everywhere.

Creativity. Great art requires a certain degree of solitude. Many famous authors like Rainer Maria Rilke and Franz Kafka also write alone. Virginia Woolf argues that not many women were writers in the past because they lacked solitude. Heisenberg contracted a fever and he isolated himself before discovering the Uncertainty Principle for quantum mechanics.

Freedom. There are two types of freedom. The first is the freedom from and the other one is the freedom to. The one the author is referring to find out what you want and then go do it. To achieve this, you need to have good self-awareness. In general, people like to conform to the group they are in. Being creative requires a sort of personal freedom and reduced inhibition. Those who do not have any opinion of stuff is not a full individual.

Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your own presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement. – Alice Koller



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