“In solitude, where we are least alone”
Entering ‘rehab’ for drugs and alcohol was one of the most terrifying and rewarding experiences of my life. Being separated from the substances and behaviors that defined my existence was a harsh reality, and a reality that generated extreme fear and anxiety. What I believed to be my fear of isolation was in fact a deep fear of solitude. After spending a life looking outside of myself, the act of slowing down, being with myself, and seeing my reality, was synonymous with torture.
In time I have seen that solitude, in measured doses, in the right place, at the right time and with the right mindset can be a powerful force in recovery and mental health. When we choose solitude and seek to see ourselves in an authentic way, we find a new freedom and enhanced connection with ourselves and the world.
Solitude is not isolation, is not fear based and is not a self-constructed prison of the mind.
Solitude is expansive, and is a catalyst for personal growth. It gifts us the opportunity to connect with ourselves in the silence, a meditative journey. It gives us space to practice new ways of seeing and being. It gives us perspective on our ideas, and our relationships to the things that surround us.
Solitude is a disconnection from the chaos of life. This disconnection allows us to reconnect, recharge and step back into the world with a fresh spirit, ready to be better and do better.
Kenneth Rubin, a developmental psychologist at the University of Maryland states solitude can only be productive if the following conditions are met:
- It must be voluntary.
- One must be able regulate one’s emotions “effectively”.
- One must be able to join a social group when desired.
- One must have the ability to maintain positive relationships outside of it.
If the above conditions are in place solitude is a powerful homecoming that pulls the fragments of our selves together, making us whole once again. If not, solitude can slip into isolation, a lonely, dark, emptiness, coloring it all.
Hannah Arendt, one of the most important political philosophers of the twentieth century beautifully describes solitude and loneliness:
“The lonely man finds himself surrounded by others with whom he cannot establish contact or to whose hostility he is exposed.
The solitary man, on the contrary, is alone and therefore “can be together with himself.” In solitude, in other words, I am “by myself”, together with my self, and therefore two-in-one, whereas in loneliness I am actually one, deserted by all others.
All thinking, strictly speaking, is done in solitude and is a dialogue of thought.
Solitude can became loneliness; this happens when all by myself I am deserted by my own self. Solitary men have always been in danger of loneliness, when they can no longer find the redeeming grace of companionship…”
Being together with ourselves and knowing ourselves is one of the gifts of life. When we are purely connected internally we can manage almost anything that comes our way. The answers we seek to our most important questions are not found outside of ourselves. Those answers are only found within, and can only be found in solitude.