Be alone, not lonely

Dear Kintsugi readers, I hope you all are coping well amid this pandemic and quarantine. It’s strange to realise how familiar this concept is to me. I already know what quarantine looks like and feels like. I have tasted it and been forced to bear it. And, fortunately, I have overcome it.

   Let’s look at loneliness, which is a key issue for many of us in lockdown. Nearly everyone feels lonely at some point. For some, it’s a temporary condition. For others, it’s a way of life. It’s not always easy to admit to feeling lonely, but it’s more common than you think. Losing a loved one, not working, poor health, ageing, trauma, moving to a new city and even the weather can all contribute to feelings of loneliness. It affects us in different ways. Some feel lonely even when they spend a lot of time with people. Others may not have many social contacts but are perfectly comfortable with that.

After my injuries, I suffered loneliness for a long time. It was the darkest period of my life. The emptiness I felt was vivid and visceral, like something was actually missing – a hole that I needed to fill. I felt lonely while surrounded by people, which is the hardest form of loneliness. But with the help of doctors, family and prayers, it was a long painful phase that I survived.

And now, after many years with my life back on track, I know the difference between being alone and being lonely. My solitude was not intentional; it was forced upon me. I did not choose it for personal growth or peace.

Loneliness is the negative feeling that arises when you feel dissociated from others. It is a sense of losing yourself, feeling isolated from everyone else. Loneliness is a state of wishing for social interaction and communication, seeking support and appreciation. It is distinct from solitude, which is an intentional gesture of withdrawing from social interactions. Solitude is being alone without feeling lonely. It is a blessing in disguise.

In our solitude, we are more open to receiving epiphanies. Solitude promotes creativity and allows us to think without outside influence. Alone, we can think deeply. We can create effective solutions to our problems. Solitude helps us dig deep into our thoughts, feelings and desires. When we are alone, there are no outside forces to influence the way we think and the decisions we make. We can renew ourselves and recharge our minds.

In my intentional solitude, I listen to my thoughts and focus on the inner work that will help me live a better life. Being alone lets me examine and observe my thoughts and habits, to identify areas that need improvement. It allows me to focus on self-awareness, self-discovery, self-help, self-understanding, self-love, self-care, self-exploration, self-transformation and self-mastery.

I have experienced both types of loneliness. I ask you to see quarantine as intentional solitude rather than forced isolation: being alone, not lonely. When we change our mindset, we add a positive twist to the situation. It is here that we discover our new selves, and we find peace, calmness and clarity.

Loneliness is not a lack of company; loneliness is a lack of purpose. As Aldous Huxley wrote, ‘The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.

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