…..and make the most of it.
Loneliness really is the mark of our times. According to a US nationwide Cigna study, over 50% of Americans suffer from some form of subjective feelings of loneliness.
So it seems justified to say: If you feel alone, you are… not alone.
I have experienced a lot of alone time over the past three years since I finished university and embarked on this journey called adulthood. Some of that time alone was intentional — and some was not.
The latter usually sparked feelings of loneliness.
Coming from a family that sticks together no matter what — sometimes to an extent which annoys to me — this amount of alone time was not what I observed at home as a kid. It almost wasn’t normal. It seemed weird, but at the same time extraordinary, to spend so many consecutive days on my own — for example, as I travelled or moved to another country.
With time, I started seeing that this abundant alone time was inevitable for my growth. It was addictive, comforting — and it served me well.
If you feel lonely, I encourage you to trade that loneliness for “aloneness.” While the former may overwhelm or tear you down, the latter has the power to change your life.
What is the difference between “loneliness” and “aloneness”? I think that the distinction is made on the level of your perception. In other words: what happens on the physical level — e.g. how many people you meet daily, or how you spend time with them — matters less than what you make of it in your own head.
The feelings of loneliness often stem from the fact that you don’t see yourself as complete without other people. You likely experience some sort of emotional lack — a lack of support, understanding, companionship, laughter. Loneliness emerges when you continuously focus on the experience of lack.
Over time, this creates a belief. According to this belief, you see yourself at a real risk of spending the rest of your life in the same state of alienation that you are feeling now. So, at the core, loneliness may be just an expression of a specific kind of fear.
The fear that you fail in life. Or that you will die alone in the darkness.
None of that, however, needs to have control over you if you decide to consciously transform your loneliness into aloneness. I understand aloneness as a state in which you are able to thrive in your very own presence. A state that empowers you to see clearly what your strengths, weaknesses and desires are.
Some people call it “finding yourself.”
But how do you perform the delicate alchemy of transforming loneliness into aloneness? Well, the good news is that no dark magic is needed here. Only your intention and conscious awareness.
No force is required, or even recommended in this process. Actually, you will need to use the opposite of force: compassion.
The process of transitioning from loneliness to aloneness is, in essence, the process of becoming your own best friend. To some of us, trained to dislike ourselves for who we are, this task may be challenging.
That’s because, to see your own companion as pleasurable and comforting, getting to accept, like, and finally love yourself are all necessary.
Start with simply observing your feelings of loneliness — and the thoughts surrounding them. They are already here. No matter how much you don’t like the state of loneliness, it’s happening. So, rather than resist it, you may as well try to get familiar with it.
As you embrace the uncomfortable state, rather than push it away, surprising responses may arise. For once, you are now making an effort to treat your present experience as valid — and the outcome of such an experiment may surprise you. I cannot tell in what way — but I fully trust the power of self-compassion to deliver exactly what you need.
I encourage you to take a leap and trust the process, too.
With the growing acceptance of your internal states, you are almost surely moving away from the overwhelming loneliness and towards the empowering aloneness. This will likely open a whole new world of possibilities to be in so many different ways.
I know that aloneness has opened so many new windows to me.
On a physical level, I realized that my own company can be as good — if not better at times — as that of another person. I discovered that going out to eat, on a walk or to the movies on my own was absolutely possible. Even more than that — it had the potential to be simply delightful.
But the aspect of enjoying my time alone was just a surface of things. The ultimate reward of learning how to be with myself was that I started identifying facts and experiences that I had no idea existed before.
Only once I was detached from the company of other people for long stretches of time, was I able to recognize some patterns in my behaviours, thoughts and feelings that I was blind to otherwise. For example, it gradually became clear to me that in most of my relationships, I approached the other person from a position of submission. That’s because I craved the approval of others so much, that I was ready to give up almost all my needs and desires in favour of satisfying theirs.
This was by no means a healthy way to approach relationships. But I couldn’t even tell that this was happening — until I spent some time alone.
Being alone, especially in the modern times of overwhelm with stimuli and distractions, is a necessary experience. It allows you to process all the things that happen when you are not alone. Because, let’s face it — you are with other people a big chunk of your life, too.
Feeling lonely — or alone, for that matter — doesn’t last forever. So you may as well learn to enjoy it while it lasts. Just like with any other temporary experience in life.