Thoughts co-written by Jeff Beyer, Ph.D., and me.
Loneliness and isolation can happen when you are alone, or with a friend, or in a crowd. It involves a kind of psychological disconnecting which is neither pleasant nor in itself health promoting. Solitude, on the other hand, is a kind of psychological connecting, a very personal relating with yourself when you are apart from others. It can be an enlivening and enriching experience, and it is in these moments that we develop a stable sense of self. But in our rushed and packed workaday worlds—whether we are frantically on the move or still, but distracted, on our phones-- these moments of solitude are too often in short supply. Boredom and distractibility are the signposts that sit at the fork in the road between loneliness and the psyche’s invitations to solitude.
Solitude is there for each of us to reclaim. It is that treasure you can find when you create the conditions for connecting with yourself. You befriend yourself when you adopt a posture toward yourself just like you would toward a dear friend—you spend time together, you are interested and attentive, inviting, wanting to know more and explore together, you are kind to each other, and there is a loving gentleness that develops between you in the relating. What better time than now to learn to be still and quiet enough to hear the genuine voice within; set your brain free by letting your mind wander! When you look into yourself and away from the screen you nurture an intimate familiarity with the world within you, you will have made a friend, and your life will likely find and follow its own ways.