“You can’t be lonely if you have learned to love the person you’re alone with”
We are living more separately now days than we did 30 years ago when social connection was a lot more common and science is now proving the impacts this has on our health. Loneliness is one of the top reasons people see a therapist in the US now and a recent study suggests that over 25% of Americans feel they don’t have any close friends with which they’d share a problem. In the age of social media when we may have hundreds of friends on facebook we are actually getting increasingly lonely.
Whilst it is true that social connection is vital to our happiness this is not to be confused with co-dependency, this is fear of being alone that results in seeking our happiness in somebody else and relying on having another half to make us complete. Over the last year I’ve learned that often we seek out others to plug holes in our own self and that no-one is designed to make us happy. Sometimes our fear of not wanting to be alone is a way of avoiding ourselves by being with someone else.
It is nearly 12 months since I left a long term relationship and I’ve learned so much about myself since being single, about who I am and what I want. I think it’s crucial for everyone to spend time on their own at some point in their life and this can be a positive thing. Having said that though, as a singleton, I am aware that as I progress through my thirties the longer I am single the more likely it is that I will acquire cats!
I’ve gone through the lonely nights, the closing of a door that was such a big part of my life, the fear of the unknown and worrying about the future. But I enjoy cooking what I want for dinner and nobody complaining there’s no meat, not having turned the TV on for days, playing my own music at my own volume, spending lazy weekends doing as I please and most importantly having half a bar of chocolate and knowing the other half will still be in the fridge when I return to it.
It takes courage to leave a relationship and for some the prospect of being alone is too scary to handle which is why so many people remain in unhappy relationships. However, I’ve learned that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. When I took the time to be alone I found I had the solitude and freedom to enjoy my single life, learn about myself and spend time with me. It helped me develop the capacity within to make my own way without needing a companion or a guide.
As I adjusted to being on my own my fear of the unknown has become an excitement about the possibilities that exist, but I needed time on my own to figure this out. For a while it felt like a void, a nothingness, this is the gap between what we knew and felt familiar and what is yet to come. Often engulfed by the fear of the unknown, we hang in this space of nothingness between the past and the future and sometimes despair at the uncertainty. But rather than being a big black scary hole of nothing, this time in between what was and what is yet to be is full of potential, full of opportunity. It is the beginning of the rest of your life, it is not a void at all but vibrant with absolute potential.
I have learned that we can be on our own without being lonely and that we can be alone but not empty. When we are lonely we are missing something or someone, it is a negative emotion and we feel a hole inside that needs to be filled. But when we’re alone, we are not lonely but in the presence of ourselves and can enjoy the freedom our solitude brings.