Solitude Versus Loneliness

One of the main therapeutic interventions I suggest when working with people is to spend time alone with themselves.

Too often we aren’t just busy with school, work, family and a social life, but overwhelmed and hardly have a second alone with ourselves during the waking hours and are weighed down by stress, anxiety and/or depression.

When we aren’t working, studying, or surrounded by people, we are often thinking about work, studying or the people in our lives. Our minds are always busy and are often filled with thoughts that are either disturbing or distracting.

I especially make this recommendation to people I see aren’t in touch with themselves.

Often these people are fresh out of relationships are are anxious to jump right back into a new one without taking the time to evaluate themselves and their failed relationships so they make the same mistakes over and over again.

If they are lucky they escape unscathed, but more often then not they leave one relationship and enter another with more emotional baggage, lower self-value, more desperation and often an extra child or two.

Often when I suggest to people that they spend some time alone and not rush into another relationship (or surround themselves with people or bury themselves in work, or their family), it’s as if I asked them to do the impossible.

Some will come right out and tell me “I can’t be alone”. Others will say that it’s depressing being alone and others will try it half-heartedly, but are so insecure and fearful that they are easily distracted by whatever takes them away from themselves.

You see, there is a difference between loneliness and solitude. Not many people understand that and easily confuse the two.

Loneliness is a sort of aching, emotional pain, while solitude refers to our relationship with ourselves. Loneliness is painful. Solitude is peaceful.

Solitude is a place where our restless mind, spirit and body can come together and is essential for our spiritual lives.

I at times find solitude difficult and have went through many extremes to avoid it, but I know that solitude can be peaceful, loving and rewarding.

It is the place where if we allow it, by shutting out all the internal noise, we become closer to our true consciousnesses (some spiritual/religious people refer to this as God consciousness where they become closer to God).

This is the place where our subconscious often brings into consciousness our unfinished business, people we should let go, goals we never accomplished, etc.

Some people find it painful to analyze themselves and I get that, but it is essential for growth and internal peace. Many people don’t like to be alone because of this.

It is impossible for someone to be at peace with others and their world if they aren’t at peace with themselves and that can only come from solitude.

Like I said, many people go, go, go, and get into relationship after relationship to distract themselves from themselves in order to avoid some of the pain of having to analyze their true selves.

I encourage you to learn to love solitude. Even when it’s involuntary. Aloneness  can grow into solitude, it’s a conscious choice and it takes some practice, but it’s spiritually and emotionally rewarding.

I don’t care if it’s only an hour, thirty minutes, a walk during your break time, but make time for yourself. Try to shut out all the internal noise and allow your mind, spirit and body to become one. You may be surprised at what you find.

Time by yourself is always time well spent.

“Solitude is the garden for our hearts which yearn for love. It is the place where our aloneness can bear fruit.” Henri J. M. Nouwen; Michael Ford. The Dance of Life: Weaving Sorrows and Blessings Into One Joyful Step 

4 thoughts on “Solitude Versus Loneliness

  1. Very nice! As an ex-therapist I think this is a fantastic post! It took me a long time to get used to my solitude, and now, I’m no longer lonely. I’m open to a relationship and it has appeared! Strange isn’t it?

    1. Thank you so much for reading and responding! Up until about two years ago I fought solitude for the longest. When I started teaching it to my clients I was shocked out how many of them hated being alone, but that caused me to investigate my own fear of solitude and I had to get uncomfortable being with myself to learn to appreciate it. Sounds like you’ve done the same! I had a friend who forced herself to be by herself for a number of years before she allowed herself to date, and now she is in a great relationship because she knows her self better than she ever did before. Good luck!

  2. Hello sir !
    I loved this post though I’m in a dilemma right now.
    What if the person has been on his own for too long and what he considered solitude has turned into loneliness?

    1. You ask a great question! There does need to be a balance between loneliness, solitude and community. Solitude is like a vacation… it’s needed to replenish your spirit and gain an appreciation for yourself and those around you. It’s not a place to stay, but a place we need to visit and then get back into the community with a better understanding. I believe that person needs to get back into the community, even if it’s uncomfortable. He has to be willing to be uncomfortable with being out of solitude just as others need to be okay with being uncomfortable in solitude, until it becomes comfortable. His time in solitude has prepared him well to give and receive so much love, wisdom and understanding that needs to be shared. Without silence, speaking loses it’s value… without distance, closeness doesn’t mean much… and without solitude, relationships with others loses some of it’s most precious values. We all from times fluctuate between those polarities and it’s okay, as long as we understand the fluctuations and have a good balance 🙂

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