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Alien Isolation – What can we draw from this time of ‘foreign’ solitude

17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Now, I’m not entirely sure that is how our current predicament started, but we now have to find the ability to sit in our rooms alone.

For a significant number of people, this time of isolation will be alien to them, and not because they haven’t played the acclaimed SEGA game of the same name, but because solitude is such a foreign entity in the modern age.

With countries around the world mandating their citizens into prolonged periods of seclusion except for essential trips outside of the house, populations are going to be faced with the unusual task of maintaining their mental and physical wellbeing whilst alone.

Many people fear being alone, and justifiably so, for a number of reasons; despair, insanity, abandonment, death. Certainly from a historical and evolutionary perspective, those who were on their own stood a higher chance of not surviving than those in tribes, hence where the origins of group formation arose, along with meeting our needs for social interaction, development and pair-bonding.

However, we must foster the capacity to be alone otherwise we run the risk of becoming over-compliant and dependent on others out of fear of being abandoned/in solitude. Which is why it is important to learn how to be alone and comfortable with your own presence. Ask yourself this, when was the last time you sat with yourself, alone, and gave space for your thoughts and feelings to come through?

Now is as good a time as any for a little introspection, some critical inward reflection cultivating self-knowledge and becoming more self-aware. It is quite important to check in with yourself when your normal routine has been significantly disturbed and to be honest about your thoughts and feelings. Suppression, after all, is the thief of authenticity. Denying parts of yourself is a sure-fire path to psychological pain, although this may not be immediately obvious.

It is quite likely that people will feel irritated, annoyed or frustrated with extended periods of isolation (I think some are already!). This is ok, as I said before, denying how you feel can be problematic. It is imperative to communicate openly and honestly with your intimate partner, family, friends, whoever constitutes your support network, about how you’re coping mentally and physically.

Some people are more suited than others to the “quarantine life” per se. The last person you’d want in isolation is the extraverted neurotic, it would be hell and I do not envy them. Thankfully, I’m more like the calm and stoic introvert, so this is closer to my idea of heaven haha.


So, how are you going to use your new found time in isolation?

There are a range of things one could do for self-improvement/development that I have hinted at above. This is a chance to ground your reality in something permanent which is fundamental to your life going forward. There is nothing like a rude awakening to shake one out of their semi-comatose routine. It can make you reflect on where you are in life; are you who you want to be? Are you where you want to be? Who is the person and where do I want to be? What is essential to my life and wellbeing and what is not?

Okay, enough of the deep and meaningful I hear you say!

Contact people that you’ve been meaning to get in touch with, ring and video call especially. Social interaction is still key to our health despite our current distancing regulations and thankfully technology has improved where we can somewhat reliably do this.

One could also learn a new skill or pursue a qualification online or perhaps brainstorm a potential side business that you’ve always thought about starting. Widening your skill set and/or diversifying your income streams can be a good protector against market reactions and/or having your main job reduced in capacity or worse, lost.

Learn a new language and perhaps combine it with future travel plans to a country that speaks that language.

Expand your knowledge or capabilities through reading. Pick a subject of interest and research it, look up prominent people or particular historical events/developments relating to it.

There may be an instrument that you’ve always wanted to learn or pick up again, strumming a guitar or stroking some piano keys. There could be another form of creative outlet you’d prefer to explore; writing, poetry, photography, video producing or editing, acting. Look into it.

There may have been things you’ve wished to do around the home that you’ve just never had or put aside the time for. That new shelving unit, re-arranging the garden, organising the shed, even just a thorough clean up.

For those with children, think of ways to incorporate them into any of the aforementioned. Sit down and have meals together and talk. Read to/with them. Have them join you for your home workouts. Play games in the backyard. This can only benefit the relationship you have with your children.

This current situation will take people out of their comfort zone, so why not do one or some of the above, you’re already primed for it.

Stay safe.

Stay healthy.

Stay connected.


Meditation has shown to be beneficial in improving wellbeing and reducing stress, amongst other things. Perhaps you’ve never tried and would like to give it a go, I utilise The Waking Up App created by Dr Sam Harris and I can share a free month, just follow this link here

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Martyn Foster
Martyn Foster
Mar 27, 2020

Hello fosterccjm4, I appreciate the kind and reflective comments. I too hope that we can get on task and limit the effects of this virus and return to a more regular existence, but I feel we still have a lot more to learn and do beforehand. Whenever "normality" resumes, however, I hope we don't lose the lesson.


Unknown member
Mar 27, 2020

A sane and positive article in an insane worldwide situation (coronavirus). Hope people take your up some of your positive ideas, advice and also "work" together so that "normality" can resume sooner :-)

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