Why “alone doesn’t mean lonely” is just the beginning.
I see too many people online share some variant of the above and end the conversation there, but in reality, it is only the beginning.
The many people who espouse such things are usually doing so in response to someone or society in general trying to tell them that because they spend time alone or want to be alone that they are somehow lonely and/or there is something wrong with them for doing so. This could be true, but it is not inherently true. Yes, one can be alone and not lonely, but one can also be alone AND lonely, and this is an extremely damaging and soul destroying way to be.
The “why” and “how” people are alone and/or lonely is incredibly important, and I say that as someone who spends quite a lot of time alone or with few people around.
Being alone and lonely is a deadly combination, and I mean that technically as well. The increase in health problems, likelihood of suicidal ideation along with attempted and actual suicides and a decrease in life expectancy can be associated with those who are described as alone and lonely. Stress and loneliness are the two biggest silent killers in our world today. We are social beings, we need people to outsource our sanity to, we need people to connect with – otherwise we are just killing ourselves slowly...and painfully.
“Dying of a lonely heart isn’t just a saying, it is technically true.”
I’ve had my fair share of lonely moments, but I’d say I overwhelmingly choose to be alone and I’m okay with that. Having said that, it would be nice to see some of my friends a bit more often and to develop an intimate relationship with someone. However, I’m only too aware that my propensity to undertake solitary activities and withdraw away from society sometimes interferes with this objective.
Although, I will say this…
“I’d rather be alone than lonely in amongst the crowd.”
Lonely when you are with someone or in a group is just as tragic as when you are alone, perhaps more, as the disconnect from the person or people you are with is reflected back immediately in your embodied presence rather than abstracted in the mind. You tangibly feel the separation, the physical isolation combined with the psychological and emotional.
I’ve previously talked about my struggles to feel at home in a crowd (external validation, not easy being green). It is certainly up there amongst the most horrible feelings one can feel, being in a room with a group of people yet feeling like you’re a million miles away in the Mongolian wilderness or worse, like you’re not even the same creature. This feeling is magnified especially when everyone else is having a good time because you start to wonder what they all have and understand that you do not possess, for some unknown reason.
What then can happen is the beginning of a snowball effect – sub-optimal social experience -> the perception of finding likeminded people decreases -> less likely to put yourself forward into social settings -> less social interactions -> reducing potential for finding likeminded people -> increasing thinking of nobody likes me…and we start the process again. This can spiral to the point where someone’s social activities and feelings of self-worth are incredibly low bordering on non-existent – which is dangerously not good!
I have found it incredibly difficult to find likeminded people, one’s that you can build any kind of meaningful friendship or relationship with. Obviously, I’m only too keenly aware of the role I’ve played – this is not some “woe is me” pity train stopping all stations for unearned sympathy and superficial platitudes. As I learned from Major Payne, “You’ll get no sympathy from me. You want sympathy? Look in the dictionary between shit and syphilis. That’s where you’ll find my sympathy!”
All joking aside, it’s not always easy to determine when someone needs bolstering or for someone to be blunt to them. Sometimes being nice is not what is needed. It’s not that you have to be rude, but a few home truths need to be said from time to time. “You’re just perfect the way you are”…perhaps not! I feel I’m drifting into a tangent discussion on “you are enough” vs “you are more than you think”, which I’ll save for another post sometime.
Returning to alone vs lonely, if I had to arranged in order, from worst state to optimal state, it would look something like this: Alone & Lonely -> Not Alone & Lonely -> Alone & Not Lonely -> Not Alone & Not Lonely
And I say this as an introvert who really enjoys his solitude, because ideally I still want people to be around me. It may not be as much or as often as others, but what are we without the people we love?