Solitude breeds creativity, it is when you can hear yourself think and those thoughts lead to creating and contributing a form of joy in your life. Loneliness, on the other hand, is the fear part of the brain. The 2,000,000 year old brain that is saying that we need social interaction and that we cannot cope. It is fearful. We must acknowledge these feelings and yet find a way out of loneliness and look at how we can contribute to the world. This is where you will find solitude, the positive side-kick of loneliness. Where loneliness is part of our ego screaming at us that we are lonely and feeling sorry for oneself, solitude is appreciating the quiet-time, looking at what you can do and taking control of who you want to be.
I spoke with someone recently online who was very lonely and having bad feelings regarding this Covid-19 crisis. While he found it difficult to process these emotions I encouraged him to look at what CAN be done. What can he do. He seemed hard on himself saying that he was an introvert and not calling people or doing anything about it. I told him to recognise that loneliness isn't forever, it is not the eternal state of being and to have hope. Not to convince yourself to be positive as that's different but to look at it in terms of optimism. There is a huge difference between being optimistic and being positive. Being optimistic is a case of looking at the existing circumstances as not being great, however, acknowledging that it will be over soon. Being positive is convincing yourself that 'all is fine' even when it isn't and squashing your emotions - we are all guilty of doing this at times. This is also to do with emotional immaturity and sticking your head in the ground. I can say that once you process the emotions of pain suffered while feeling lonely, it is time to focus on contribution of what can be done and to get out of yourself and look at the world as our community. I am sure we all have something to offer.
Look at what can be done, what are your skills, what can you help someone else achieve, be, feel, do? It is also looking at what we are absorbing around us, is our environment making us feel bad about ourselves? Are we consuming too much information that is talking about the death rates or are we around people that are overly critical and we have absorbed their criticisms. It can happen easily that you feel confident and then you find yourself in a toxic environment and slowly it creeps into your being. It starts off with a comment here or there, maybe someone being sarcastic or having a laugh and then accumulates as if it's a snowball rolling down the mountain. It brings with it all the snow on the mountain. The mountain stands firm but a layer has been peeled from its face.
You will figure out if you are in a bad environment if the people around you do the things in the image I have shown above. They may be run by fear which is natural in these times of Covid-19 and while we can't prevent ourselves from interacting with some people especially during this crisis, it is time to look at how we speak to ourselves when around these people. Perhaps it is our self-esteem that has been impacted - self-esteem being the distance between who we are and who we want to be and they are insulting something attached to our identity. This will, of course, lower our self-esteem if we feel bad or stupid every time we do something. It is mathematical, we are losing our sense of self by the erosion of these words on our boundaries. We need to listen to ourselves more and build our own optimism so that it rebounds off our walls. It is another one of life's lessons teaching us some resilience.
Another thing that I have found useful in the past is to also figure out what brings you joy, what makes you feel alive? I find sports always gave me the energy and positive feelings. I never regret a workout when I feel good after it. I love it. I love dancing, I love watching comedy, I love seeing other people laugh. It's contagious, we can uplift each other. I have found during this time that I look at other new things and applications including games, TikTok and other sources that have comedy in them too. Comedy is one of the key tenants to relief tension. It eases the atmosphere.
There is an Irish proverb that says that in the shelter of each other, the people live - Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine. (I took that from Simon Coveney's speech on Global Citizen) and he also stated that we are reminded of the interdependence that we have upon each other. It means that we are one, we are all connected and everything in the universe only exists because it has a relationship to everything else. We are all interconnected, we are all sharing this Global pandemic crisis together as we grief the loss of some of our loved ones and see others suffer though the pain in overcoming this virus. Without relationships as Conway's game of life states, we would die of isolation.
As we are living in each other's shelter, we are social creatures even as introverts who are drained from human interaction, we still need human interaction but to a limited degree. We might get overwhelmed by noise and oftentimes startled by noise or loud extroverted people. Our boundaries might be pushed by extraverts and we might be made uncomfortable. We might be seen as reserved in certain circumstances but may have trained ourselves to overcome some of these qualities by forming habits that are extraverted. This is normal, however, we need to get real about how we feel so we can heal our feelings of self-doubt and in terms of loneliness perhaps abandonment. These are emotions that can be addressed as you settle into yourself and learn to enjoy your own company.
It is simple to think of loneliness and solitude as two separate things, one can be seen as negative and the other positive. Loneliness may come from the form of the self that is the child who wants to be taken care of and looked after. It is important to comfort that voice. Comfort it as if you were comforting yourself at 7 years old. Tell yourself that it'll be fine, it's only temporary and things will be back to normal soon. Have empathy for yourself the same as if you have empathy for another person - see video below.
Solitude on the other hand is positive, it is the time to create, contribute, excel at being alone, emotionally regulate yourself and find meaning in things that you are doing by yourself and for others. Solitude can be the feeling of being grateful for a walk in the forest and a run alone. It can be a form of activity or it can also mean sitting alone in silence and relaxing - simply enjoying the peace and quiet.
So, yes we may feel lonely sometimes but know this - it is temporary. While this crisis is unusual, it has given some of us a time to reflect on what is important to us, what we can do to help others and how we can contribute. The altruistic nature of humanity is starting to shine and it is truly heartwarming to see and feel. Regardless of the thoughts of some political leaders I am proud to see the head of government in Ireland renew his medical licence and contribute to some time working in hospitals as a medical doctor again. I am proud to see the people gather around and come closer.
The connectedness of everyone has been strengthened in a global fight against one common enemy that does not discriminate in terms of race, age, gender or nationality. I am proud of the human race as a whole and the generosity that it shows when contributing and adapting to different things that can be done. I am grateful for all who are working hard on the front lines during this crisis as I speak to people online and try to uplift them, teach others a new skill and do what I can from home, all we can do is do our small part to help humanity. Some have learnt how to cook, others have learnt a new skill while others have felt the kindness reverberate through clapping at our emergency workers around the world, it is important to remember - while you may be experiencing some loneliness right now, it can turn to solitude, enjoyment of life and the loneliness will not last forever.
Like waves in the ocean, these feelings will go so stay optimistic that the future will be better as I know it will. Connect with others and learn empathy, as Bréné Brown puts it, what makes something better is connection. See what you can do to connect with others because you don't know what they are going through, it could be a case that they have experienced something truly painful so smile at a stranger, give the rest of your change to the person working behind the shop counter and tell them thank you and that it's for chocolate for them later. Once you adapt to solitude you will feel the best feelings of joy, happiness and feeling ALIVE. Do all the things that bring you joy, do something that you love once a day and these feelings will start to trickle into your being. It may start with synthetic happiness until it turns into true authentic happiness. It grows like seeds, they need to be watered daily.
Do things that feel good and perhaps not for you but for someone else. Do something that brings another person joy, find a way to contribute, get outside of your head and your being and send a text to someone letting them know that you are thinking of them, say hi to people passing you by in the forest going for a run. People are coming together and connections are stronger, people are warmer and you can tell by going to the shop that people have found other ways to connect so find ways of connecting to yourself in terms of joy and enjoying solitude and also to others in terms of contribution. Connect with each other in our humanity as we are all in this together and as John Donne puts it 'no man is an island'. Look at what is good in your life right now and write them down, YOU ARE ALIVE and (first heal the wound of abandonment - see above) and then be thankful for your health, it is time to use it and uplift others when they are suffering from this pandemic. Have the compassion and understanding for others and perhaps a smile or something for another can impact their whole being. List the things that made time stop and you were in flow and do that everyday. Enjoy life, enjoy the creativity that solitude brings and enjoy the peace and quiet that it affords to all of us. You can make confidence permanent by doing the things you decide to do. You can be quiet and not shy but this is for another post as they are also two different things. This time in our lives is not a productivity test - read a book, go for a walk, get outside, get outside of yourself and contribute, find ways to bring joy into your life and loneliness will turn into solitude.
Image source: https://sellshareshow.weebly.com/inspirations/successful-people-v-unsuccessful-people-which-one-are-you