the pain of being alone
and solitude expresses
the glory of being alone.
~ Paul Tillich
Being alone can evoke many different feelings and experiences, often depending on the context. Are you spending time alone voluntarily or would you rather be with people, but for whatever reason there is no one there? Are you an introvert or extrovert? Introverts need a lot of time alone to recharge, as too much people time may be draining. Extroverts are nourished and enlivened by being with people, and may have more difficulty spending time alone.
If you are a parent or work in a busy work environment, time alone may be precious. If you live alone, work from home or have little human contact, you may yearn for being around people.
There is also the issue of how comfortable you are being with yourself. Are you happy spending time alone? Do you have activities and hobbies that you enjoy and can you simply be content doing nothing at times? Or do you get antsy and feel the need to distract yourself? Are you comfortable in your own company or do you feel disconnected and like something is missing?
As the quote above states, aloneness experienced as loneliness is a very painful state of feeling isolated and separate. And yet that same state of being alone can feel glorious and luxurious in other circumstances.
You may want to observe when you experience being alone as painful or difficult and when you experience it as welcome solitude. What does the experience tell you about your needs in that moment? And how can you give yourself what you need, soothe yourself or reach out to others if necessary? Do you have ways that help you in this process like meditation, journaling, walking in nature, talking about it with a trusted friend or therapist? It is rich territory in which to explore and get to know yourself more deeply.
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley