What Loneliness Can Teach You
The word “lonely” is perhaps one of the most negatively associated words in the English language. Everybody wants to feel included in something in some way or another. Nobody wants to be lonely. To be lonely is to be among failure in our society. You are encouraged to do anything you wish, but by all means, do not be lonely. Do anything you can to find your place within others, whether that be a job, family, relationship, or group identity.
It’s an expectation to get married in western society. Your friends give you sour looks if you don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend, even if that means finding happiness within yourself and not relying on forced relationships to give you the guise of joy. Our society says at large — as long as you’re not alone you’re worthy.
But this view of human relations is inherently flawed. It’s based on our primal survival urge — the more we’re with our “tribe,” the less likely we are to get killed. But we’ve evolved since then. We don’t have the fears of getting eaten alive by bears while our loincloths get ripped off. We’re civilized now, and we don’t need to have the same reliance on others that we used to. But we continue with the same line of thinking that humans thousands of years ago had. A tribe is safety. Safety is good. People who promote that sense of tribe are innately good because they improve our chances of survival, such as extroverts.
But many people are oblivious to the positive effects that isolation can have. Taking time to introspect on yourself and what you want from life is extremely important. Sure, you can stumble your way through life with a tentative plan, never really knowing what your next move will be. Your life is full of uncertainty, stability is rare. But doing this you will never really be able to understand yourself. You’re an infinitely complex being with millions of desires, urges, thoughts, values, and more. Neglecting your complexity by just staggering through life is closing the door on life for exploration within — the vastest being you could ever explore.
Many people are afraid to turn inwards, however. It’s hard for many to confront their inner selves. Almost like they’re talking to a demon or going up against a boss in a video game. It’s very uncomfortable to face your desires sometimes. You start to uncover things about yourself that maybe you didn’t like. Therapy is an exaggerated version of this. You really begin to understand yourself, for better or worse.
So why shouldn’t you just let these desires be repressed in your psyche and live your life comfortably oblivious to the horror going on inside of you? For many people, this is exactly what they do. We don’t openly talk about negative things in western society. But is this really the way to happiness?
Is it startling that the most socially polarized societies in the world are also the societies that have surprisingly low happiness rates? In fact, even though the United States is among the most developed countries in the world, the average happiness rating by its citizens is only about 1 point higher (on a scale from 1–10) than impoverished 3rd world countries.
Americans have infinitely better opportunities than impoverished countries, yet they’re barely happier. What’s going on here? Could it be that happiness is actually derived from inside rather than outside?
Letting go of safety
The amazing thing about being in less fortunate situations than others is that, at first, you try to bargain and rationalize with the world, like: “Why is this happening to me?”
Soon, you realize that these attempts are futile and only contribute negatively towards your overall outlook on life. People who realize this begin to embrace the things they have, the family they have, the friends they have. They get comfortable with what they have, they don’t look for anything more, nothing less. Many people refer to the intentional act of this as “dying before you die.”
You completely give up your physical attachments to this world. You accept the fact that nothing in this world is permanent and you find pure joy in that. You’re not looking for something else to satisfy you. You’re not looking for more money. You’re content in what you have — and that’s the pure joy in being alive.
This is what isolation can also teach you. Being alone with yourself allows you to get comfortable being detached from all external sources of happiness that other people derive their well-being. You adapt to your circumstances.
You effectively let the noise of life become your new normal. Rather than have exciting new purchases and life opportunities give you that “boost” you associate with a dopamine rush, your “uninteresting,” mundane life becomes enjoyable. You see the pure bliss with being alone and with yourself. You paradoxically feel connected with the universe in a way that cannot be explained through words.
Be alone with yourself and the world. Disconnect so that you can connect, and you may find a sense of bliss you were scared to find.