Benefit from loneliness

Benefit from lonelinessSwimming the wrong way? Or is it the right way?

Something I often hear — and something I say myself — is that when dealing with unpleasant situations, it helps to look for the gifts being offered. Hard as it is to do sometimes when it feels as if life’s prime objective is to punish people, I find that when I focus on the blessings in disguise, I start healing.

I have been dealing with soul loneliness. I have missed deep connection with friends or a lover. I’ve already written much about it. Today I want to focus on accentuating the positive. The truth is that our struggles have both positive and negative aspects, so what has being lonely been good for?

FINDING MYSELF

Living alone with little outside social contact has been one of the best ways to discover who I really am and what I really want. Normally I tend to be a people pleaser. When I live with someone, I want to see them being happy. That often means that I sacrifice my own desires and play a second fiddle support role. i am so good at it that I do not even think of it as a sacrifice.

Another way to say this is that I was conditioned to be a follower. I was trained to respond to someone else’s lead. As my social circle shrinks, I rely more on myself for stimulation and support than ever. As a result, I am discovering more about me as my own leader.

Playing second fiddle is not just about personal relationships. Career is another huge area. Even as a freelancer, the demands of producing income have frequently persuaded me to sacrifice being myself to play a role in the marketplace. How many of us cannot be our true selves, expressing our true opinions and feelings, when we’re at work? How many of us feel required to wear personality masks when we do our jobs?

It is a great gift to be able to slowly discover who I really am when I am not encouraged to play a support role or to bend to the demands of economic pressures.

FINDING OTHERS

My search for my own truth leads me to perceive others on a different level as well. The more I become the real me, the more I attract realness in others. Those who wish to share on a more genuine level seem to come forth — while those who do not wish for emotional intimacy retreat into their comfort zone.

I confess that I have not been very aggressive at locating venues where I could find people who want to share at such an unmasked level of openness. However I recognize that a transition takes time. I will find new kindred spirits somewhere down the line. I am still finding myself.

People who have suffered a deeply felt loss through death, break-up, job termination, disease, or other situation are often told that this crisis could lead to better situations, hard as it may be to see at first. A major loss or setback in life often causes us so much pain that we are too raw to keep up our normal go get ’em attitude. We open up to new options to handle our trauma.

One of those ways is frequently to become more real, direct, and courageous. We suck it up and do what we have to do. That process often attracts a different breed of friend.  It could manifest as a current friendship that expands from where it was. Or it could manifest as new friendships that meet our new needs.

CHANGING THE FILTER

Loneliness is taking a condition of solitude and casting it in a negative or painful light. In a positive light, it is great for clarity of thinking without interruption from others.

This fundamental change in filter means altering the negative self-talk around loneliness. It means not buying into any of the cliches and stereotypes about being lonely. When I make the effort to consciously intervene when my monkey mind screams that I am so lonely, boo-hoo, my morale improves. I see this as an opportunity to grow.

The prison system, as many movies and documentaries tell us, use solitary confinement as a form of punishment. It has even come under fire for causing people to go mad. At the same time, other people pay handsomely to attend various spiritual retreats where the whole point is to stop the busy world and to tune in to inner voices.

NEW PASSIONS

Loneliness forces self-reflection. There is only so much I can do with the usual distractions designed to keep my head buried in the sand. My personality is not too fond of mindless television, hack movies, pro sports, shopping, etc. Many of the institutions commonplace to American society are like foreign customs to this 12th-generation American.

So when I have grown bored of the distractions that I do enjoy, there is a void that I need to fill by searching for new interests and passions. For example, when I felt that I had exhausted finding videos featuring positive spiritual input, I decided to start meditating again. I had gotten out of the meditation habit because the partners I lived with were not into it. Being the follower, I blended more into their lifestyle than vice versa.

Ironically, most of the hobbies that I have are much more solitary than social. I like writing, photography, reading, art. These are my go-to activities that generally have not provided much in the way of friendship.

Although most of my pursuits are independent studies, the vastness of the time and space around me has been great for self-reflection and life review. I am still in the discovery phase of finding new passions.

NEW PERCEPTIONS

Along with new passions come new perceptions. For example, I have found that the lack of romantic and/or sexual connection has created amazing new perceptions about those experiences.

For example, my unplanned celibacy has given me a revitalized appreciation for what sex can be. I have been knocked out of anything habitual; no pleasure as usual. Loneliness is like a time out. As I see anything from romantic movies to (supposed) erotica, I find that I no longer wish to follow the herd. It seems counter-intuitive, but not having a sexual partner and daydreaming about the spiritual potential of lovemaking has made me even choosier about the relationship I would want if the opportunity came along.

Another new perception for me is the goldmine of alternative media that is out there challenging the status quo. I had gotten very sick of mainstream media pushing mainstream agendas which included shame, violence, materialism, and separation. Solitude helped me focus on different media sources (YouTube, Udemy, Netflix, HBO Go) where I could select viewing material more to my liking. Besides exposing me to interesting stories, it helped me see how my world view changes when I take charge over what mind food I ingest.

EARTH SCHOOL

Whenever I am feeling particularly blue about certain life events, it helps me greatly to think of this time and place as Earth School. We are here to learn. The school paradigm works well for me because it focuses my mind on this premise: if [this situation] is part of a planned curriculum, what is the lesson? What is the gift?

I find this approach much more useful than blaming someone else for causing me misery. It helps me focus on solving the problem as if I were a university student being challenged to work my way through the professor’s obstacle course.

So far I have been approaching my current state of loneliness as an opportunity to find my real self, and I am starting to see good results. I am learning and growing.

2 thoughts on “Benefit from loneliness

  1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ says:

    Loneliness is a leading cause of serious illness and death among senior citizens, so I’m glad to see that you are looking at your situation in a more positive light. 🙂

    http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/06/12184/loneliness-linked-serious-health-problems-and-death-among-elderly

    “That often means that I sacrifice my own desires and play a second fiddle support role. i am so good at it that I do not even think of it as a sacrifice. Another way to say this is that I was conditioned to be a follower. I was trained to respond to someone else’s lead.”

    As a woman, this was exactly how I was groomed in my culture. Women were simply expected to take this role of servitude, putting their aspirations (outside of the family) on the back burner. Being married with children and having a career was simply not an option for my mother, grandmothers and great grandmothers. Neither was the nurturer nurtured.Thank goodness my daughter is not subjected to this conditioning like I was. It took me many years to break away from that conditioning and not feel guilty about it. Good for you.

    As I read your post I was reminded of this quote:

    “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
    ~George Bernard Shaw

    “I find this approach much more useful than blaming someone else for causing me misery.”

    I think it’s great that you have found ways to cope with your disappointments in life. For you it’s Earth School, for me it was sorta like Earth School without the belief in an afterlife. I believe I’ve got one shot at life. It’s made me so much more appreciative of the time I have here, and that every moment is precious. What’s that saying? “Live everyday as though it were your last”.

    A lovely post, Josh. An email is forthcoming.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Victoria, thank you for your insightful (as usual) comments. That was a sobering article from UCSF. I was impressed that many of the people who consider themselves lonely do not live alone. That is telling.

      Overt the years and especially my later years, I have encountered many lectures and workshops about what happens to the average women later in life, especially when the kids are gone. After having done so much nurturing, they are often quite perplexed over “what do I do now when I can focus on myself?” That’s very similar to me when I ask, “What is my purpose now that my caregiver role is finished?” It is an exciting but also challenging time.

      In my Earth School paradigm, lifetimes can be so different in circumstances that it makes sense to get the most out of each life. The resources you have in one life may not be there the next time. Every moment is precious in my paradigm, too.

      Thank you for commenting. 🙂

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