It’s not the kind of thing people generally imagine they would need to practice. Being alone. You would think it should come naturally to people. Once you’re out of the earliest years of childhood, after all, it’s something that you have to make an effort to avoid.
But it’s the lengths that people go to in order to avoid being on their own, even for short periods of time, that suggest it doesn’t come as easily as we might sometimes like it to.
It may seem a perfectly harmless thing to avoid. Having company is usually more fun than being alone. Jokes seem twice as funny when you have someone to share them with. Films and shows and books and games develop much deeper meanings after you’ve discussed them with someone else.
But there is a difference between preferring company and having serious trouble spending time without any.
It’s when you cannot be alone that there is a problem. It’s when you hate the thought of not having someone around in your free time. When you cling to people you so that you don’t get left with only yourself for company.
The inability to be content with yourself is an affliction that comes from being unsatisfied with who you are. If even you can’t bear to spend time with you, how can you expect others to want to?
And it is one of the most difficult things you will ever have to accept about yourself – that you don’t like you. That if you were someone else, you wouldn’t choose to know you. That even being you, you still choose to avoid your own company. That, maybe, you actively dislike yourself.
That’s not an easy thing to say.
But once you realise it, it’s easier to get over.
You can only fix a problem once you have accepted that it’s there. If your problem is being alone, then your problem is with you and only you. If you can acknowledge this, you can deal with it.
Because solitude is a valuable part of a person’s life.
It does not mean loneliness, it does not mean a lack of people willing to be there. It is time you need to take for yourself, for your own mental growth. It is the time that you can take a break from the world, you can reflect on your experiences and interactions. It is the time when you prepare yourself for what’s going to happen next.
If you jump from one social event to another and never allow yourself that time to evaluate things, even if you let your brain get on with it automatically, you’ll get more easily overwhelmed. Pushing yourself to socialise when your mind needs to be refreshed and replenished will only make the things you’re trying to avoid get worse.
Whether you’re trying to avoid a feeling or a memory or a habit you’ve developed by drowning your own business out with that of others, the best thing you can do is to stop and face it. To step out of the rush you inflict on yourself.
And into the kind of peace that rejuvenates.