Sherlock Holmes had his mind palace and since I am wending my way through the tales spun by Sir Doyle this idea of a mental space has, for lack of better term, been taking up space in my mind. I also saw a quote earlier this week on one of the blogs I frequent – becoming minimalist (link to the article with the quote).

“All of man’s difficulties are caused by his inability to sit, quietly, in a room by himself.” —Blaise Pascal

This all got me thinking about how desperate we are to avoid being alone. And I know some of us are quite ok with solitude, but what about being lonely. See, it is the fear of separation, lack of belonging, which drives the discomfort of being alone. Even for me, who is generally ok with being by myself, there is a mass of feelings and thoughts that occur with the lack of others. 

By opening myself to that experience and spending sometime exploring it, I found something unexpected. The urge to belong, and the fear of it never happening. The fear of being lonely. 

Now, for me this stirs up things from the past as well. Connecting with others has been a difficult task often enough. Anxiety, fear of how awkward I actually am being found out, worry about rejection, questions about social protocol, terror about saying or doing something idiotic, and on and on. Suffice to say social engagement is not a forte. 

And despite that multitude, I still fear being lonely even more. And that fear blocks my getting comfortable in my mental space. It stops me from finding the alone time to explore the rooms of my palatial mind. How could I possibly be ok with sitting in that expansive space if I squirm being in a room all alone. 

 

It seems the fear of lonely and the need for companionship leads us humans to some peculiar behaviors. Think Cast Away with Wilson, or imaginary friends, or gods and demons, or pet rocks. We want to share our lives and are desperate for it, desperate to not end up lonely. 

Most dystopian, apocalyptic style stories I think touch on these fears and needs. They place people in situations of being separated from other, from the familiar, from what we believe is our humanness. They thrust people to face the fear of solitary existence. Society is broken. Humanity in shreds. And the two directions to move are external to find others and internal to find self. 

This dystopian world we are part of, the push for status updates and followers and views and the pull to unplug and be primal and develop mental spaces, creates an apparent dichotomy. I think the question though is if we can find peace by acknowledging our fear of isolation and urge to join,  and choose to just be in that experience. That to me is the art of quietly being alone in a room. Of sitting in a palace in my mind.

How are you at being alone? What difficulties would be eased if you could be more content with solitude?

Thanks as always,

With civility ~ Brian

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