To be alone, or not to be alone…is there a question?

by David King on November 5, 2010

There is an old adage that we’ve all heard, directed at us or someone around us, that goes something like this: “You need some time alone.” Or similarly, “Some time to yourself will do you good.” Many individuals further adopt this as a lifestyle of sorts, bragging about how much they’re “too busy for a relationship” or “enjoy living alone.”

The former of these may be the most irritating, for they are wrought with assumptions and presumptions and condescensions. None of us has the right to suggest to another that they should deny their natural mammalian drives to pursue social interactions and to find a mate. And sure, perhaps we’ve somewhat overcome these “simpler” needs and drives in light of our heightened self-consciousness, but even so, being aware of ourselves as separate, distinct beings surely only reinforces our need to connect, or our need to not be so distinct and alone.

For those who have convinced themselves that they prefer to live alone? Well, they are coping, cognitively restructuring their experiences of communal solitude in such a way that they are reappraised as positive and preferable. Just as it is unnatural for homo sapiens to run on a treadmill, it is unnatural for us to find fulfillment in being alone. Much like the experience of running on a treadmill, living alone may seem smoother, less rocky, and more predictable, but it is similarly a manufactured experience. It is far less adventurous and therefore far less meaningful.

And herein lies the real issue: MEANING. We are meaning-making creatures, and even more so, we are meaning-needing creatures. One of our greatest sources of meaning is our social network, and to live alone is to deny ourselves of the key piece of that network – a partner in crime. As children we surely never would have wanted to live alone, this we would all agree, but to do so as an adult is equally unfulfilling and unnatural. So to those who feel the need to use the aforementioned adages? Just stop, because they’re bullshit. As human beings, we all know what it’s like to be alone – we were all teenagers once, and can all remember how alone we felt back then. And while spending time with one’s self can surely be enlightening, being in a relationship neither negates nor discourages such enlightenment. I for one have learned more about myself from being in a relationship, and from living with someone, than I have from being alone.

Continue coping with your loneliness, as you will, but stop trying to convince the world that your innate social drive can somehow be overcome. The truth is, if any human need should not be suppressed, it is that which drives us to connect, to love, and to commune with another. Nothing can be more meaningful.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

lia January 24, 2012 at 6:59 am

I agree that so much of our lives are becoming packaged. Relationships of all kinds are thought of as unnecessary, almost fluff, when they really are what matters. Thanks for sharing your amazing insight; the subject matter needs more recognition.


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