Sunday, February 26, 2012
Part 3 - Loneliness and Solitude
A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; ... if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free. - Schopenhauer
I have always been the kind of person who preferred being alone. I felt awkward and uncomfortable around others, because I never really saw myself as one of them. I was always the odd man out, never really “fitting in.” I was quiet, stand-offish, and rarely spoke. I felt insignificant, that I had nothing to say, and was afraid that, if I did speak up, that my input would be ridiculed. There was a real disconnect with other people which caused me to feel isolated, even around friends and social situations. Solitude became something I embraced.....because I already felt alone on the inside.
Most of us tend to see solitude as something that brings about loneliness. We see someone as being lonely because they are alone. The solution, we think, is to bring them “out of their shell” and into social situations, so that they may have contact with others and not feel so lonely. Sometimes this is the case, but often, it is just the opposite. Loneliness actually causes a person to want to be alone, and bringing them around other people will not always ease the loneliness. Someone who feels isolated and lonely inside will withdraw by choice. Inside, he already feels alone, and withdrawing is simply easier. The solitary life is ultimately one of voluntary seclusion, defined by some feeling of disconnect. The yearning for love and companionship is still there, but for whatever reasons, it is not acknowledged, and the person begins to identify with his loneliness. Some people are more comfortable with it than others, but even so, it is never a truly fulfilling life – simply a coping mechanism.
Extreme internal loneliness causes a person to stop reaching out and interacting. This is always because of some sort of disconnect....when you feel that no one understands you, and cannot relate to your deepest feelings and emotions. For example, if a person has experienced some major loss, or is grieving, and feels like no one can really understand or relate....or if a person experiences some major childhood trauma, especially involving shame or guilt, this will cause feelings of isolation, and the desire for solitude.
In my own struggles with loneliness, I had no desire to reach out. My desire was for someone to reach in, and meet me where I was.
Gen. 2:18 And the Lord God said “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make Him a helper comparable to him.”
The Bible states that solitude is not good. God created us to have interaction and fellowship with others. When we cut ourselves off from one another, we are severing ourselves from the fellowship that God designed us for. We remain incomplete, unfulfilled, and without true self-awareness, because of the void. The Bible teaches that relationships with other people are imperative to a healthy and fulfilled life. Even so, when we feel secluded and disconnected on the inside, it becomes very hard for us to reach out.
One of the most important things that God taught me was that, in order to connect with others on a real and fulfilling level, I had to first become connected with Him. Once I connected with Him, on a spiritual level, I could understand who I was in connection with others. I could find common ground and a shared reality, which has its basis in God. Indeed, the most rewarding relationships are those which are centered in Christ.
Those who isolate themselves, do so because they do not feel connected, and lack a certain identification with others. They embrace solitude because it most closely resembles how they feel on the inside....alone and disconnected.
THE FALL AND BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS
Human beings were created by God to enjoy fellowship on 2 levels – a human level, and a spiritual level. Within the human level are different spheres of fellowship, but on the spiritual level, it is all about our relationship with God. If fellowship on either of these levels is broken, that person will feel unsatisfied. A lot of people will tell you that they are content without God, but the truth of the matter is, a life without God falls short, for the simple reason that we were created primarily for the purpose of fellowship with God. We were also created for fellowship with one another.
God's Relationship to Man
All truly fulfilling human relationships are centered in God. The Bible says that Jesus Christ came to restore man's fellowship with God – the same fellowship that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden. It was the fellowship that we were created to enjoy, and the only fellowship that makes life truly meaningful.
Before Eve was created, Adam existed alone with God. We do not know how long Adam lived alone in the Garden. Even so, Adam was not really alone, because God was with him. The Bible does not indicate that Eve was created to fill an emotional void in Adam, nor to make up for anything that Adam lacked in his relationship with God. Rather, she was created for companionship, procreation, and to be a helper. Furthermore, the Bible does not indicate that Adam was lonely before Eve. Adam's fellowship with God satisfied him on every level. Even so, God said that it was not good that Adam should be alone. There was something missing.
In the Garden, Adam and Eve enjoyed intimate, unbroken fellowship with God and with one another. Every one of their emotional needs were met. Communion with one another was completely fulfilling, because God was in the center. Everything was “good,” and there was certainly no loneliness on either side. After the Fall, everything became distorted. A breach was formed between man and God, and consequently, human relationships were also broken....defined by pride and self-centeredness, rather than love.
Man's Relationship to Man
Everywhere we look, we see how human relationships are corrupted. One of the saddest realities of this fallen world is the broken family unit. It is no secret that people who are raised in intact homes are happier and more well-adjusted. It is also no secret that separation from one or both parents causes a great deal of anxiety for a child. It destroys the bond between parent and child, and makes it more difficult to form attachments in adulthood. There is a reason why children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves....in my own case, I was unable to form a healthy attachment to my husband, because of the lack of an attachment to my own father.
Broken relationships breed loneliness and isolation, because People stop reaching out for fear of getting hurt. Fear of intimacy leads to isolation and withdrawal, and a fear of giving oneself over fully to another. There is that part that you hold back, that you keep to yourself, whether it be hurts or vulnerabilities or fears. When we cannot relate to others, we feel isolated. Loneliness is a logical manifestation of this.Anything that you hold back, that you keep to yourself, you become alone with – and being alone in your fears is a very lonely place.
Some people are loners by choice. Others by circumstance. Having been a loner for most of my life, I can say with utmost certainty we all share one thing in common....a deep sense of disconnect, either because of something in ourselves or some circumstance that made it impossible to connect with others. Whatever the reason, it is a sad and unfulfilling place to be, both spiritually and emotionally.