Solitude vs Loneliness
Loneliness is marked by a sense of isolation. Solitude, on the other hand, is a state of being alone without being lonely and can lead to self-awareness.
As the world spins faster and faster—or maybe it just seems that way when an email can travel around the world in fractions of a second—we mortals need a variety of ways to cope with the resulting pressures. We need to maintain some semblance of balance and some sense that we are steering the ship of our life.
Otherwise we feel overloaded, overreact to minor annoyances and feel like we can never catch up. As far as I'm concerned, one of the best ways is by seeking, and enjoying, solitude.
That said, there is an important distinction to be established right off the bat. There is a world of difference between solitude and loneliness, though the two terms are often used interchangeably.
From the outside, solitude and loneliness look a lot alike. Both are characterized by solitariness. But all resemblance ends at the surface.
Loneliness is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation. One feels that something is missing. It is possible to be with people and still feel lonely—perhaps the most bitter form of loneliness.
Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company.
Solitude is a time that can be used for reflection, inner searching or growth or enjoyment of some kind. Deep reading requires solitude, so does experiencing the beauty of nature. Thinking and creativity usually do too.
Solitude suggests peacefulness stemming from a state of inner richness. It is a means of enjoying the quiet and whatever it brings that is satisfying and from which we draw sustenance. It is something we cultivate. Solitude is refreshing; an opportunity to renew ourselves. In other words, it replenishes us.
Loneliness is harsh, punishment, a deficiency state, a state of discontent marked by a sense of estrangement, an awareness of excess aloneness.
Solitude is something you choose. Loneliness is imposed on you by others.
We all need periods of solitude, although temperamentally we probably differ in the amount of solitude we need. Some solitude is essential; It gives us time to explore and know ourselves. It is the necessary counterpoint to intimacy, what allows us to have a self worthy of sharing. Solitude gives us a chance to regain perspective. It renews us for the challenges of life. It allows us to get (back) into the position of driving our own lives, rather than having them run by schedules and demands from without.
Solitude restores body and mind. Lonelinesss depletes them.
This short article appears in Psychology Today and it's dead on. Of the many things I have in common with my wife is an ability to spend time alone. There have been times when my wife and daughter have gone to visit a friend out of town and asked me to come along. In every case, I decline. I enjoy the time alone. As I'm sure any parent or spouse can attest, time alone is a bit of a commodity. It's rare. Particularly time alone of any length. Sure, there are times when my wife and daughter are out for the day. But, a whole weekend? More? That's rare.
Don't get me wrong. I LOVE spending time with my family. But as one with many interests, many projects, and a bit on the selfish side, I like having time to myself to do the things I enjoy. It's often not much at all, though. Simply having a quiet house to myself is enough. As the article indicates, it's a recharging . . . a rest from normal day to day routine. I've certainly used the time to accomplish things that would be difficult otherwise. Home improvement projects are one. Plumbing and electrical, where service needs to be disrupted is a good example. Painting is another. There are other projects . . . software tutorials, writing, even shopping with no restrictions can be enjoyed.
My daughter also seems to have this trait. It's very comforting. Again, like us parents, she loves to do things together with mom and dad. But she also loves her own time. She very much gets in to a creative mood and is able to have a lot of fun just doing things by herself. We encouraged it from little on telling her to go play make believe, color, listen to music, whatever, just so she was occupying herself. It ms have worked. She's very much like her daddy in that she like time to herself. Doesn't want to be bothered until she finished. The apple fell right next to the tree with this one.