When we think of solitude, all too often we see it as a difficulty to overcome. In our efforts to transcend what is an inevitable aspect of life, we may transform solitude into a state of  loneliness and need. However, solitude, when embraced, can provide us with a sense of wholeness as deep and as rich as any companionship we might imagine. Yet, when we refuse solitude, we are suddenly lonely. For through resisting what is natural, we bring about a state that is unnatural. Loneliness always exists in a framework of neediness, and, as long as we believe that we are lacking, our need will be real.

In solitude, the need to fill the emptiness in ourselves does not exist. We have made a choice to be alone, but we are not lonely. Whereas those who are lonely feel the need for completion, solitude is a state in which we are already complete. By nature, man is accustomed to self-sustenance. It is society that manipulates us into imagining that we cannot be alone and be content. We are told that we must be social creatures—that we must have daily plans and activities where we are around other people. And although it is important to interact with others, unless we know how to interact with ourselves all of our other interactions will be unproductive.

We cannot understand others unless we first understand ourselves. But how can we understand a person with whom we spend little or no time? Is it any wonder that what we call our beliefs and opinions are actually recycled data? How can we have any original thoughts of our own when the clamor of the world is drowning out our voice? Oftentimes, we truly think that we agree with the ideas that we borrow from those around us because we haven’t taken any time to sort through our own thoughts. In our desire for certainty and instantaneous knowledge, we bypass the avenue that will afford us with the most insight and understanding–ourselves.

Anne Sexton once said, “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” What she neglected to mention is that, if one does not listen in an atmosphere of solitude, one may mistake the voice of someone else’s soul for one’s own. But in order to achieve solitude, one has to be willing to risk losing the favor of others. The world will always have distractions, novelties, and activities to lure us away from our solitude. Thus, we may be forced to choose between popularity and self-examination. And if we wish to become a copy of everyone else instead of ourselves, we will choose popularity. For nothing affords us with a better opportunity to become a conformist than never taking time to be alone.

In solitude, we are able to recognize our gifts and capabilities for we are not comparing ourselves with those whom we perceive to be more talented or capable than we are. The soul strengthens itself in solitude, and, when the danger of loneliness looms before it, it does not fall under its spell. It recognizes that loneliness is yet another distraction that will obscure its vision. We think of loneliness as being empty, but actually it contains fullness of its own. This is why as long as it has invaded our lives, we will have no room for that which will truly make us whole. 

We will be both incapable of enjoying the merits of solitude and unable to build relationships of meaning and value. In a place of need, which is where loneliness resides, the ability to comprehend what one wants or desires does not exist. When we are lonely, we deceive ourselves because we are desperate to find some means of removing our loneliness. We want a savior to add substance to our lives. We want someone else to give us a reason to hope, to not give up. What we do not realize is that until we find hope and a sense of purpose in our solitude, we will never cease to be lonely.

Eugene O’Neill once said that man fears loneliness because he fears life. We fear that which we do not understand. To no longer be afraid of life we must understand it, and this is why solitude must cease to be looked upon as something to avoid. Solitude is necessary for us to live fully. It is far less important rather that we read that which others have written than it is that we take the time to be alone with our own thoughts and ideas. We cannot relentlessly absorb knowledge and information without processing it and sorting through it.

We must give ourselves the chance to form new thoughts and to figure out what we want from life, instead of being so busy in the hassle of existence that we let those around us dictate our beliefs and choices for us. Otherwise, even though we possess our freedom, we will remain prisoners of ourselves and our own need to escape from who we really are within. In the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, “The necessary thing is after all but this; solitude,  great inner solitude. Going into oneself for hours meeting no one–this one must be able to attain.”

Peace, Love, and Joy.


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This page and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright 2010 by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved


~ by myodyssey7 on September 11, 2010.

7 Responses to “Solitude”

  1. As always your points are carefully considered ,and you make a good argument about the need fo clarity of thought , and indeed the need for untainted original thoughts.
    A word of caution from one who knows over 60 years of Solitude ,what can happen when we yearn for Solitude is that gradually we send out signals to people that we prefer this and at the same time build up impenetrable invisible barriers between ourselves and the outside world.
    We invariably get our wish ,we have no need for others so others have no need for us ;we have succeeded in building our own Prison and eventually have no need or desire to go outside into the world to shop,visit restaurants,see plays,Films or Concerts or meet people on any level or for any purpose.
    Our Self-made Prison becomes our world ! and nothing can then change it because it is what we desire.
    Balance is everything . and consideration should always be given to not only short but long term results from our actions!

    • Dear Walter, many thanks for your insightful comments. I agree that interaction with others is also important. There is, of course, a difference in yearning for solitude and in embracing the solitude that is already ours. I am sure you are right about those who put “impenetrable invisible barriers” between themselves and the outside world. . . and indeed, balance is very important. Warmest blessings, Sascha

      • Dear Sascha,I am glad you replied and that you acknowledge that balance in this and all things is so important.We spend much of our life doing things that really do’nt matter and are counterproductive,and I am guilty as others are of being driven by events.
        I would be lying if I said that I did’nt enjoy reding your articles ,especially with the knowledge of how hard it is for you to write them.
        Kindest thoughts as always,Walter.

  2. Amen, Sister! I am on that quest for the next six months. Solitude has replaced the lovers that filled the void of being alone. Now, I find myself listening to silence and relishing the answers I receive. Tis a journey well worth the time.

  3. Personally I follow the middle way. I live my life as I think there is no teacher better than the life itself, but in the meanwhile I don’t give up to my desire for understanding the meaning of the life and its end. I think other people, books, situation can teach us, but afterwards I mull over my encounters, my travels and so on. This is my middle way, not too much with others not too much alone. The book I have recently written deepens many topics and has lots of contents. I want to draw it to your attention. The title is “Travels of the Mind” and it is available on my website
    If you have any question I am most willing to discuss about this topic.

    Ettore Grillo

  4. The error of loneliness occurs when, in solitude, one dwells upon past company or yearns for future companionship.

    Pay attention only to what is here and now while you are alone. That’s you! No one is missing, nothing is lacking.

    Within you are innumerable companions: all the beings you have ever been, lifetime upon lifetime without beginning. There is no room for the emptiness of loneliness.

    Draw away from the clamor of crowds and you will hear the singing of your own spirit.

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