By Nina Chatzistergiou,
Feeling lonely and being alone are two very different terms that are often confused. Loneliness is a scourge of our time. It tends to be associated with feelings of depression and anxiety, with more physical symptoms and a problem with alcohol. In comparison to that, choosing to be alone is considered a positive experience and conscious desire of people for withdrawal, with the aim of reflecting on meditation and self-development.
Loneliness is defined as “the perception that a person has of being isolated from other people, as well as from his or her social environment”. It is accompanied by a negative tone as opposed to loneliness, which has a more positive tone. It is also a phenomenon that afflicts today’s person and is observed at various age stages of their life — although there may be a significant genetic contribution to the predisposition of one to feel lonely. However, the feeling of loneliness is a combination of external and internal factors of the individual and does not presuppose his isolation from the social environment.
On the contrary, as in modern times, it is a common phenomenon for people to feel alone, even when they are with other people due to modern different social and environmental conditions. Loneliness is not a personal and conscious choice of the individual, but an unpleasant feeling that leads to the interruption of social contacts or their low quality. Essentially, the person who feels lonely, even though they may be surrounded by a lot of people, experiences social isolation and distance, which they are unable to improve. For some, loneliness is a natural result of the transitional stages of life, such as completing their studies, completing their military service, marriage, family, death, divorce, change of occupation, relocation, change of permanent residence, immigration, etc.
On the other hand, wanting to be alone is an optional condition of the individual. It encompasses the conscious desire of the individual to devote time to himself, as well as to engage in creative, or other, activities that they enjoy doing alone. It is a companion of spiritual uplift and mental balance. Being alone helps the person to regain their mental strength and to get rid of the unbearable daily life and the meaningless social contact.
The person, through the experience of being left alone, has personal time to be entertained, acquire knowledge, and calm down. But, it also offers more complex and internal benefits to humans. The person who devotes time to themselves has the opportunity for contemplation, and thus, manages to listen to their innermost desires and be led to self-knowledge. This results not only in the self-improvement of the individual but also in the optimization of the way in which the individual relates to others and enters into interpersonal relationships.
In conclusion, it is important to understand the difference between the two concepts and to try to disengage from the feeling of loneliness. The essential thing is to seek the experience of being able to be alone, without feeling lonely. As one can be alone, it is a cornerstone of one’s development.