As we’ve seen in previous blogs, we get a lot from close loving relationships, and from the support of family and friends. But it’s also good to be on our own.
Being alone gives us the chance to rest and recharge our batteries. When times are tough, it helps us get away from difficult situations, difficult people. Have you ever had a duvet day, when you just stay in bed and hibernate? Liberating!
Being alone also gives us time to reflect, and develop our creativity and imagination. As Libby Brooks wrote in the Guardian recently, ‘an an individual's capacity to be alone contentedly is as much a mark of maturity as the ability to sustain relationships with others’.
Do you feel able to be on your own? Or do you worry that you couldn’t cope, that you’re not strong enough? You’d disappear, sink without trace, get hopelessly lost, if your partner (or your parent, or whoever you rely on) was not there to look after you.
Or do you believe that you have to stay there? You have no choice. You have to accept all the hassle, the abuse, the violence that your partner is dishing out to you. It’s your fault. It’s what you deserve.
Not true. Absolutely not true.
You are capable. You have the right to be on our own. You deserve better than that. You are stronger than you fear. Like Gloria Gaynor, you will survive.
Or is your life so busy, so committed to others that you have no time for yourself? I’m thinking particularly of mothers with young children, but it can also be a problem for people trying to make their way in the world of work. Having a new baby is - usually - a wonderful experience. But sometimes the pressure, the responsibility, the relentless, bone-crushing, mind-numbing weariness is overwhelming, suffocating.
It is so important, when you can, to carve out some time for yourself. As the advert puts it - time, dedicated to you.
Being alone is positive and important. Being alone gives us the opportunity to attend to what is troubling us, to begin processes of healing.
One way of doing this is through mindfulness.
Jon Kabat-Zinn brings Buddhist teaching and Western science together in mindfulness meditation. This involves attending to our experiences in a non-judgmental manner. It is about being fully in the present moment, without judging or evaluating it, without reflecting backwards on memories, without worrying about the future, without trying to solve problems or avoid unpleasant aspects of the present. It is about maintaining awareness moment by moment, disengaging ourselves from strong attachment to beliefs, thoughts, or emotions. It helps us gain emotional balance, and well-being.
People living with chronic pain and cancers have found mindfulness helpful. So have people with depression. Mark Williams, a psychologist from Cambridge, has shown that mindfulness meditation increases the well-being of people who have suffered several episodes of depression.