Back in the day the Bee Gees did a number titled; Alone, with the chorus ending in Barry Gibb chiming “I don’t wanna be alone”. Axel rose and the Band Guns ‘n’ Roses on the other hand figured “some time on your own” was something “everybody needs”, saying as much in the hit ballad ‘November Rain’!
Though these are just popular culture references let’s face it; the idea of loneliness is something that has triggered a plethora of human responses. There are those that despise being alone and others that cherish it. Time alone is used as a means to obtain wisdom (meditation and seclusion) but is also used as a means of punishment (solitary confinement).
The question is, in the absence of some kind of externally forced compulsion, is spending time alone a good thing?
What Makes Spending Time Alone a Good Thing?
Being alone without feeling sad or lonely is what you call solitude. Solitude is associated with a number of psychological and spiritual benefits. Since our area of expertise is human psychology and development, we’re going to elaborate on why solitude and being alone is beneficial.
Enjoying Your Own Company
Codependency is a state when an individual is unable to exist without the emotional support and validation of another. We rely on others to feel good, we rely on others to have fun and at times, when others are unavailable, we find it hard to hold ourselves.
Spending time alone helps make those who are codependent a lot less so. It teaches us to enjoy our own company and connect with our own completeness and adequateness. This way, even when engaging with others, we can interact in a healthy manner while holding our own!
Time alone allows us to reflect on ourselves. Self-reflection is of paramount importance for us to evolve, improve ourselves and develop as individuals. This is so both intellectually and emotionally. Spending time along gives us the time and space to really go deep within and get a sense of what we’re about and where we can make changes.
Emotional Distress Tolerance
One of the reasons why many hate being alone is that when alone, we’re pretty much left to contend with our demons. We might feel depressed, anxious, scared or go through other forms of emotional distress.
Spending time alone and sitting with whatever comes up whether pleasant or not makes us more emotionally robust. Our emotional distress tolerance becomes higher making us more grounded and less reactive. The way this translates to day to day benefit is that when challenging situations do occur in life, they do not throw us off balance as they might have otherwise.
As therapists working in Palo Alto, we have come across numerous individuals of different ages when working. Having provided therapy to couples as well as individuals struggling with psycho-emotional situations including depression, anxiety and sexual incompatibility, one thing that we see has often helped is spending some time alone.
We’re not saying that you should head up to the Himalayas and isolate yourself. All we’re saying here is at times, say when you’re too broke to go out on Saturday or when your partner has to leave town for a meeting, don’t look at the time alone as a bad thing! Cherish it! Use it to grow!