The Introvert’s Love Affair with Solitude: Will It Always Be Taboo?

zen-of-solitude-power

I began a conscious love affair with solitude five years ago.  I’ve been apologizing for it ever since.

I wrote the notes for this post on the backside of a final letter from my ex-husband.  A letter I found in a bedside drawer as I searched for a blank piece of paper to capture my early morning thoughts.  One of the reasons my marriage ended was because there was a disconnect between our views on solitude.  He saw my need for alone time as rejection of him.  I saw it as expansion of me.

Self-Preservation Not Personal Rejection

Personal expansion isn’t narcissistic.  It’s growing into your best self.  It’s hydrating a dying bloom so that it may provide joy naturally. Granted, there is such a thing as too much self-absorption. Loved ones must be nurtured as well, but in my case, time alone gave me light and energy that I never would have had if solitude was completely denied. I tried to take my solitude breaks when everyone was away at work or school. I always felt bad about needing personal space in the marriage.  The guilt caused me to second-guess my parenting style. My kids were taught that the best kind of parent was one who was ON 24/7. I fell short. If only my children understood that solitude helps mom love more deeply and more freely…

I had told people of my intention to be alone for a time. At once I realized they looked upon this declaration as a rejection of them and their company. I felt apologetic, even ashamed, that I would have wanted such a curious thing as solitude, and then sorry that I had made a point of announcing my desire for it.                        

~Doris Grumbach, ‘Fifty Days of Solitude’

My daughter’s eyes widened with hurt and confusion.  I had just told her that I would NOT be helping with her third grade Valentine’s Party.  I had stayed home with her four out of five days last week when she was ill. There had been lots of bonding and mutual enjoyment. I had been home for two days this week with her brother and his turn with the flu. I was taking them to History Day at the middle mchool tomorrow. Evenings are almost exclusively devoted to their homework and needs.  I wanted the afternoon to myself. What I was failing to relay was the fact that my need for time alone was not a rejection of her company but a desperate need to explore my own essence.

I also know that if I do not take time for myself my presence becomes muddled. My thoughts are gridlocked and my demeanor is zombie-like.  I come across as there but not there. That in my opinion, is not good enough.

Most people come alive in relationships.  The more the better.  I am fed by relationships but inspired and transcendent in solitude. I need both.

In her book, Introvert Power, Dr. Laurie Helgoe shares her husband’s experience of dealing with her introversion and need for space. He likens it to a light being removed or a projector stopping during a feature film. I try to keep that in mind when requesting time to myself.  It helps me understand my loved ones’ reactions and feelings.

One of the primary missions of space2live is to explain and create understanding between introverts and extroverts when it comes to recharging and solitude requirements.

Introverts need space to live as their true selves.

We unfold like old road maps — creases released and possibilities endless —when immersed in open-ended time.  Extroverts need hits of attention and interaction to stay energized.  Different methods, neither better nor worse.

Effects of Solitude on the Introvert

I spent the morning reading quotes on love and solitude that resonated so deeply I felt at home and peaceful for the first time in months. I entered a state of flow that was so delicious and nourishing I didn’t want to leave.  I found a place to rest in the words of famous loners like Henry David Thoreau and Charles Bukowski.  It had been so long since I felt this belonging.  Like a parent’s lap or a lover’s embrace, the acknowledgment that solitude cravings are not selfish or bad, enveloped me in warm acceptance. It was like still_water_lake_tahoesitting late at night at the kitchen table with my dearest friends.  There was a feeling of freedom and shimmer.  I felt my inner creativity begin to stir.  She had been dormant for many busy and over-populated months.

Clarity arises in unstirred pools.

Now, more than ever, we need our solitude. Being alone gives us the power to regulate and adjust our lives. It can teach us fortitude and the ability to satisfy our own needs. A restorer of energy, the stillness of alone experiences provides us with much-needed rest. It brings forth our longing to explore, our curiosity about the unknown, our will to be an individual, our hopes for freedom. Alone time is fuel for life.

                           ~ Dr. Ester Buchholz

I am most alive and myself when I am alone.  That sounds strange and un-American but I feel all of my loose ends grow together when I reside in a healthy space of reflection.  Ideas spark and surface when there is room between thoughts.  My whole demeanor shifts from raised shoulder blades, frantic answer searches and obligatory action to easy breathing, expansive thinking and thoughtful action. I become me, in the truest sense.

We Network, Therefore We Are?

The general belief in this culture is that if you are not interacting in a relationship you hardly exist.  We rely on others to shape and prove our existence.  They talk to us and touch us, therefore we are.

Introverts dig deep into their inner worlds to find existential confirmation. Too much external stimulation and interaction and our inner voice is muffled. We are lost.

Most of the time I feel more connected to others when I am alone.  I am able to ponder the universal through the lens of my own specifics. I have time to miss others or wonder about their feelings. A desire grows to love and engage with them.

The Acceptance and Benefits of Solitude

My wish is for solitude to be an encouraged and accepted state.  Those who crave it should not be ashamed or misjudged as selfish.  Many of our greatest inventions and works of art were born out of solitude. The benefits of making space for reflection are endless but below are a few of the key ones:

  • Less anxiety
  • More interpersonal understanding
  • More intuitive decision-making
  • Appreciation of beauty
  • Creation of art
  • Universal awareness
  • Thoughtful actions and reactions

Alone time should not be looked down upon.  It should be respected and understood.  Maybe someday we’ll talk of solitude breaks openly and encouragingly rather than with hisses and shakes of the head. In the long run humanity will benefit.

How do you feel when you immerse yourself in solitude? What are the results? Do you have a hard time asking for alone time? Does your inner circle celebrate solitude or group activities?

Further reading on solitude:

My Introverted Love Creed: If We Can’t Be Magnificent and Independent Together I’m OK Alone (space2live)

Famous Solitude Quotes (Lonerwolf)

Melancholic Quotes on Love (Lonerwolf)

Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto (Anneli Rufus)

There’s Nothing Wrong With You.  You’re an Introvert. (space2live)

Introvert Relationships: Love Me or Leave Me but Please Don’t Need Me (Too Much) (space2live)

In Defense of Introverted Parents  (space2live)

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58 thoughts on “The Introvert’s Love Affair with Solitude: Will It Always Be Taboo?

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  8. This is such a wonderful read. I want more. I feel every thing you’ve written. If I could just have a break for one week, four times a year – with no demands, phone calls, sexual needs, or responsibilities other than work (writer) – I’d experience bliss. I have a loving husband and two 18 year old sons. I love them. I enjoy them. But, I also need a lot of time to myself. I would explode if I didn’t work from home. But even then, they call during the day, interrupting my Utopia. :-) The kids are doing their own thing, but my dear husband seems to take my need for alone time as rejection. sigh

    • Solitude is so easily misunderstood. We are not curmudgeons or misanthropes for needing time to ourselves. When I was married and the kids were younger, I used to daydream about going to a hotel or a cabin in the woods for a week every couple of months.
      I have the next 5 days to myself because my kids are with their dad for the holiday. I am in bliss:) I will miss the kids in a few days but I will be so much fuller when they return.
      Thanks for sharing.

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  10. I have many friends but is amazing how I just love being on my own. Sometimes I feel like I’m weird for enjoying “me time” while most of my girls are out doing things together. I love nature and most of them don’t like what I like, but still is something so strong is hard to describe like I just enjoy being in peace and quiet. I was in a long distance relationship a few months ago it worked out fine the only reason why I had to call it off it was because this person seemed to need a lot of my attention and it started to feel as if te time that I use to give my self I was giving it to him and being an independent woman single mother etc this tarted making me feel as if I wanted to run away even though he was already thousands of miles apart. I’m an analytical thinker and I’m always thinking and figuring out better ways to make me happy while I’m alone. I’ve dated so much but guys just don’t give me that space______ I need and don’t understand that my time is important. Thanks for sharing all posts also are so awesome and funny.

    • I feel and understand what you are saying. I was in a long distance relationship too at one point. It seems like the distance would give you enough time to yourself but it often doesn’t. I think being a mother plays a part. We often don’t have time to ourselves even when we aren’t dating. I love spending time with friends but I space it out. I don’t have more than one social gathering per week if I can help it. The men that I date are often quite independent (sometimes too independent, believe it or not;) but I was married to a man who didn’t understand ‘me time’. I felt like I was hurting him every day.

      I am like you in that I figure out ways to be happy while I’m alone. I need that quiet uninterrupted time in order to process and make associations, engage my creativity.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I’m grateful for your sharing.:)

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  18. Ha ha yes! Awesome post my dear. As of the present moment, I can literally take at least a good two weeks of Me time. I’m super tired, so two days laying in bed sleeping and watching tv, and for the rest of the days either painting or writing.
    I’m too mentally and physically fatigued that I can’t have proper solitude, so two or three days of unplugging my brain should do it, then I’ll dive into the good stuff.
    I don’t even bother with boyfriends and forget getting married. In the end they all become needy because I create neediness in them.

    • I have been in your place where you’re too tired to benefit from solitude. You must rest first and then put yourself in the position to go into flow mode. I hope you experience delicious solitude soon. It’s life-giving.

      Oooh what do you mean you create neediness in boyfriends/partners? You need time to yourself so then they become needy while missing you? I can see that. I’ve been through that. I keep thinking I am going to quit dating cold-turkey but then another intriguing man enters my life and I can’t resist the possibilities. Sigh…

      Thank you for sharing. Appreciate your input.:)

      • There are some intriguing men out there no doubt. I’m super weird with guys, in that most of them at first seem totally awesome, but then they become stupid, you know what I mean? Almost that they become annoying, in a needy (stupid) way.

        It’s my fault – I’m never blameless. It’s simply because I’m independent. I create stupidity in others. They stop acting like who they are, and become someone they think I want them to be, when all the while all I want is for them to be their awesome selves – it’s so simple but people make it so hard, like I’m judging them or something.

        In the end I DO end up judging them on their insecurities. I want someone REAL, completely independent of what judgments they think I cast on them. Otherwise they will continue to be needy of the attention or connection, rather, that I don’t give. What their neediness really means is lack of connection. Their own fear of lack of connection is the very thing that keeps us apart.

        It’s insane circular logic, but I see it when it happens.

        In my personal experience, it’s so hard to find a soul mate. Someone who call’s you out on all your shit, but still loves you without taking your junk personally. We all have our shit. But that’s true love. It’s true love if they are independent enough to know who you are and who they are. Their self awareness is unshakable. And that’s the sexy stuff, to me anyway (very rare to find).

        Anyway, sorry for the long response. I’m drunk and been out all day with my ex-boyfriend who is now in a relationship with my good friend. I spent the day with both of them. He’s still in love with me, but it’s not real love, it’s the love that says “What’s wrong with me why don’t you love me?” kind of love, you know what I mean?
        It’s crazy, my life is nuts. I majorly need solitude. I need to extract myself from others bs and focus on my own bs for a while.

        People are crazy! Never forget that people are nuts. They play a game of insecurity vs power.

        Anyway, you don’t have to respond to this, I know it’s long. I just felt like writing tonight. And right now I can go on and on…I barely grazed this subject. Lot’s to be said here on this matter. But it’s YOU who creates neediness in others, it’s not all them, it’s you too. It’s important to know that. Your ex wasn’t strong enough independently , he needed your validation 24/7. Love shouldn’t be based around validation, it needs to transcend all that garbage (you’re already there).

        You are at a place where he needs to be – independant and strong. This is where friction happens. It’s nobody’s fault really. It’s just that he’s not there yet. But hopefully this experience will take him where you are now. From an outsiders perspective, I see that this divorce will strengthen his spiritual evolution.

        Oh man I don’t want to get married…

        My next post will probably have something to do with self actualization and believing in yourself – all parts of the creating process – all done during times of reflection and solitude. Your ex was too hung up on not being secure with himself. He needs to find it within, not from you, but in himself.

        Okay I’m done. Time for bed. One more episode of Freaks and Geeks on Netlix, then bed.

      • You are too funny! Your first couple of sentences made me laugh out loud. I love your direct, no BS personality.
        I feel the same way about dependent partners. I believe there is some interdependence as far as support, encouragement, physical labor but the sexiest men are the ones who know who they are, do their own thing and have passions that fuel them. They don’t have to look to others for validation and security. I admit, I still need validation occasionally, probably too often. I felt that was missing in my marriage but I know now that it’s all within me – the strength, glow, light.

        I’m fascinated by self-actualization, Maslow, peak experiences, etc. Reflection and solitude are the food of my spirit. I’ll be sure to check out your post once you create it.

        Thanks for your insightful and hugely entertaining comments. I like you!

        P.S. I just got my teen son into Freaks and Geeks.:)

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  21. Wonderful post! I’ve only just discovered your website and am so thrilled I did! You have a great way with words!
    I can really relate to this post. Solitude is an absolute necessity – like air and food and sleep! I can be tough to explain to others but without some time alone to recharge I just get so grumpy and become such bad company that they tend to wish I’d go away anyway :)

    • Thank you for reading and commenting.:) Wouldn’t it be great if people worried about getting enough solitude like they worry about getting enough sleep, vitamin D, water, etc.?

      I get grumpy when I am low on quiet and/or alone time. It’s hard to ask for space. Most people take it personally. Sigh…

      I hope to create and spread more understanding of the introvert nature and needs.

      Thanks again for stopping by.:)

  22. A beautiful piece. As a person with bipolar disorder, I often suffer from social phobia. Dealing with more than one or two people at a time drains and confuses me, though I long for meaningful contact and interaction. I’ve learned to relax in my solitude and let it be a place of healing.

    • Thank you for your insight into bipolar disorder and social phobia. It must be frustrating (to say the least) to desire meaningful contact but at the same time be drained by it. I feel the same way sometimes. I interact with people specifically, individually and deeply. I can only do that for so long and with a limited number of people at a time. I always want to do more but I don’t have the energy. May you continue to find peace and healing in solitude.

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  24. This was a beautiful article to read, especially because it’s so pertinent to real life, and the difficulty each day in spending some time with ourselves. When I’m alone I feel invigorated, and completely alive and free, especially in nature … I seem to enter this hypnotic state of deep peace. Thanks for mentioning the two articles on LonerWolf as well ;)
    x

    • Thank you for your kind words Luna. I know that hypnotic state of peace. It’s almost addictive.:) I feel strongly that we need solitude for well-being.

      I am enamored with Lonerwolf. So thrilled I found your writing.

  25. I also feel more alive in solitude. I travel alone so I can really appreciate life. My ex-husband also didn’t understand but I am so much happier now that I have even been. It makes you stronger, gives you clarity and a sense of being. I can’t recommend it more.

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  27. I know what you mean about the disharmony with one’s spouse. Once the children left home, my husband also saw my need for solitude as a rejection of him; whereas I had spent many years fitting in with his need for socialising. So sad.
    Great post.

    • It’s a delicate balance – socializing and solitude. If you can find a partner who not only understands but respects your needs (be they extroverted or introverted) you are very fortunate. I guess we all take things personally but solitude is not a rejection of others. In a way, I felt like my introverted needs were rejected. So difficult. Much communication, respect and love is needed to work through the differences.Thanks for sharing Elizabeth.

  28. I am very lucky. My husband is an extrovert who talks a lot. One day we were in the store and he ran to get some thing we’d missed. We waited and waited. My youngest daughter said, “Oh, don’t worry. He’s probably found someone to talk with.” I love and am amazed with my husband’s talkative, friendly nature. However, I am different and he is very considerate of my need for alone time. He is very aware and compassionate about my discomfort meeting new people for the first time also.

    • My father is a lot like your husband. We always took twice as long to shop if Dad was along. He chats with everyone.:) Even though I am an introvert I can be like that too. Just the other day I struck up a conversation with a woman sitting next to me at a restaurant. I love listening to people and asking them questions. I do need to balance socializing with solitude though.

      It sounds like you have a remarkable relationship with your husband. Respect and understanding are key ingredients. Enjoy your blend of temperaments. :)

      Thanks for reading and commenting, truly appreciate it.

  29. Beautifully written and spot on. Our son, now 25, is a poster-child extrovert. My husband is even more of an introvert than I am, and on the Myers-Briggs, taken multiple times, I score as an INFJ, with the IN all the way to the end of the spectrum.
    Understanding these core differences when he was growing up was a valuable tool in making sure all of our needs were met.
    After seven years away at school, and home again for eight months as he completes and defends his dissertation and begins to look for work, I find myself counting down the days before he leaves on a three month trip. I have creative interests that I cannot concentrate on when he is here,. He is a child who has brought immeasurable joy to our lives, but his energy fills the house and wears me down.
    I have a lingering guilt about how eagerly I am looking forward to having the house to ourselves again, even though intellectually I understand why. Thank you for this post, it is very timely and helpful.

    • I am either an INFJ or an INFP. I feel you.:) My children (3) are mostly extroverted. I believe only one of them is a full-on introvert. I feel immense guilt when I need them to give me space. I’m also trying to teach them that it’s OK to need alone time. Introversion is not as “cool” as extroversion so it’s a tough sell. Someday they’ll see the gifts of introversion… In the meantime, I just hope they realize I have deep love for them always.

      You brought up creative pursuits. Creative pursuits are particularly difficult to cultivate because of their solitude requirements. It’s wonderful if the children can join you in your pursuits, but not always possible. I know. Writing is very difficult to fit in with child rearing. I need so much mental space to make associations…

      Thank you so much for your lovely sharing. Deep breaths and you will have your home to yourself again soon.:)

      • Ah yes, we are indeed kindred spirits. I am so glad to have found your blog via a Facebook link from Introverts are Awesome, and I have signed up for David Kanigan too, via your blog, just love the potential for sharing ideas through the Internet!
        There were times when he was small, and I was desperately in need of space while juggling work, a child and a husband, and taking care of aging parents, that I would try to tell him that mom needs time to herself. That did not work. Instead, I would make some popcorn, we would turn on his favorite PBS program or Bugs Bunny cartoons and we would snuggle for a few minutes, at which time I could breezily say that I needed to take care of a few things, and I would be back shortly. He was then reassured, it worked, and I figured the use of the electronic babysitter was worth it if it helped me refuel even a little.
        Now as an adult, he is an ENFJ, and his very serious girlfriend is an INFJ. He gets it, and in fact gave me the book Quiet, by Susan Cain, for Christmas. I treasure it.
        Now retired, with a working background in computers, web and graphic design, and a passion for photography I thoroughly enjoy gifting my skills to our local national wildlife refuge. All of those “creatively crafted” moments of solitude that happened along the way have brought me to this wonderfully alive place. I affirm those moments for you also, and do so understand how solitude is essential for one to shift into the creative zone.
        Richest blessings to you and yours, I look forward to your and David’s future posts!

      • Popcorn and family TV watching work well for us too! Connecting time, then independent time. I do think children learn to entertain themselves if not constantly coddled. My mother always told us to go outside or go play in traffic (if it was one of those days;).

        I love Quiet by Susan Cain! So affirming.

        Your passions and creative outlets sound so nourishing. One thing about introverts is we are almost never bored.

        David Kanigan is incredible. He inspires me.

        You have great wisdom Francie. Thanks for sharing it with me and space2live.

    • Alone and lonely are worlds apart. There is a rich freedom to being alone. The mind, soul and body are open to all possibilities. I too, have felt the loneliness of a crowd or a relationship. Thank you for reading and thoughtfully commenting.

  30. Yes, this:
    “I am most alive and myself when I am alone. That sounds strange and un-American but I feel all of my loose ends grow together when I reside in a healthy space of reflection. Ideas glimmer and surface when there is room between thoughts. My whole demeanor shifts from raised shoulder blades, frantic answer searches and obligatory action to easy breathing, expansive thinking and thoughtful action. I become me, in the truest sense.”
    When I was a child, before I fully “got it,” my mother used to say, “Go away long enough for me to start to miss you.” I get it now completely. That might just mean 10 minutes, or a school day, but let me be me long enough so that I can be back with you, fully. I have seven kids. The older six are all adults, and all introverts. My little guy is 8 years old. He gets off of the school bus, we walk down the hill together and talk, then I am banished upstairs for a time so that he can be alone. Yes, make that seven introvert children. I adore people, and need them, but in very measured doses.

    • How did you get all introverted children??? Wow! At this point, I think only one of my three is a full introvert. As you can imagine, their energy is high and sometimes a lot to process. My children NEVER tell me they want to be alone, which makes me feel extra guilty when I need space. As they get older I am slowly teaching them that it’s OK to need time to yourself. Their whole world (father, school, t.v.) says you should be wildly outgoing, competitive, popular and ambitious. I hope they find the strength to be themselves, whatever temperament that is.

      I love your mother’s phrase – “Go away long enough for me to start to miss you.” My sentiments exactly on many days.

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience and insight. Love and appreciate your view.

  31. I feel completely free when alone. I relate to many of the things you described. I think I’d be proud of myself if I did what you did (i.e. explain to your daughter that you couldn’t do it). Though I know I’d feel some guilt about not helping–I’d get over it soon after.

    I feel some guilt about alone time when it becomes most of my day because my family would miss me and feel rejected. But if I get a few hours a day to myself, it would be all I need and I’m great.

    Growing up though, since I frequently go to my room to get my “time alone,” my mother would refer to me (and still does when I occasionally need my solitude) as her daughter “in law.” Kind of funny, but yes, solitude is still taboo to most people.

    Peace & love.
    Lila

    • I agree. A few hours alone is all I need, and not even every day. When my children were small they took naps and didn’t talk back as much.;) I could handle their constant company. Now that they are older, very active and opinionated, their presence is much stronger and I definitely need breaks.

      I spent a lot of time in my room as a child/teenager. I was also very social. It was a beautiful balance.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting Lila. Your insight is much appreciated.:)

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