A state of seclusion or isolation, basically a lack of contact with people. It is not to be confused with ‘loneliness,’ which is defined as a negative emotion arising from seclusion. These two words refer, respectively, to the joy and the pain of being alone.
I wanted to touch on this topic because I find a certain amount of solitude absolutely essential to my mental well-being. Therefore, I find it interesting — and I hope you will, too — to consider why that is so.
When the word ‘alone’ was coined in medieval times, it referred to a sense of completeness in one’s own being. That is a far more positive meaning than most people today attribute to the word. But, in fact, being alone doesn’t have to mean being bored or lonely. According to many psychologists, solitude is an important—and normal—part of human existence. And they also say it’s essential for our best creative work.
It’s a question of attitude. Solitude may be a deliberate choice, in which case it’s a pleasure. Or it may stem from bad relationships, loss of loved ones, infectious disease, or mental disorders and, in these cases, it may be painful.
Short-term solitude is often valued as a time when one may work, think or rest without being disturbed. It may be desired for the sake of privacy.
Long-term solitude is often seen as undesirable, causing loneliness or clinical depression. Enforced solitude (solitary confinement) has been a punishment method throughout history. It is often considered a form of torture.
However, for some people, solitude is not depressing. Still others (monks, for example) regard long-term solitude as a means of spiritual enlightenment. Indeed, marooned people have been left in solitude for years without any report of psychological symptoms afterwards.
There are many benefits to spending time alone. Freedom is one benefit; the constraints of others won’t have any effect on you when you’re spending time in solitude. Freedom from distractions has the potential to spark creativity.
Freedom from distraction is something I find necessary in order to concentrate on putting into words those thoughts and ideas which appeal to me. Some writers play music while they write; I don’t. I can’t listen to music at the same time as I focus on plot and character. It has to be either one or the other.
I’ll summarize a few other benefits in the next post.