Can you spend time by yourself and be comfortable doing so? I can.

These are my thoughts, experience and reading on the subject. There is a certain amount of misunderstanding and misperception on choosing to be alone at times.

Each of us has our own threshold for human contact. The pandemic tested many people as socializing, sports, meetings, work and other interactions abruptly changed.

The previous 18 months forced many people into aloneness. Many worked remotely, and still do. Kids of all ages learned remotely. Social distancing ranged from six feet to seclusion. Life was a bubble, not necessarily by choice, but for safety.

We have re-emerged, sort of. With the variant, we may need to unpack the bubble.

Aside from the pandemic-enforced social distancing, many of us enjoy our periods of aloneness. There is no normal measure for social interaction. Each of us operates on a different level of engagement. Siblings who grew up in the same household and nurturing environment may have very different personalities and social needs.

Spending time alone is uncomfortable for some people. Others have a greater need for social stimulation and human interaction, like plants thriving in sunlight. Direct sunlight or shade? Or some of each?

Social interaction can energize some, like charging their batteries, while others, drain easily and recharge with downtime, away from too much external radiation of themselves. Aloneness allows one to dispose of stress, physical and mental exhaustion, conflict and other limiting states. Aloneness may be used for physical activities, mediation, study or art. It can be a necessary release and opportunity to rebalance.

Aloneness can easily be misunderstood as being anti-social or hibernation. There certainly are those who prefer little or no social contact. Mostly, there are people who find peace and comfort in their own company, who thrive creatively and productively by themselves, who shift gears to interact when they want to. The term “normal” is thrown around without definition and with great judgement. Being less social than someone else does not make one person abnormal and the other person normal. It makes them different, no judgement applied.

There is a big difference between aloneness and loneliness. In aloneness, we find solitude, the power of ourselves, like from meditation for example. Aloneness for some is a powerful tool for being in touch with oneself, for working on self-development and focusing one’s energies. Loneliness is painful, adrift in need of meaningful human contact. One can be alone in a group so just the existence of people does not shine light into the void. Aloneness is not a gateway state of mind that leads to loneliness.

People who prefer some measure of aloneness are usually adept at monitoring their social contact level, they learn to self-regulate, and know best when engagement or company is needed or desired, and also when they work best as a member of team.

Are those who need aloneness introverts? I really hate generalizations, but would guess that introverts tend to need more aloneness than others. I have known extroverts who regularly use aloneness to as kind of a slingshot for productivity. Again, I do not like labels, social interaction comes in various forms, not just in-person connectivity. During the pandemic, connectivity included many types of electronic communication including such things as Zoom and Google Meets applications. Those are merely tools and not substitutes for direct human contact.

One cannot substitute the warmth of someone sitting across from you. One cannot perceive the subtle body language on Skype, or the inflection of the voice or the adjustment of the iris. One cannot imbibe human scent or register heart sounds on FaceTime. A hearty laugh or embrace does not communicate over email.

Aloneness is a state of being, like sleep, meditation or exercise. Aloneness is not a substitute for anything, rather it fulfills a need to narrow focus, disengage from human interaction and be one with self.

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