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Does being alone amplify things?

Left to our own devices, where does the mind tend to lead us? Often, I’d imagine, into some version of circling around and around with our own limited thinking. How are we to escape that, if we’ve only ourselves for company?

It’s perhaps an obvious thing to say, but it still seems an important “fact” to keep in mind. Left alone with our feelings, thoughts, interpretations, and patterns in life – mistaken as they might so easily be – they’ll arguably just feed off themselves, rigidify, or grow to strange and unusual proportions. Without the relief of “another perspective”, we almost seemed destined to suffer under our own delusions.

A few steps later, we could find ourselves in strange places with strange people for company. Our beliefs certainly seem – consciously or otherwise – to attract those who either think the same or see some advantage to be gained from our situation (Notes One). Life seems to work that way, unfortunately: mistaken ideas and valuations somehow playing themselves out.

There’s this sense in which we’re thinking beings – working things out with our minds – and also social beings who learn alongside and through our interactions with others (Notes Two). Those two combined must place a lot of importance on communication?

If words are our vehicles for escaping the confines of our minds – voicing our individual perspectives, experiences and thoughts – then presumably conversations are our venue for exploring, sounding out, checking, correcting, reworking, strengthening or sharing those views? Going out beyond ourselves to encounter others seems, in many ways, the answer (Notes Three).

But, of course, it’s not that simple. Especially “these days” where we’re reportedly becoming increasingly isolated as a result of modern living and the roles technology’s coming to play in our lives. We’re perhaps more isolated from meaningful relationships than humans have ever conceivably been – increasingly cut off and alone with our own minds, fears, insecurities, patterns and problems.

There may be irony to something connecting us with more people than ever before yet simultaneously rendering us more isolated within our immediate surroundings. Ultimately, perhaps, it’s a challenge? This sense in which technology offers us so much, provided we’re able to overcome the equally substantial difficulties it’s throwing up for us all.

Because I’m just not sure how healthy it is to be alone. There’s undeniably value to knowing yourself, understanding your own mind, doing the work to unpack and heal your own psyche; but there must be limits to how far we can progress in isolation. Without the insight, interaction and reality other people bring to our lives, don’t we risk becoming less human?

Relating to others and finding common ground might be becoming increasingly hard – knowing who to trust; navigating fraught conversations or insurmountable differences; grasping people’s intentions so as not to be led astray – but arguably it’s our only way forward (Notes Four).

As ever, I’m just musing. But having a clear sense of how far we’re an island and where we indeed must connect seems pretty essential in life.

Notes and References:

Note 1: The way to be
Note 1: Living as an open wound
Note 1: The dignity & power of a human life
Note 2: What are we thinking?
Note 2: Ways thought adds spins to life
Note 2: Counselling, listening & social identity
Note 2: Conversation as revelation
Note 3: Pick a side, any side
Note 3: True words spoken in jest
Note 4: Freedom, what to lean on & who to believe
Note 4: What would life be if we could trust?
Note 4: The idea of self reliance

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