Monday, August 31, 2009




Loneliness is marked by a sense of isolation.

Solitude, on the other hand, is a state
of being alone without being lonely
and can lead to self-awareness.

As the world spins faster and faster—or maybe
it just seems that way when an email can travel
around the world in fractions of a second-
we mortals need a variety of ways
to cope with the resulting pressures.
We need to maintain some semblance of
balance and some sense that we are
steering the ship of our life.
Otherwise we feel overloaded,
overreact to minor annoyances and feel like
we can never catch up. As far as I'm concerned,
one of the best ways is by seeking,
and enjoying, solitude.
That said, there is an important distinction
to be established right off the bat.

There is a world of difference between
solitude and loneliness, though the two terms
are often used interchangeably.
From the outside, solitude and loneliness
look a lot alike. Both are characterized
by solitariness. But all resemblance
ends at the surface.

Loneliness is a negative state,
marked by a sense of isolation. One feels that
something is missing. It is possible to be
with people and still feel lonely—
perhaps the most bitter form of loneliness.

Solitude is the state of being alone
without being lonely. It is a positive and
constructive state of engagement with oneself.
Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone
where you provide yourself wonderful
and sufficient company.

Solitude is a time that can be used
for reflection, inner searching or growth
or enjoyment of some kind.
Deep reading requires solitude,
so does experiencing the beauty of nature.
Thinking and creativity usually do too.
Solitude suggests peacefulness stemming from
a state of inner richness.
It is a means of enjoying the quiet
and whatever it brings that is satisfying
and from which we draw sustenance.
It is something we cultivate.
Solitude is refreshing; an opportunity to
renew ourselves.
In other words, it replenishes us.

Loneliness is harsh, punishment,
a deficiency state, a state of discontent
marked by a sense of estrangement,
an awareness of excess aloneness.
Solitude is something you choose.
Loneliness is imposed on you by others.

We all need periods of solitude,
although temperamentally we probably
differ in the amount of solitude we need.
Some solitude is essential;
it gives us time to explore and know ourselves.
It is the necessary counterpoint to intimacy,
what allows us to have a self worthy of sharing.
Solitude gives us a chance to regain perspective.
It renews us for the challenges of life.
It allows us to get (back) into the position
of driving our own lives, rather than having
them run by schedules and demands from without.
Solitude restores body and mind.
Lonelinesss depletes them.

Hara Estroff Marano
Psychology Today, July 01, 2003

Conversation enriches the understanding,
but solitude is the school of genius.
Sir Edward Gibbon
18th Century British Historian
Author of The History of the
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

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