“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” Carl Jung.
Many people are dying of loneliness. Life's cruelest irony is that the time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself.
There is a wonderful story by Hemmingway called ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.’
It is a story about lonely old men who have no warm, welcoming place to be when darkness falls. Hemmingway explores how the people cling to the café at night and refuse to go out into the darkness to return to their apartment. Finally when they are closing the man at the bar is trying to squeeze the last customer out, and he says to his colleague” You know, they are all here because of loneliness.” To which the other person replies, “Yeah, a lot of people have it”.
It is a scenario played out up and down the country day in, day out. When I helped out in a bar, many years ago, the regular drinkers would come in every night, and at closing time, would be reluctant to leave and venture into the dark alone.
And so, loneliness is a part of the human journey. We are in these bodies of skin and bone that we have within this particular psychology and we all have a unique history.
We are born alone, we die alone, and we make friends along the way. We realise that this flight from loneliness can actually be a flight from ourselves.
The cure for loneliness is considered solitude.
Anton Chekov said once that if you don’t want to be lonely don’t get married. He wasn’t being cynical, merely pointing out that our fantasy is that fusion with ‘the other’ will solve our problem of existential isolation. Even in the best of relationships, there is always a sense of loneliness. We always need to return to ourselves because we are the individual, the Self that is different from ‘the other’.
As Nietzsche said, “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
Once that I accept that I don’t have to be a part of the world, then I am free to be part of it.
This is a paradoxical release of spirit. The world becomes mine when I am no longer holding on to it.
The best thing I have to give this world is my own loneliness. But, at the same time that loneliness is often isolating and can lead to self-doubt and alienation. Often, we need to recognise though we feel lonely and like an outsider, we are still part of a community.
T.S. Elliot says in one of his plays: “In a world of fugitives the person going the right way will appear to be running away.” We might feel like we are experiencing our life as an outsider but there is a community of outsiders.
All of you reading this blog are part of this community. We are all on a journey together, all sharing our experiences. We might have a conversation on social media but at the end of the day we will all go back to our separate lives. At the same time we have touched each other, and our loneliness is what provided the gift of community.
“But loneliness is not necessarily inimical to companionship, for no one is more sensitive to companionship than the lonely man, and companionship thrives only when each individual remembers his individuality and does not identify himself with others.” Carl Jung (Memories Dreams and Reflections, Page 356).
“I” as an individual is what I have to bring to every relationship. That’s my gift, but at the same time, I remain the individual and the flight from that the flight from aloneness, would be to sabotage the relationship itself.
"… the highest and most decisive experience of all, … is to be alone with his own self, or whatever else one chooses to call the objectivity of the psyche. The patient must be alone if he is to find out what it is that supports him when he can no longer support himself. Only this experience can give him an indestructible foundation." Carl Jung (Collected Works 12, Paragraph 32).
“What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.” Ellen Burstyn.