I’m continuing to enjoy Hermann du Plessis’s new book ‘Lead with Intent’. This morning I read a powerful section titled ‘Fear of time alone’.
It’s inspired by one of the thirteen things Amy Morin writes about in her book ’13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do’:
Mentally strong people do not fear time alone.
Here are what Morin describes as the indicators of ‘solitude phobia’:
- With spare time, the last thing you consider is time to think.
- Time on your own is boring.
- The TV or music is always on in the background.
- You are uncomfortable with silence.
- Time alone makes you feel lonely.
- As soon as you are alone or waiting, you take out your phone.
- You have never used a journal to write down your thoughts.
In many ways, I think the first of these is at the heart of it all. Many of us are afraid to be alone with our own thoughts. What if we don’t like what we discover? Or even who we are?
Take the beliefs and values we all inevitably carry into adulthood from childhood. All too often we’re afraid to stop and begin to think about whether they’re true or not; whether they should be the beliefs and values we hold today. It’s easier to not think about. Why open that can of worms? Better to fill our mind with noise and distraction than risk exploring where those thoughts might lead, we tell ourselves.
There may be some short-term benefits to putting off meaningful thinking—we can’t go deep with our thoughts all the time—but it’s dangerous to keep putting it off.
The danger is that we convince ourselves we have a fulfilling life, padding it with shallow, diverting activities, all the while resisting solitude opportunities that might reveal anything different. This will undermine us eventually! We’ll end up amusing ourselves to death.
Strength is always built on a foundation of truth. And if we shut the door on solitude, we are denying ourselves a window into who we are that can only ever come when we are alone with our thoughts.
There may be pain as part of the process. Solitude opens the door to reflection, reflection leads to insight—and we won’t like everything we discover! That’s okay though. It’s normal. But without that self-awareness, there can never be any personal growth.
If we want to be mentally strong, solitude and being alone with our thoughts is vital. It is, quite literally, life-preserving. Until we learn to be comfortable with our own company, we’ll go through life encumbered by self-inflicted limitations.