I suppose I’ve always been a bit of a loner.
Granted, I haven’t always enjoyed or appreciated being on my own, but it seems to be the default setting that I often return to.
Lately, however, I’ve really been able to tap into myself more deeply through my own isolation, with lots of time in quiet, conscious reflection. Questioning beliefs I have about myself and what I’ve been taught, processing and releasing old emotion, conscious movement and breathing and meditation, creative expression, endless reading and learning and integrating… And through this, I’ve been able to peel back some of the layers of who I thought I was, in order to get closer to the root of who I actually am. Still not quite there yet, but it’s definitely a lifelong process.
For those of you not used to isolation or being alone with yourself, I’ll ask some simple (yet oh-so complicated) questions: when you
strip away all of the noise and busyness and distraction in your life, what’s left?
Who are you when all of the things you used to rely on to keep busy, are taken away? What thoughts or emotions come up for you?
For most of us, this void is going to be filled with past experiences trying to bubble up to the surface, which we haven’t allowed ourselves to fully feel before. Anxiety, anger, grief, loneliness, guilt… Though these emotions are often incredibly uncomfortable, their purpose is to guide us closer to ourselves. To help us unravel all of the tangles we’ve accumulated throughout our lives, to point us in a direction better suited to our own happiness and fulfillment, to a more authentic way of Being. They’re also here to help us release some of the weight we’ve been carrying for far too long. But to do that, we first have to slow down and quiet ourselves long enough to listen to what it’s trying to tell us in the first place.
Our thoughts and emotions are difficult to sit with because a lot of us have become so detached from ourselves. We’ve denied these parts, suppressed them, sabotaged ourselves so as not to feel them, been told that what we’re feeling is wrong.. And yet, here they still are, waiting for us to stop long enough to face them.
We can keep running away from these thoughts and emotions for as long as we’d like, but we might as well be trying to get away from our own shadow. And much like our shadows, the only way to rid ourselves of the darkness, is to shine a light on it: on all of the dark places in our psyches that we haven’t been brave enough to face, or had the skills and awareness to uncover. Whether we realize it or not, we are a product of all of our past experiences, so if we don’t eventually learn how to deal with them, or at least recognize how they’ve affected us, they will continue to run our lives subconsciously.
Of course, the importance of isolation isn’t to discredit the idea of community and connection to others in the healing process, because clearly we need that as well. To share ideas and be supported and guided and validated while we navigate our emotions, but I believe that community should then be used to guide us back more deeply toward our individual selves. To discover our own strengths and talents and abilities, so that we can eventually contribute them back into the community.
Because like the quote says, at the end of the day all we ever have is our Self. We are the only person we can truly rely on, so I believe it’s important to take the time to get to know who we really are, beyond our relationships to other people. Even if we’ve found someone to spend our life with, that shouldn’t mean that we stop looking for ourselves.
We often look to others to tell us what to do or what to think or to make us happy, but we have a whole wealth of knowledge and tools and resources inside of us that we haven’t been able to tap into. Intuition is an example of this. In my opinion, intuition is the greatest form of intelligence that we possess, and yet we often ignore it or rationalize it away, fearing what it might tell us. It’s hard to even know what that voice sounds like, until you learn to start listening to it. To slow down long enough to hear its quiet guidance, beneath all of your conscious thought. The world is noisy, which tends to drown out what we actually feel. We internalize other people’s opinions and views and energies, often adopting them as our own while not stopping long enough to question whether they’re actually true for us or not.
Again, when all of that is stripped away and we start to question everything that we believe about ourselves, what’s left? Who are we really?
And personally, I think that is what we’re here to find out.