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Why we should not be scared of being alone

By Rish Tandapany | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-09-21 14:04
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A hut at the coast of Tarawa, Kiribati, March 14, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

American photographer Alec Soth once wrote, "Nobody really wants to be alone, people need people." It never really occurred to be what this meant but the last six to nine months have made people, including myself, think about how much we need others. The isolation brought upon us by COVID-19 has meant we need to be comfortable in our own company much more than before.

That is not to say we are alone. In the age of the internet and the 21st century, the digital era has allowed people to connect, communicate and interact in a numerous ways. How alone can we actually be with all the connections available to us? And are these technological mediums a substitute for real contact and real physical connection? I wonder.

COVID-19 hit us like a bolt of lightning, ensuring the entire world contemplated its relationships with other people. Monophobia is on the rise. What is it that we need face–to-face interactions that the internet, messenger services and telephones can't substitute? Is it acceptance or is it about feeling a tangible part of something. I think the answer is somewhere in between. Essentially people, in a variety of forms, act as a support system bouncing emotions and physical comforts off from one other. The internet and social media still hasn't learned to hug me back and I doubt it ever will.

With the new normal upon us, and COVID-19 still in our midst, where are we going and what are we doing and more importantly, can we do it alone? At this time, are we forcing ourselves to be online and have purposeful conversations with others, just to avoid being lonely? Hence, ensuring the anxiety that COVID-19 created is being managed. Speaking to those around me it hasn't all been so bad. There are those people learning to be comfortable in their own space. In my work, I have seen a huge introspective and self-analytical movement - those trying to get to grasp the realities of this "new world". I also think this is where online advice can play a role by encouraging each other to be comfortable by themselves through a variety of activities, exercises and readings.

Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with being alone. We just shouldn't be scared of it. Socially, it has become such a routine part of our lives to interact with others physically; whether having lunch, going for coffees, sexual arrangements or even at work. What do people actually do when they are alone? Do they think about what they are doing for where they are going?

COVID-19 has made individuals think about these things in ways that they had previously never had to, and that, to me, is the scary part. A recent survey I did at work saw individuals tell me that sharing their own company was actually one of the hardest parts of their day. Some started talking to themselves; some engaged in social media more and others still felt anxious and stressed resorting to medicines and unusual distractions.

I encourage those of us who spend a lot of time thinking alone and not interacting with many people to actually take this time to embrace the solitude. It won't always be this way so enjoy the time to pursue your own individual development and articulate how you intend to progress. What are we going to do when COVID-19 finally goes away? These scary questions present endless, encouraging possibilities and thus need answering as we navigate this new normal. I believe it is very important for individuals, children and adults alike, to understand what they are doing with their lives and what they are going through now.

As a society, we abdicate a lot of our emotions to others in the hope that they bear them through their support and subconsciously obtain their approval. However, at this time we can't do that.

The responsibility is ours. A lot of clients I see have this characteristic attached to them where they believe they need to act and be a certain way. This is fundamentally wrong and completely contrary to the way humans have evolved. For now, we should all take control of our actions and not be scared doing it alone.

The author is a British thought consultant in Asia.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

If you have a specific expertise and would like to contribute to China Daily, please contact us at opinion@chinadaily.com.cn , and comment@chinadaily.com.cn

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