The American Psyche: Tipping Toward Solitude?

Bella DePaulo writes in Psychology Today:

I live alone and I am almost never lonely. I am also rarely bored. Then I realized something that seemed startling at first: During those atypical times when I am bored, I am almost always with other people. I’m never bored when I’m alone.

I don’t consider myself an introvert. I love to socialize (with people who do not bore me), I love the visits (time-limited) from friends and family who come to catch up with me and soak up the sun from my deck, and I love to entertain. But I also cherish my solitude.

Jonathan Rauch does consider himself an introvert. In 2003, he wrote an essay for the Atlantic magazine that began like this:

Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

If so, do you tell this person he is ‘too serious,’ or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?

If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands – and that you aren’t caring for him properly.

Rauch, a prolific writer, got more enthusiastic responses to that essay than to anything else he had ever written. Three years later, the Atlantic reported that readers were still clicking their approval: Online, no other piece had drawn more traffic than Rauch’s “Caring for Your Introvert.”

The same year that Rauch’s essay appeared, the witty and wonderful Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto was also published. Loners, notes author Anneli Rufus, are people who prefer to be alone. They are not sad, lonely, or deranged.

True loners do not withdraw in order to stew in misery or plot violent revenge. Instead, Rufus reminds us, loners “know better than anyone how to entertain themselves…They have a knack for imagination, concentration, inner discipline, and invention.”

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Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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2 Comments

  1. Instead, Rufus reminds us, loners “know better than anyone how to entertain themselves…They have a knack for imagination, concentration, inner discipline, and invention.”

    In other words, introverts are just better adapted to living in the real world.

    After I learned to stop being miffed at people asking me if I’m “OK,” I figured out the situation was really rather comical. After all, I, an introvert, am capable of being social — not to the same extent as my extrovert friends and acquaintances, but to some degree. They (at least the more extremely extroverted ones), however, are not able to do what I can do — amuse myself, enjoy my own company, experience the quiet and solitude as beautiful and not terrifying. I know people who quite literally look upon aloneness with dread, sometimes to the point of experiencing great anxiety while driving home alone from work for ten minutes. My experience is that introverts tend to be a bit more adept and sophisticated than extroverts.

    Ha! I said it: “I’m better than you are! Neener-neener.” That felt good. It’s probably not entirely true, but after a lifetime of hearing the opposite, it felt good.

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  2. What a relief to find this!!!! Being an only child, aloneness was normal. Lonely? Never!!! And surprisingly, in later life, other onlies found me. There must be a certain electrical charge in us…Frankly, it’s been hard to find others who like the same things I do, the culture, the life experiences, literature, animal wellbeing, etc., and Sean’s comments above bring such comfort. At my last job, I was so marginalized for being single. And now, in my church life, married women revile me – threat to take their husbands away? Wish they were single? It goes on and on. Being single, alone, there is always something to take my time. Seen as selfish to many, by reading this post and others it is truly that they don’t have a clue what solitude is. How can one listen to themselves, their inner spirit, their inner voice when there is so much noise around them, in others that are only taking up their precious time? Thanks for this, the first time I’ve been validated for a life-long way of life, a most fulfilling and productive one…

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