“The only way we can change the way we feel is by becom­ing aware of our inner expe­ri­ence and learn­ing to befriend what is going inside our­selves.” ~Bessel A. van der Kolk

Learn­ing to be alone as an adult has been a strug­gle for me. It’s tak­en quite a while for me to adjust to spend­ing peri­ods of time by myself. It may sound strange to those who know me because I am most def­i­nite­ly an intro­vert and need my qui­et time. How­ev­er, my time alone was nev­er quite as sat­is­fy­ing as I’d hoped it would be.

Often my soli­tude dis­solved into sad­ness, and I didn’t have a par­tic­u­lar rea­son why. My alone time wasn’t pro­duc­tive, and it just made me feel out of sorts. It was frus­trat­ing because I knew I need­ed time to myself, but I couldn’t stand to be alone.

Once I began to get curi­ous about the sad­ness and apa­thy I’d feel when I was alone, things start­ed to shift.

One day, I noticed that a par­tic­u­lar script would begin to play in my mind over and over again. No mat­ter what time of day or the length of alone time, I could begin to hear it play. It said, “You are alone. You are always going to be alone. No one could tru­ly love you. You are unwor­thy of love.” This tape has played for so long I am unsure if it will ever ful­ly go away.

In the past too much alone time would leave me depressed or even sui­ci­dal, and it’s no won­der why. Hear­ing such awful things on a loop for an extend­ed peri­od of time would wear on any­one.

I spent long peri­ods where I was afraid to spend time alone because I knew I’d end up in a rough spot. I did all I could to avoid it. I’d go to bed ear­ly, keep my sched­ule full, spend all my time with my room­mate, and more.

Spend enough time try­ing, and you’ll soon learn that avoid­ing soli­tude is very dif­fi­cult as a sin­gle adult. I knew that, at some point, I had to stop avoid­ing and fig­ure out what was going on.

At first, all I did was notice these thoughts hap­pen­ing. I found that this script was com­mon in my life. This same tape would play when I made sil­ly mis­takes at work or a friend didn’t get back to me right away. Maybe it wasn’t just about being alone after all. Maybe this was some­thing deep­er.

So I stayed curi­ous about this dia­logue in my head. I kept think­ing through it when I could. I talked to my ther­a­pist and my men­tor about it too. Even­tu­al­ly I had a real­iza­tion that this script and my time alone were a reflec­tion of all the down time I had as a child.

Grow­ing up, I didn’t see my friends out­side of school very often, and I didn’t spend a lot of time with my fam­i­ly. Instead, I spent a lot of time alone.

When I first thought it through, I just fig­ured I was a nor­mal kid who got bored a lot. Think­ing fur­ther, how­ev­er, I real­ized those moments alone went well beyond typ­i­cal bore­dom. What I want­ed most dur­ing those times alone was atten­tion and love. I want­ed to feel val­ued and appre­ci­at­ed, but I didn’t.

I didn’t have the con­nec­tions with oth­ers that I tru­ly want­ed or need­ed at the time. I spent long peri­ods of time being pret­ty sad and feel­ing deeply lone­ly. I felt unloved and unwor­thy of being loved. Sounds famil­iar, doesn’t it? It’s exact­ly how I feel when I am alone as an adult. It’s that damn script again telling me I’m alone in the world.

This real­iza­tion was huge for me because, though my life as an adult is dras­ti­cal­ly dif­fer­ent than my life as a child, I rec­og­nize that I’m still heal­ing from past trau­ma and neglect. Some­thing in me still con­nect­ed being alone with being lone­ly. My inner child was still suf­fer­ing, and it made itself known through this ter­ri­ble dia­logue play­ing on loop.

I am in a dif­fer­ent place as an adult. I have made choic­es to sur­round myself with a com­mu­ni­ty of lov­ing peo­ple who sup­port and care for me. I’m not actu­al­ly alone any­more. Some­how mak­ing this con­nec­tion felt empow­er­ing.

That was then, I thought. This is now. I decid­ed it was time to take my pow­er back and resist the script. Next time I had the chance for some alone time, I was deter­mined to move through it dif­fer­ent­ly. I want­ed to teach my inner child that not all soli­tude is lone­ly.

So the time came again where I was alone and the famil­iar sad­ness began to well up, but I was pre­pared. I knew it was com­ing and I had a plan.

I had calm­ing music play­ing in the back­ground and some of my favorite activ­i­ties ready for me. My jour­nal was out for writ­ing, my can­vas was out for paint­ing, my machine was set up for sewing, and I had a book out too. And you know what? The tape in my head didn’t seem so loud. I could still hear it, but it didn’t par­a­lyze me or send me to bed ear­ly. I enjoyed being alone.

I share this all in hopes of encour­ag­ing any­one else who might strug­gle too. There were a few key things that helped me move through this expe­ri­ence.

First, I stopped avoid­ing and fight­ing my feel­ings. Avoid­ance keeps us stuck in the same pat­terns. It’s impor­tant to get curi­ous about our thought pat­terns and our feel­ings.

Ask­ing ques­tions like, “I won­der what per­pet­u­ates that thought?” and “Does this emo­tion hap­pen at cer­tain times?” can help things begin to shift. If it may help, I encour­age you to sit down with a men­tor or a ther­a­pist and talk it out.

Get­ting real­ly hon­est about the answers to those ques­tions requires that we sit with the dis­com­fort for a bit and con­nect in to our inner selves. It’s uncom­fort­able, but so very worth it. Ulti­mate­ly, this can help us nur­ture our­selves. Once we know what we need, we can begin to nour­ish the parts of our­selves that des­per­ate­ly need it.

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The post How I Start­ed Enjoy­ing My Alone Time Instead of Feel­ing Lone­ly appeared first on Tiny Bud­dha.

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