Some people are capable of literally being alone, even for long periods of time, but they are uncomfortable, depressed, restless, and anxious in their own presence. Some individuals drink alcohol, take pills or smoke weed when they are alone, to take them to another state of consciousness where they feel calmed, even stuporous. In some cases the body and mind altering substances are substitutes for a mother who was never emotionally present for them when they were infants and young children.
The great psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott defined the psychological meaning and origins of the “capacity to be alone. ” In the earliest months after birth, the mother and child are symbiotic. The child cannot distinguish between himself and his mother or mother surrogate. Through his growing development and the needs met by a loving mother figure, the baby begins to feel secure within himself and internalizes these feelings. According to Winnicott a key element in this growth toward individuality takes place when the infant learns to be psychologically alone in the presence of a loving parent. When they are together without interacting, the baby senses a solid compassionate presence, a positive, loving mutuality. As the child matures, he incorporates these feelings of security, safety and confidence into his body, mind, and psyche. Eventually, by the age of four or five, the child has achieved the psychological capacity to be alone. This ability grows and thrives throughout the many stages of life. .
There are others who never feel safe or loved enough to develop the capacity to be alone. As infants and young children they were unwanted, threatened, neglected, assaulted, cast off from the beginning. In many instances, the parent has such severe mental problems that she cannot relate to her baby Some parents act as if the baby is an inanimate object, a doll, that can be taken care of one minute and discarded the next. Many tiny babies are sent to caregivers who neglect or abuse them. Their chances of developing a sense of trust and inner security are very slim.
There are extraordinary benefits to having the capacity to be alone. Creativity is frequently fueled by moments we spend in solitude. At these times the imagination is ignited to spin tales, create characters, travel afar, view visions of other worlds, create mental pictures of color and shape that will become fine paintings, have adventures that could never occur if we were surrounded by people all the time. When we are alone and cherish the time to be introspective or analyze those great gifts of the night—-our dreams—we are moving forward to become more evolved human beings.
There are several ways you can learn to be comfortable in your own company:
1. Become acquainted with yourself and learn to appreciate your unique qualities.
2. Practice being alone in thought, reverie, prayer, or meditation for short periods of time each day.
3. Learn how to quiet your mind and body through various types of deep breathing, muscle relaxation or yoga
4. Become aware that as your capacity for being alone grows, you are opening up the gates of creativity and expanding your consciousness.