358 Happy being alone?

Lockdown is on us and may be here for a few weeks yet.  How are you doing?

Some people love the opportunity to spend time alone with themselves or with just the few people that they normally have around them. Though, for many people this is the definition of hell, anxiety and fear. I guess that we are naturally social animals and to be alone could be seen as odd. In evolution the group, heard, troop or pack represented our safety – ‘there is safety in numbers’, or so we say. To be pushed out of the group and to be solitary was a dangerous place to be and left us open to predation. Within the group we were protected.

With the coronavirus, the current lockdown means that many of us are cut off from others. Most will be locked down in family units but a lot of people will really be just alone. For many people who live alone, their workplace, or simply the daily trip to the shops allows them to feel connected and that they belong to the larger group or the society that they life in. In lockdown they can be denied this contact.

In psychological terms we talk about attachment or our need to be or feel connected. John Bowlby, the father of attachment theory, is well worth a read. The theory goes something like this. We grow in the womb that provides safety and sustenance for us though the first nine months of our existence. At the moment of birth we have our first experience of separation. If the birth goes well we do not develop anxiety or feel separated from our primary care giver, our mother. If the birth does not go so well and, for whatever reason, we are separated from our mother we can develop attachment anxiety. We know that good births and attentive mothers develop balanced children and eventually balanced adults. When things don’t go so well, if we felt abandoned, unwanted or unloved, even at that very early age, we can develop attachment disorders.

The developmental and attachment effects of the bond between the mother, and also the secondary carer, often the father, will go on throughout our formative years and will dictate how we feel about being alone, being with lots of people or small groups and the style and quality of the relationships that we develop later in life.

Good attachment is described as ‘secure attachment’. A securely attached person does not worry about being abandoned by partners or friends, they do do not fear periods of alone-ness. Their security is their inner emotional belief that others will be their for them and will not let them down. Those with insecure attachment are often fearful of abandonment and may be worried that their partner may leave them or that their friends will let them down. Those that that have anxiety disorders often have insecure attachment that originates with a parental figure letting them down when they were younger.

When we are comfortable being alone with ourself we have secure attachment. That could mean that we had good childhoods filling us with self confidence or that we have successfully had therapy to overcome our childhood attachment anxieties.

In the current lockdown, when our ability to interact with others is limited, attachment anxiety comes to the fore and will effect many people in many ways. In these situations anxiety and depression can become common bed fellows. We need to be aware of both of these and deal with them should they develop. That may mean contacting your GP dealing 111 or seeking professional help from a registered therapist.

However, this can be a time of self growth and development. If we can adopt the attitude of “we don’t have problems here we just have learning opportunities” we could turn the alone-ness of lockdown into a time when we can grow and develop and create greater happiness for ourself.

We should have a lot of gratitude for the creative human mind that has produced the hardware and software that is the internet and social media. We can now all stay in touch with others. We can even talk face to face with people on the other side of the world using apps such as Skype. While, apps like Zoom allow groups or family conversations to take place. While the connection online, even when it is visual, is never truly the same as real face to face contact it is very close and can help us avoid the feelings of alone-ness during lockdown.

Using media on a phone, tablet or laptop can offer other facilities as well. Online courses that might be about practical skills or crafts, may also be about self development, mindfulness, self discovery and so on. Once we can connect to the internet we have a window on the world that if we choose to look through it we might find wonders and delights.

The other use of such media is therapy. I have been working at least 50% of the time online for a good few years now, seeing people all over the world, across Europe, though the Middle East over in Canada and the USA right down to Aus and NZ. I even drop behind the Iron Curtain. With the development of online media the world has shrunk. It has shrunk to the size of your imagination. What can you imagine? Many therapist have gone online during this time.

In lockdown you can order food, take a course, learn a skill, engage in therapy, learn to meditate, write a book, create a movie, start a blog, become a social influencer, the opportunities are endless.

However, we do also need to be aware of those in our area who are really alone, perhaps they are old and have no internet or knowledge of the internet. These people will need our support and care. That might be giving people some time, even if it is through a window. Doing shopping or running errands. You might have a spare tablet to give or lend to a child, games or books that you can also give or lend.

Bottom line is who needs our help and support…

If we all look after each other we will all be okay

Looking after each other also includes you looking after you. What do you need? Where can you get it? To answer these questions you may need to go online and have a session with Google and see what is around. Remember, ‘the world is your oyster’ you can just as easily join a group in Japan as one that is around the corner.

However long this goes on for we could come out better off, more whole, and more at peace than when it all began.

Take care, be mindful, stay safe and stay at home.

Sean x