A friend of mine posted a quote to Facebook the other day that got me thinking.. she said
“Language… has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone.”~ Paul Tillich
Now, I thought that was a beautiful way of expressing it… by choosing the words we use, then we create a different meaning to the feeling. We can choose to be lonely – or we can choose to enjoy solitude. I am actually quite a solitary being – I love being around people, and I love interaction, sharing, laughter, joy…. and also I love time on my own in solitude. And sometimes, sure, I feel lonely. Sometimes I don’t feel as if I am choosing solitude – I just feel as if I have been dumped in this place called ‘loneliness’.
Look at what I said above – I contrasted ‘be lonely’ with ‘enjoy solitude’. it feels to me as if ‘loneliness’ is something that happens to me, whereas ‘solitude’ is something I choose. And, to be honest, we do have that choice. On Facebook, one of the replies spoke about going to the supermarket so as not to feel lonely. And why not?! Why not use that feeling to catapult you into interaction with someone else? Go to the supermarket. Smile at people. Chat with the cahier. Resist the urge to pelt the supervisor with grapes. Oh, go on, if you must….
One of the powers that we have as human beings is the power to name. Adam was given the opportunity to have dominion over the animal kingdom by naming each animal – having the name gave him power. Even to this day in many cultures, having someone’s name gives you spiritual and psychological power over that person. Look at the story of Rumpelstiltskin – which is an echo of a deeper truth. Once the king named Rumpelstiltskin, he had power over him. It is the same with us and the words we use.
Consider the difference between ‘being depressed’ and ‘feeling melancholy’. Broadly, they are the same feeling of sadness… but with depression, we are ‘stuck’ whereas with melancholy we are making a choice. And isn’t it vageuly romantic to be a little ‘melancholic’ from time to time.
If you look at the language, it seems that ‘solitude’ is something we have control over. We choose our solitude – we can move into it – or out of it – as we wish. Loneliness, on the other hand, seems to be something that happens to us.
The truth of it is that these feelings never happen to us – we choose them… or, more accurately, we choose the response that we have to a certain situation. When confronted with being on their own, some people will decide to feel lonely. Others will decide to feel a sense of solitude, an opportunity to breathe in this life, to take stock of the situation.
Choose the words you use carefully – not because we have to fear using the wrong word (which seems to be a curse of the New Age and of the Law of Attraction “be careful what words you use, or they will come true”) – choose your words because they give you power over the situation that you are in. Find a better way to describe it. Take back control. Use language to support you rather than slow you down… in fact, play with the language you use, have fun with it… and use it to step outside of the worlds we create