Thursday, August 6, 2009

Solitude or isolation?

GG wrote a great post on her blog G-Log about solitude versus isolation. She writes:
"To me, there’s a fine line between Isolation and Solitude. The isolation-part was and is very painful, where I'm expected to feel shame, resentment, of no-value as a part that doesn’t fit, nor wants to..... The solitude-part has always been wonderful and constantly grows in value and importance. The isolation part has to do with abandonment, betrayal, rejection, much fear, verbal self-abuse, self-loathing and bitter resentment."

I never thought about it as she described: the difference between solitude and isolation. I remember liking solitude when I was a kid. I could play, read, paint, and do any number of things for hours without feeling sad or lonely. I believe the solace of solitude left me as I matured and became more aware.

Somewhere along the way I began to feel that I didn't want to be alone--that there had to be someone there to share things with. This is probably when the co-dependency took root. I crossed the line from being happy with who I was to being melancholic and not in sync with myself. I believe that is when I began to isolate.

I don't know what brought about the transition from being at home with solitude to isolating. I have heard many alcoholics speak about how different they always felt, like they never fit in. Well, this Al-Anon felt that way early on in life. I learned to mask it well. I could be happy go lucky on the outside but inwardly I felt insecure around others, ashamed for friends to come over on the weekends, and wanted to hide what went on between me and my alcoholic wife. I truly isolated during those times.

I also know that I felt unhappy many times after I first met C. I began to attach far too much significance to her and much less to myself. And ultimately when I forgot who I was, I began to feel despair, self-pity, and isolation.

This joyless isolation was the behavior that I adopted as a result of the affect that alcoholism had on me. My life was dominated by the alcoholic drama. I couldn't count on myself or anyone else. I lost the idea that I had anything to offer because I was so caught up in what others were doing. There was no energy left over for me after the emotional drain of trying to fix the alcoholic or clean up their mess.

I think that my feeling "apart from" was an adaptation that I developed to distance myself from the crazy alcoholic relationships in my life. It was easier to beat up on myself and to build walls than to deal with the pain of living with alcoholism. I think that this is how I shut myself off from the "sunlight of the spirit".

I am grateful that I've learned to not shut myself off from God and being with people. Today I do those things that I enjoy. I don't want to isolate anymore. Instead, I can appreciate once again the solitude in which I write, meditate, play, and have a free spirit as I once did. And I can appreciate my own uniqueness. I have found who I am.


  1. Me, too: "I am grateful that I've learned to not shut myself off from God and being with people."

    Even so, I am but one step away from crossing back over that line, not from what you might say or do, but as a direct result of my words or behavior, "inadvertant"--or not.

  2. I seem to vacilate between solitude and isolation these days. I have to say that the comfort and serenity of solitude is a wonderful feeling.It all depends on what the commitee in my head is talking about.jeNN

  3. Yes! Solitude feels a lot better than isolation! Great post!!!
    Shared it with a friend new in AlAnon, she's suffering and isolating. I'm impressed with her ability to reach out and make phone calls. I never did that early on...still tend to isolate.

  4. we often fail to think of the effect our behavior has on those around us. my daughter does a lot of the isolating you speak of here. i cannot fix it and she does not seem to want a solution right now. i think she has found a familiar comfort in her misery. so i do not press is, but she knows where to find al-anon and nar- anon when she is ready to be rid of her misery. beautiful post, it gives me hope for her and it helps me to detach as well.

  5. As someone who likes to be alone and who struggles with how much alone time is an okay amount, this was a great post for me to read. I've never really considered the difference between solitude and isolation and I love what you wrote about those two here. Thanks, Syd! :)

  6. I go to extremes of solitude or running everywhere because I'm afraid of missing something. I tend to go and go, and then have to recharge for awhile. I don't consider it isolating.

    Intersting post however.

  7. How does someone I have never met, know me so well? Your RX for rest was a good call and HALT a wonderful reminder. Thanks Syd for your deep felt and touching comments.

  8. Sounds like we were alike as children, I spent a lot of time alone reading, writing, daydreaming. Now I do isolate myself, not as much as I used to, but I rarely go anywhere that I will interact with other people unless its close friends or one on one. Its just so much easier to hide...and let life pass me by :(
    Thanks for this post. Made me think of something I'll write about on my blog.

  9. This is such an interesting insight. I was thinking about this topic about a month ago due to an unkind word form another. I choose solitude, I fight isolation.

    Many people confuse the two and often will say you are one when in fact you are the opposite. I often find comfort in solitude and my being requires it. I get very uncentered when I don't take that time for myself.

    Your post meshed with her's quite nicely from different but alike perceptions. Nicely put.

  10. I do a lot of thinking about solitude. I think about it more than I actually get it. But I don't mind being by myself.

    I don't isolate much these days, thank God. Thanks as always for a wonderful blog.


  11. Oh, my precious solitude. I could not live without it.

  12. Your question inspires me to blog on it!

  13. I guess I never thought about the diff between solitude and isolation before.

    Sometimes it can be easy to go into an isolated state for a while..really it's not that good for you as you think it is at the time.

    Glad you have found yourself and are happy.

  14. Very interesting to me your comment that when you first met your significant other that you began to be unhappy and put "far too much significance to her and much less to myself". I feel like I have done exactly that in my relationship with my alcoholic self and my alcoholic husband.
    I think I tried to forget my own problem (which is much more painful and difficult to deal with) and try to fix his.
    How can we lift another when we're standing on the same step? - Mimi

  15. I love alone time, and it is essential to my mental health.

  16. thank you for all the comments on my posts. I love it.

    do you have any wisdom on "detachment with love"? I feel so far from my husband right now, of my own doing. because it was easier for me than staying co-dependent.

  17. i understand the difference very well. where one is a good place, the other is not, in simple terms. and i know when i deliberately turn down offers of company, say no to going out, i'm heading towards isolation, cause there's a subtle discomfort in me. and that's when i know i need to work at what's bothering me. solitude is marvellous, me, my time, my choice of activity, my mind can run free, i can write, but again, not all the time, not to the detriment of the people i share my life with.

  18. I don't even try to fit in.

    Hey that swing must be really inconvenient if/when you're drunk ...

  19. These days I have alone time but I never feel lonely. That did not used to be the case.

    Beautifully stated, Syd. I would love to hear you share your story sometime.

  20. Nicely expressed, Syd. As I've shared before, for me it was like I didn't really want a relationship - I just wanted someone to hold me while I isolated.

    I am a friend of solitude but realize that I must place that (and all else) in God's hand. My instincts are seriously broken about relationships...

    Blessings and aloha...

  21. What a close subject to myself - seriously I often wonder why I distance myself - sometimes I think I am too lazy to put real effort into relationships and other times I think I just really prefer alone time... but on some level I figure it is avoidance and when I get that is when I make my way towards changing it.

  22. Wow. This really struck a chord with me. I'm going to have to chew on it for awhile.


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