“Thank God for Walgreens,” my friend Jessa said over wine one night. “I spent the whole day in my house yesterday writing and hadn’t spoken to a soul or seen anyone. I was just going mad.” Jessa is a freelance writer friend of mine who has tremendous medical issues that often keep her stuck in her house.
“I never thought I would be so happy to have to go buy tampons and say hello to the clerk ringing me up,” she finished with a giggle. As I chuckled at her comments, it made me reflect on how much we really need other people.
Excuses for Isolation
In my private practice I hear all kinds of reasons why people are isolated:
• I don’t have any friends;
• I like being by myself;
• I don’t know where to meet people;
• I’m afraid of being rejected;
• I’ll start yoga after I lose some weight;
• I have to study;
• I hate driving in traffic; or
• I’m not smart enough to start a class like that.
Whatever they say, let’s face the fact that these are excuses to keep ourselves stuck and avoid socializing. They even become habits. We get pretty good at convincing ourselves that these are legitimate reasons to become a hermit. Guess what, you’re not fooling anyone!
Of all the clients in my practice, the ones that are the most depressed are those that have the fewest social interactions. What may have started out originally as a setback like losing a job, having a major illness, or going through a divorce, evolves into a life style.
Let’s take isolation at its most extreme form: solitary confinement. A forced punishment designed to break someone’s spirit enough so they keep in line and follow rules in prison. Being alone like that is so bad that it can make even the most hardened criminals straighten out for a while. The sad thing is that people are putting themselves in states of solitary confinement every day. Maybe by their own choice or thoughts of what they can or cannot do based on rigid thinking, being overly cautious, or lack of openness to try out something new.
Breaking the Isolation Cycle
One way to combat the choice to isolation is to practice the gift of curiosity. Is there another perspective on this situation? What would my peers say about my way of thinking? What’s the worst thing that could happen if I dropped my view point?
Allowing ourselves to think of different perspectives is not contingency planning. It’s an exercise in open flexibility for our minds. Our minds love to grow and learn new things. Maybe it is time we let them.