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Finding yourself getting back in touch with yourself
There are words that unfold their power only at second glance. For example, the word "alone. This can sound threatening – but also like a promise: to be alone, to be at one with everything, to be whole, to be independent.
Like one of those great moments in music when a violin or a saxophone silences the other instruments and is enough by itself. In contrast, our lives often feel like a piece of improvised jazz that lacks solos.
Being alone was once
It seems that the balance between togetherness and solitude has gotten a little out of kilter in recent years. Although the number of single households in Germany continues to rise – most recently to over 40 percent – and life plans are more individual and diverse than ever, the new sense of togetherness is being invoked at every turn. Giant shared apartment instead of one-room apartment, running group instead of single round "crime scene- Watching in the pub instead of at home on the sofa. And should you really stroll through the park unaccompanied, your walk is immediately documented for 576 followers on Instagram.
This is a far cry from the "dialogue with one’s own soul", than that ancient thinkers from Diogenes to Marcus Aurelius praised being for oneself.
No wonder the constant demand for community and interaction is increasingly perceived as pressure. The statistics for this are provided by a recent study by the Techniker Krankenkasse health insurance fund: one third of those surveyed named too many appointments in their free time as a stress factor – right after stress in their jobs. Another finding: the perceived stress level grows in proportion to how often respondents use social media.
The fear of missing out
"This internal tension arises because the perception of time in the real and virtual worlds is increasingly drifting apart", explains Reinhard. "While phases of being alone are becoming more frequent in modern biographies, for example due to separations or job-related moves, the digital world lures us with a sense of belonging and constant, maximum excitement." A constant barrage of interaction that makes us driven – as "disjointed time" is how the well-known sociologist Hartmut Rosa describes the ubiquitous multitasking mania. And woe betide us if we are involuntarily cut off from the flow of communication, for example, because the WLAN router is acting up, "Fear of missing out, Researchers describe the fear of missing out. This is the case among younger "digital natives" more widespread than among 40-somethings – but they are not entirely free of it either.
The joy of missing out
At the same time, the "let’s-all-get-alone" has been growing for years- Longing, and corresponding offers are booming: from meditation retreats to silent monasteries, from "Digital Detox" to travel offers for individuals. Self-selected time-outs in which one can "take a look at oneself from the outside" (Rebekka Reinhard) cultivates. Social researchers have also coined a snappy term for this: "JOMO", "Joy of missing out – in other words, the joy of saying goodbye to the over-excited party for a while.
Of course, it’s not just us Germans who feel this joy; it crosses borders. Latest living trend from the UK: modern garden sheds on your own property, not as a storage place for the lawnmower, but as a place of retreat. "She-Sheds" or "She-Huts the sometimes rustic, sometimes noble mini-huts are called. Because, as The Telegraph newspaper writes: "A significant number of clients are women asking for extra space to work or do yoga exercises."
Women are also the ones who, after separations, now consciously and willingly stay alone for the time being. Because it has never been as easy and recognized as it is today to live a full solo life. Because society has become more open, and because it is easier to stay alone with light baggage and without the constant pressure to compromise. But whether a single woman or a mother of three: It seems that the longing for solitude, the turning to one’s own self is booming, especially in times of rapid change (digitalization).
Finding yourself through withdrawal and being alone
And the desire to withdraw is thus a very healthy reflex, socially as well as psychologically. Dietrich Munz, chairman of the Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists, says: "People are different in their need for contact and withdrawal. But basically, being alone can be a source of strength, an important moment of inner confrontation and reflection." Even solo activities such as reading, gardening or a round of Nordic walking serve to cultivate relationships on one’s own behalf.
How well we get along with ourselves, whether we experience solo times as an enrichment or as a threat, is also determined by personal experiences, according to Munz: "A child learns in its early development that its caregiver is still there, even if she has just left the room. This is the basis for trust in adult life: People who have had good bonding experiences in their own biography are better able to withstand periods of being alone. And in relationships can leave more space for the other person."
From the philosophical point of view (Rebekka Reinhard) it sounds like this: "If we have a basic trust that we are connected to everything, we don’t have to feel lonely or communicatively overwhelmed."
"Inter his" is what the Buddhists call it – the idea that we are not only secure in close relationships, but also in fleeting moments, in loose interconnectedness with the world. Then we are alone in the best sense, at one with everything, whole and at the same time open to others.