Solitude is not pathology for the high sensitivity personality

Writer Susan Cain notes:

“Now that you’re an adult, you might still feel a pang of guilt when you decline a dinner invitation in favor of a good book.

“Or maybe you like to eat alone in restaurants and could do without the pitying looks from fellow diners.

“Or you’re told that you’re ‘in your head too much,’ a phrase that’s often deployed against the quiet and cerebral.

“Of course, there’s another word for such people: thinkers.”

From her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Photo: J. K. Rowling writing in a café in 1998, from article: An insight into the mind of J. K. Rowling.

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Writer Cat Robson asks, “Why do people seek to live solitary lives? Even though I’m often extroverted, I need an awful lot of time by myself to feel comfortable with my life.

“Are solitary creatures like me somehow sick, neurotic or abnormal? The New York Times ran a story on someone who has chosen a life that is very isolated compared with most people:

“For 16 years, Nick Fahey, 67, has been living on a San Juan island north of Puget Sound, in Washington state, in a cabin on 100 acres that has been in his family since 1930; it has no refrigerator, but there is electricity generated by solar panels, so he has light and can charge his cellphone.

“The compulsion to live in isolation can be attributed to any number of factors, said Elaine N. Aron, a psychologist and the author of “The Undervalued Self” and “The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You.”

“Some people might “really need their downtime,” Dr. Aron said, and seek out “isolation that avoids all social intercourse.” Others may have developed an “avoidant attachment style” in childhood, resulting in “a need to prove to themselves that they don’t need anybody,” she said.

“For many people, though, the desire for extreme solitude may have simpler roots, she noted: “It could be because they want a mystical experience. You can’t pathologize that.”

“When it comes to striking out alone in the wilderness, however, men may be more inclined to do that than women, said John T. Cacioppo, director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago [and author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection].”

“In our culture, there is this mythic individualism that we cherish,” said Dr. Cacioppo, who studies the biological and cognitive effects of isolation. “That’s particularly true for men — they are supposed to be an island unto themselves. They take that myth more seriously and try to pursue it.”

“I’m not a misanthropic recluse sort of guy,” Fahey said. “I just know that I’d rather be here by myself.”

“Once a week, though, he does venture to Anacortes, a town on the mainland, 10 miles away by boat, to visit his 99-year-old father in an assisted-living home and to see his girlfriend, Deborah Martin, whom he has been dating for 15 years.”

Continued (with stories of other people) in New York Times article Embracing a Life of Solitude, by Sarah Maslin Nir.

Cat Robson/Facebook page.


Solitude can help in developing creativity.

Solitude or working alone is certainly not the only way to nourish creative projects. Many artists acknowledge the value of academies such as Juilliard, and less formal artist retreats and workshops, like Idyllwild. Some forms of creative expression – like acting and filmmaking – require collaborating with many other people.

But sometimes an artist needs isolation or works best alone.

Writer Erica Jong has commented, “Everyone has a talent. What is rare is the courage to nurture it in solitude and to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads.”

George Orwell chose to write Nineteen Eighty-Four while living in Barnhill (1946-1949), an abandoned farmhouse on the isle of Jura in the Inner Hebrides.

Following the success of his novel “Animal Farm” he told his friend Arthur Koestler, “Everyone keeps coming at me, wanting me to lecture, to write commissioned booklets, to join this and that, etc – you don’t know how I pine to be free of it all and have time to think again.”

[From article The masterpiece that killed George Orwell, by Robert McCrum, The Observer, 10 May 2009.]

Many people have talked about the importance of place, work space and solitude for developing creative talents.

For example, in her essay “A Room of One’s Own” in 1929, Virginia Woolf said that for women artists “a lock on the door means the power to think for oneself” and encouragement to develop the “habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think.”

Quotes from my book Developing Multiple Talents: The personal side of creative expression
Kindle  //  Website


Musician Ani DiFranco produced her album, “Educated Guess,” entirely on her own. An interviewer asked, “Your approach, your energy on the current tour and on the new album seem different. Why is that?”

DiFranco replied: “The difference is solitude. I have it in my life now…”

From post: Nurturing creativity in solitude.

See more quotes on the page Solitude.

Also see the Highly Sensitive site.


Originally posted 2012-10-07 23:27:54.


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