Friday, August 18, 2006

Withdrawing from the World

[The Hermit]

This was the Daily Om from a couple of days ago:
Coming Out Of Hiding

There are times in our lives when withdrawing from our social obligations and taking some time to be alone is necessary to rejuvenate our energy and renew our connection to ourselves. However, there are also times when withdrawal is a red flag, indicating an underlying sense of depression or some other problem. We may not even have consciously decided to isolate ourselves but wake up one day to find that we have been spending most of our time alone. Perhaps it's been a long time since friends who used to call have given up. Without anyone inviting us out, we sink deeper into alienation.

The longer our isolation lasts, the harder it becomes to reach out to people. It is as if we have failed to exercise a particular muscle, and now it is so weak we don't know how to use it. Yet, in order to return to a healthy, balanced state of being, that's exactly what we need to do. If you find yourself in this situation, call an understanding friend who will listen to you with compassion, not a defensive friend who may have taken your withdrawal personally. The last thing you need is to be chided; a negative response could intensity your isolation. If you don't have a kind friend you can rely on, call a spiritual counselor or therapist. They may be able to help you determine the underlying cause of your isolation and help you find your way out of it.

When you've been in a pattern of secluding yourself, it can begin to seem impossible that you could reenter the world of friendships, conversations, and group activities, but with time, you will. Most people will understand if you take the time to explain that you've fallen out of touch and would like to reconnect. Take your time and be gentle with yourself, starting with one person and building from there. Try to reach out to one new person every week. Before you know it, you will find yourself back in the company of friends.
I am, by most people's standards, a hermit. Aside from work and a couple of friends I have very little social life. I like it that way. I posted a few days ago on HSP and social anxeity, and I think part of my chosen isolation is a result of those two qualities.

Not everyone is designed to be a social butterfly. This article mentions being able to distinguish between isolation as a need and isolation as a pathology. However, for some of us, the line isn't so clear. We need more time alone than others -- to whom we may look strange with our need for quiet and being alone.

Some of us have a couple of friends, or a partner, and need little more. The issue of which to be conscious is allowing anxiety to be the factor that keeps us alone. It's one thing to need alone time to recharge after a day spent in a social atmosphere (very draining), and another to be alone because leaving the house creates anxiety.

If we can bring mindfulness to our need to be alone, we can distinguish healthy needs from unhealthy fears. And if we can bring mindfulness to the fear, and learn to see it as an object instead of living within it, then we will no longer be its prisoner. Of course, that's easier said than done.

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