While there are people who love living alone, there are others who dread it. Such a fear is called monophobia. The number of people living alone globally is skyrocketing, rising from about 153 million in 1996 to 277 million in 2011 – an increase of around 80% in 15 years.
For a variety of reasons, being forced to live alone by some unavoidable circumstance is perhaps, one of the most psychologically unsettling experiences a person can have. Walking into an apartment or house that was once filled with the voice of a loved one creates a feeling of emptiness words cannot describe.
There is a difference between loneliness and aloneness. Loneliness is not a choice. A person does not wake up one morning and say, “I want to be lonely today.” They could say, however, “I want to be alone today.”
Individuals who have never lived alone are frequently ill-equipped to care for themselves. From childhood, most of us went from family life, to school life, to married life, and into the workplace. In all those situations, other people made decisions for us.
Having to live alone involves responsibilities that were previously attended by someone else. Juggling simple maintenance becomes a challenge. While hiring people do to these things is a convenient method of coping, it fails to address the emotional void.
In 1854, the famous American writer, David Henry Thoreau, wrote an in-depth novel titled, Walden Pond that dealt with the trials and tribulations of living alone. It convincingly made readers aware of how living alone can be extremely rewarding; how it allowed people to awaken an inner strength they never dreamt they had.
A great many philosophers suggest that the unshared life is not worth living. While living alone lacks physical contact with another person, it does not preclude many other forms of sharing.
Once grieving the loss of a loved one has run its course, and the tendency to replay shared memories occurs less frequently, the task of successfully living alone becomes a little easier. Mark Twain put it this way, “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself." Great things can come out of solitude, out of going to a place where all is quiet except the beating of your heart.
Living alone is not something to be feared or dreaded. It has many advantages: You can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, you are never asked where you are going and what time you will be back, you can never be told that what you are doing is wrong, or that what you are wearing doesn't match.
Again, think of the place in which you are obliged to live as a cell or sanctuary. Your mind determines what kind of place it is. You can be your jailer or emancipator.
- Professor Eisenberg was born in New York City and now lives in Belleair Bluffs. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II. His career consisted of teaching interpersonal/intercultural communication, public speaking, organizational communication, nonverbal communication, group dynamics, and persuasion at four major universities including Pace University and Manhattanville College in New York. His publications include 19 textbooks on various aspects of communication. Send comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.