This statement, “Sometimes I just want to be alone” is a pretty normal way to kind of slow the world down and process information. But many times when someone has suffered a traumatic event or is faced with really difficult life decisions the need to be alone shifts from a temporary escape to a more permanent form of avoidance.
I want to remind you at this point of two things.
- Your brain will always try to make sense of the world.
- Whatever goes on in the brain for more than two or three months the brain sees is normal and then will seek to maintain it.
There doesn’t seem to be a difference whether the message is self-talk or information from outside sources, positive or negative information or even if the information is true or false. Everyone creates their own sense of “normal”. It seems fairly obvious that using only one source of information creates a potential hazard for misinformation. When it comes to a state of mind it can fairly easily be accepted that emotional states such as depression or anxiety often causes a misinterpretation of data which will then lead to behaviors that are less than beneficial. Those behaviors, if done in isolation, begin a spiral of ineffective behaviors followed by misinterpretations which lead to more ineffective behaviors.
The consequence of isolation is that it is often the result of depression or anxiety which then predisposes you to faulty information and therefore ineffective behaviors. A person may begin to believe that they can’t function in a crowd, which may lead to an inability to be in public and eventually to an inability to even leave the house. This downward spiral is usually blamed on an event or a series of events when in reality it is the result of ineffective decisions.
I was reminded today of another form of isolation, intoxication. The intoxication may be from drugs or alcohol but the result is a barrier between you and the world. Often early in addictions the use of substances is enjoyable and may even assist with social interaction. This makes it even more difficult to understand the potential hazards of intoxication. The end result of frequent use of intoxicants is to create a separation between the individual and their support network. There may be the illusion of a support network, other people that participate in intoxication, but ultimately the variety of ideas is reduced just like other forms of isolation.
The simplest answer to avoiding the effects of isolation is to begin with a healthy support network. A support network may include family and friends but should also be considered to include care providers and other social contacts that are living the sort of life you want to live. Within this support network there should be individuals who are compassionate but realistic with expectations. The network needs to be flexible so that when one member of the network needs additional assistance that there is strength within the network to provide that assistance or to seek outside help.
Make no mistake that when I talk about assistance I am not talking about enabling ineffective behavior. Enabling behavior is behavior that supports ineffective thoughts and therefore leads to ineffective behaviors. I see enabling behaviors often in families where the presenting problems are anxiety, depression, fear or anger or any of a number of other behaviors that limit healthy social interaction.
The more that people become involved with electronic technology the more they tend to isolate. Even interactive video games are not a reasonable replacement for social interaction. The interaction tends to be very narrowly focused and there is little if any casual conversation or problem-solving outside of the context of that game. Further potential damage occurs because that becomes a replacement for other interactions. If you think about the basic concepts of communication it becomes more clear that most of the context of an interaction is lost if not done face-to-face. Technology provides the ability to interact when separation is an issue but certainly does not adequately replace effective social interaction.
There are times when a person just wants to be alone for a time. Anita reminded me today that at the end of a stressful day of dealing with other people’s problems, answering the phone and just being around a consistent cone of activity, spending some time alone is very helpful. Occasional activities like reading, watching a movie or participating in a hobby can be extremely effective in assisting a person to relax. When those activities grow to the point of creating isolation, they have also grown to the point of diminishing benefit.
Humans tend to be herd animals. We need social interaction. The amount of social interaction will vary from one person to another. Each of us tends to think that we either have limited choices or that our interaction level is sufficient. Remember, whatever we feed our minds for more than two or three months the mind will perceive as normal and then try to maintain it. Normal should not necessarily be interpreted as healthy or correct.
In short, a healthy balance between alone time and social interaction leads to improved emotional stability and wellness. If you are having a difficult time being social it may be helpful to talk with an objective individual to see if your behaviors are helping or inhibiting the ability to make friends. If being around your friends tends to create drama, you probably need to change yourself and maybe your friends. A healthy social network may be one of the main methods of achieving relaxation and emotional wellness.
Remember, life is built on choices, the choices you make affects you and the people around you. Focus on behaviors that have a higher likelihood for happiness and success and are not potentially damaging to your future.
See you next time, Russ