You might think the cure for loneliness is a simple one: just get out of the house and spend time with other people. But there’s a contrary point-of-view, and it comes from the man who may know more about our collective inner world than anyone around today: Thomas Moore.
Moore has made his name by writing over a dozen books that deal with the deepest, most complex part of our selves, the soul. In his most recent book, Ageless Soul, The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy, Moore advises us that when we feel lonely we need to “go with the symptom.” In his words:
If you are lonely and try to get rid of the loneliness by forcing yourself to be around people, in effect you are repressing an emotion. You are repressing it, by fleeing from it. It might be better to acknowledge your loneliness and then give it some attention.
Don’t run from the feeling of loneliness. Immerse yourself in it.
Moore points out that even “a person living in a city teeming with people can be lonely and in need of something other than people.” So, the cure for loneliness isn’t to force yourself to be around others, but to get to the root of the issue.
Moore sees the feeling of loneliness as an inner call for reflection. And the fact is reflection requires you to get comfortable with a degree of solitude, because it calls for “quiet and aloneness.” Within this solitude, we then have the space we need to be open to our thoughts and feelings.
Importantly, Moore sees reflection not solely as time spent in passive contemplation. He tells us there are many ways to reflect that involve partaking in activities. Reflection can involve historical or cultural reading (Moore prefers biographies), listening to music, even writing in various forms—journals, essays, fiction. We need to engage the loneliness within.
Moore believes the cure to loneliness can also be found in greater intimacy with our surroundings. He believes that the world itself has a soul and that our relationships are not all human but can occur with our physical surroundings including our homes, our neighborhoods and anyplace we like to visit, be it a church or nature preserve.
Moore states that “It isn’t just companionship that overcomes loneliness but anything that is life giving.” And who hasn’t had their spirit recharged after a visit to a museum, a walk on the beach or even a few minutes spent gazing at the stars? Moore goes on to say that:
The best way to deal with loneliness is to pursue vitality even in small things. This means keeping alive your curiosity, wonder, spirit of adventure, love of learning, creative character, interest in people, eccentricity and contemplative lifestyle.
The key is to stay connected to life, to “make sure that you are not closing off a part of yourself.” When we open our soul to the wonders of life, the loneliness has a way of dissipating or at least is kept at bay. We often discover that what we thought was loneliness was more accurately a need to connect–with our own inner self and the world immediately around us.
In closing, here are two takes on loneliness that strike similar themes, from two different American authors. Their words express the same unique perspective on loneliness as Moore.
Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. ~Janet Fitch
When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. ~Elizabeth Gilbert