05 December, 2013

Overcoming Isolation

In the month since I left work I have to admit I haven't gotten out of the house very much. I am working to grow an online business, getting my Master's degree, healing. I've spent a lot of time thinking, praying, reading, journaling and just being still. It's a shift from the busyness that marked my life before.

I've realized I always felt a bit out of place at my job. I never quite fit, would find any reason to leave. And I've felt that way in offices for years. I hate being tethered to a desk, hate being around people all the time. Now existing in almost the total opposite of that, I've come to realize I can fall into isolation far too easily.

It comes in phases. I'm okay being at home alone all day, then wham - I feel out of sorts and off. I miss the interactions with my co-workers, and yet am one step removed now. It's hard for someone who is very introverted to set-up coffees and lunches, and it's not that I don't miss my friends, but the effort and desire to just stay where it's safe overwhelms me. But I cannot hide away, the need to reengage is an ever-present pressure.

This article by Sophia Dembling on Psychology Today really struck me. Below are bits and pieces, go here to read it in full.

Isolation can creep up on you. You’re doing fine, you’re doing fine, you’re doing fine, enjoying your solitude, getting stuff done, perhaps even preening a little over your self sufficiency. And then one day, you blink a few times, look around, and realize that the world outside has drifted very far away.

Well, that is to say, the world has stayed where it is but you’ve drifted so far into your own head that it’s like looking out through the wrong end of the telescope.

... You make no plans and eventually fall out of mind for people. Your social circle rolls on without you. You’re out of touch with what’s happening around town; all too often I hear about fun events the day after they happen. You fall into default mode: Sweat pants and staying home.

And the more isolated you become, the weirder you get. Conversation feels awkward. Getting together with people takes a level of commitment you can’t seem to muster. You intend to call friends but put it off and put it off and put it off. It’s so much easier to hang out with them on Facebook. You promise yourself you will do something fun today, but then find a million little things to do until another day has slipped by and you haven’t done anything more ambitious than go to the supermarket. You might start feeling depressed.
Friends, no matter how proudly introverted you are, isolation isn’t good for you. Solitude is great, until it’s not.

The only cure for isolation is discipline. The discipline to make yourself pick up the phone and call someone you like. Sometimes that means moving out of your comfort zone, connecting with someone who is still just a potential friend. (See First Leave the House: Strategies for Making New Friends.) You need discipline to plan an outing and follow through. You need discipline to say “yes” to the next invitation you receive, even if it’s not the greatest thing you can imagine doing. The point isn’t that you have to do something wonderful. The point is that you have to do something. Anything, as long as it involves other people. Preferably people with whom you can converse.


So what is the solution? How do you balance what feels so natural and yet only increases your isolation? I don't have any answers and really it's day by day. For years the ability to get up and go to work has been marked by the need to fulfill commitments. My desire to isolate always lost to the push to be responsible and the reality that I could not hide away. In many ways I am thankful for the other things I am committed to. Commitments that get me out of the house, positions of leadership that keep me from hiding away.

I would love any insights people have. Any tips or motivational tricks for cultivating discipline and doing the one thing you do not want to do. 

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© Amanda Lunday