Do you know how to be your own best friend? What does that really mean? Find out by devoting time to spend with yourself. You are a somebody. How well do you know yourself? Do you avoid spending time alone?
The education system has us believe that we are not important. We are coerced to become thinkers, not feelers. Just learn what is forced onto you, pass the tests and exams, and you will then be judged as smart, average, or not smart. However, what we learn in school does not prepare us for adulthood. The education system does not teach us how to have fulfilling careers, satisfying relationships with ourselves and others, harmonious families and communities, how to take care of your health, how to successfully start your own business or how to manage money. Instead, it teaches us how to become employable robots. We have to abandon our ‘self’ and learn and do what everyone else is learning and doing. So, most of us grow up not knowing who we are. We pick a category to be: cool, smart, geeky, sexy, sporty, tough, posh, workaholic etc. What category did you pick to fit in?
Actually, picking a category is not being; it’s doing. It’s effortful to do the things and behave in such a way, so people can categorise you. It’s unnatural.
In the book called ‘Happiness’, Richard Layard includes results from scientific research, one of which is a chart showing that people want to spend time with themselves only a little bit more than with their boss, who was rated at the bottom of the list! This struck me. People actually want to avoid time alone with themselves to such a high degree. Why?
The fear of thoughts comes to mind. Thoughts tend to be either about the uncomfortable past or predicting an unwanted future. It’s like the brain goes on autopilot when you spend time alone because you don’t have outer world distractions. You can distract yourself with entertainment or with company, but when you erase both out of the picture, you quickly find out that you only have your thoughts left. Do they make you so uncomfortable?!
Do your thoughts tend to be about current problems and unresolved issues from the past? Do they often include fear of future outcomes? If this is what you try to avoid whenever you are alone, you have an option. It’s the only option. It’s the best option too. You can live in the present. It’s the only time you can live. Live!
You can only live in the present. The past has already happened and the future hasn’t come to pass yet. If your thoughts of the past or future easily haunt you, then be present with them by being the observer of them. You don’t have to make a decision or examine and judge your thoughts of the past or the future. You can just watch and listen to them just as you do when watching TV. Many people watch TV to relax. Watch your thoughts and relax. You can learn a lot about yourself.
Thoughts trigger feelings. You don’t have to interact with your feelings either. You can just feel the feelings that arise. These feelings occur because they are attached to the thoughts within you. If your thoughts want to make you cry or be angry, then allow yourself to feel the sadness or the madness. No one will get hurt and you will not get hurt. Even though you think you are getting hurt, you aren’t when you are in the room all by yourself. You are safe. These feelings didn’t get a chance to express themselves and so the body knows how to emotionally detox itself by helping you release these feelings. It’s no different than taking out the rubbish. You don’t want to keep physical rubbish in your home. Unpleasant feelings that are not helpful any more are rubbish too. So allow your body to help you take out the emotional rubbish you’ve kept inside for a length of time. The longer you’ve suppressed your feelings associated with a particular memory, the more it stinks to feel them. The good news is that when you do it properly the ‘stink’ will diminish away in seconds to minutes! Your body is that efficient. Afterwards, the feeling of emptiness is a space for you to fill in with new or old enjoyable memories. You can also get back to living by rewarding yourself with a pleasurable activity, such as a hobby or spending time with your pet.
*(You can also do something else about the feelings that you don’t like or don’t want to feel. You will find an example exercise at the bottom of this article and in many other articles that will follow in this section. This example exercise will prove to you that your thoughts evoke feelings and you can change your feelings by changing your thoughts.)
You are not your thoughts. You are a unique person with a unique design of intelligence, gifts and talents. How about spending time alone to exercise those inherited traits? If you don’t have any emotional detoxing to do, then how about spending time alone as an opportunity for natural self-expression through writing, singing, dancing, painting, building, etc. You get to be real. You don’t have to behave or talk a certain way. You don’t have to reserve your opinions on any subject or about any person either. Best of all, natural self-expression happens through the act of creative communication through the arts and creating new ideas and solutions. This quality time out, or I should say, ‘time in’, gives you the best quality attention you could ever possibly have and wish for, and gets you truly living in the moment. You give yourself undivided attention.
So, back to the question: Are you afraid to spend time alone? You shouldn’t be afraid because that is the time you get to fully be yourself. You can be you. When you are you, you are fulfilling your purpose and can achieve enriching life experiences and have satisfying relationships with other people. Time with yourself is essential as it is an opportunity for a pleasant discovery of your abilities to make yourself happier, healthier and more fulfilled.
Please share your thoughts and experiences about how you use your time with yourself to get happier, healthier and more fulfilled in the comments section below. You can pose questions and acknowledge your challenges too. Thank you.
* ‘Mug full of feelings’ exercise
To experience how easy it is to control and change your feelings please try the following exercise. Take a mug from your kitchen cupboard and put it on the table in front of you. Look at it. It’s just a plain mug. You neither like it nor dislike it. You don’t feel anything when you look at it, right? Now please imagine that you got this mug from your dearest friend or your favourite person. What do you feel now? I presume it’s some kind of warm feeling that perhaps even makes you smile internally. Now please imagine that a bad boss or a person you really dislike gave you this mug. What do you feel now? It’s definitely different than the previous time. I don’t suppose you like the mug that much right now. Now think about this mug as something really terrifying and dangerous, like radioactive or perhaps containing something harmful, like acid. What do you feel now? Try to allow yourself to feel different emotions towards the mug by running different imaginary scenarios connected with the mug. Try sympathy, sadness, joy etc. Can you see now how in a few short moments you made yourself feel several different emotions? You did it all with the change of your thoughts and towards an inanimate object!