Solitude Paradox: Why Turning Inwards Can Leave You Feeling Stuck

Lady sitting alone on the beach. View from the back.

“It is only when we wrap ourselves in solitude that we can fully embrace the company of our true self” — Esmarilda Dankaert

More often than not, when we feel lost we tend to turn inwards. We isolate as a means to help us better hear our own inner voice — to drown out the noise from outside. This is not only a very intuitive step towards reconnecting with yourself, but also a very necessary one. However, through my work as a psychotherapist, I find that people can often get stuck in this withdrawal phase, and instead of moving towards others again, they stay absorbed with the self. One may say that they have reconnected too strongly with their inner voice.

I believe this powerful reconnection is often driven by a fear of losing the self again. A fear that they will move away from themselves again by prioritising others, not voicing their needs, taking on too much, and allowing too much noise to filter back in. However, when they withdraw inwards, things get quieter and they feel emotionally safe. There is no more pressure to obey to the perceived expectations of others. No more social anxiety. No more perceived judgements. This inner safety feels good, it feels “right” and how they “should” feel. However, just because it feels good, does not mean it is. As with all things in life, when we lean too much into the extremes of things, it backfires. Even though introverted individuals are particularly prone to falling prey to this internal self-absorbed focus, extraverts are not immune! I know of several extraverts, who tend to be curious dreamers and can very easily fall prey to being stuck in their heads. Isolating themselves to spend more time with their dreams, aspirations, and ideas.

Unfortunately, a continuously inward focused state is not a healthy one. Just as the ocean has cycles of ebb and flow, so do we need a rythm of inner ebb and flow. We need our connection with others to help us from getting stuck into a self-focused state. Otherwise, what tends to happen is that we start to seek out more self-insight and self-knowledge from within our isolated state. We read more self-help books, listen to even more self-help podcasts. Yet, we still feel largely the same. We still cannot seem to make progress towards where we want to go. In a way, we are keeping ourselves stuck! When we connect with others, we allow their ideas to inspire us, their progress to motivate us, and their support to encourage us.

So, if you feel stuck at the moment, despite having spent so much time reflecting, self-analysing, and self-developing, then maybe you have turned inwards for too long. Maybe, what will get you unstuck is turning outwards again. Reconnecting with others, to help you better reconnect with yourself. The direction we so badly seek often lies in our connection with others, not the disconnection from them.


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