That Lonely Feeling
“I found my self alone, hoping someone would miss me.”—Cat Stevens, On the Road to Find Out
In 1954, John C. Lilly, an American physician and psychoanalyst began experimenting with sensory deprivation and its effect on the brain. He constructed an isolation tank where an individual floated in a salt solution warmed to body temperature, sealed from light and sound. He discovered that the effects of sensory deprivation were similar to the states reached in deep meditation. After about forty minutes, the brain transitions from beta to alpha brainwaves, then to theta waves. Theta brain waves generally occur right before sleep and just before waking. This theta wave state can last indefinitely, and many have found time in an isolation chamber to aid in creativity and problem solving. An hour in a commercial float tank will set you back about $60. Most describe the experience as one of the most relaxing things they’ve ever done, but they usually struggle with feelings of panic during the early moments of their first float. Complete isolation, it seems, is a bit of a shock to the system.
Solitude is good for the soul; loneliness is not. Solitude is a place to reflect, to evaluate, to dream—and sometimes, a place to mourn. Loneliness is a paralyzing mental state. Pervasive loneliness is a mental illness.
Solitude is what you feel when you disconnect. Loneliness is what you feel when you are disconnected. It is possible to experience both these emotions in a crowded room. It is not possible to experience them simultaneously. One you do for yourself, the other is done to you. One is healthy—the other is destructive. One helps you to function more efficiently—the other brings dysfunction.
Find a place of solitude. It’s good for you. But never allow someone to make you feel lonely. Solitude is for the strong—loneliness the weak.
“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”—Mother Teresa
Carey Richard is the author of The Poppy Field Diary available on Kindle or paperback.
“Richard concludes each chapter with haiku-like poems, but his prose also sings lyrically . . . Despite the meditative nature of the narrative, historical action continuously looms in the background—the Soviet collapse, factional warring, the rise of the Taliban, and the similarly timed attacks on the World Trade Center and mujahedeen leader Ahmad Shah Massoud.”
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