October 27, 2020

Why I can't be lonely

I read a really interesting article this morning.  It discussed a study which concluded that highly intelligent people prefer to be alone.  I agree with this and am fascinated that a study was actually conducted.  Personally, I have always preferred my own company.  I never considered that this had anything to do with intelligence though.  I just chalked it up to being an introvert and didn’t think about it beyond that.  However, on reflection since reading this article, there may be some validity to the study and its conclusions.   

The article states, “Highly intelligent people…use solitude as a way to reset themselves after socializing in highly stressful…environments.”  Only in solitude do I generally find the quiet that I need.  This was part of the problem in my first marriage:  my ex-husband could not handle silence and so constantly talked to fill it.  I found it to be fairly exhausting.  Now some people may be thinking, “but you listen to music all the time” and they’re right, but it’s different.  Music can be non-intrusive background sound.  When someone is speaking though, there is an expectation that you actually listen and respond, even if it’s inane noise. 

With intelligent people, particularly highly intelligent people, the mind works at warp speed.  For me personally, for example, I can read a book and watch a television show at the same time.  Or I can be reading a book while processing some complex computations.  It’s kind of like going through a long test booklet, where you fill in the answers to those quick and easy questions first and come back for the harder ones later.  But in my case, my mind can be working on one of those harder questions at the same time as I’m answering the quick and easy ones.  It really, truly is like having a browser with 11,845 tabs open.  I’m sure I’m not unique in this. 

Later in the article it says, “Just because someone likes to be alone doesn’t mean they’re lonely.”  I have said this so many times.  Fortunately, my husband is one of the few people who can appreciate that I need that alone time on a regular basis.  He is also pretty comfortable with silence. 

The dictionary defines lonely as “sad because one has no friends or company”.  Alone is defined as “having no one else present”.  The difference is (i) when you’re lonely you’re sad and without friends; and (ii) when you’re alone you simply don’t have anyone around at the moment.   The conclusion to be drawn is that for some people, being alone causes the feeling of loneliness.  For people who crave that alone time, they don’t feel lonely because they simply can’t.  If loneliness is a result of being alone for some people, then for those who seek to achieve aloneness “loneliness” simply does not exist. 

In the end, I figure for those of us who seek to be alone, the phrase “go big or go home” is an invitation we should accept and leave.

You can find the article here:  https://bit.ly/34xXvNR