Saturday, September 19, 2009


What is the difference
solitude and loneliness?
Both afford us time
with the gates shut.

Both ignore the noise
from without
 offer an opportunity
to sit, to think, to be

Discoveries there are made,
not the least of which
can be the rich, sweet
known as

if we are wise,
self born of solitude or loneliness 
can open the gates
to greet and gift the world

Bonnie Zieman

Would you describe yourself as an introvert or an extrovert?  Regardless of which 'category' you choose, have you ever experienced a period of loneliness?  How did it affect you?  Would you agree with the words of Hermann Hesse in the above quotation - that loneliness can serve a beneficial purpose?

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  1. I think of myself as a friendly optomistic introvert...a little quiet and on the shy side...but I am wonderful at seeing and listening to myself and others...I have never experienced being lonely...I have missed people...especially my mother...but I am not lonely...I take walks alone...I can be by myself for extended periods and still am not lonely...just phsically alone...I like my quiet solitude time.

  2. Wanda: Quiet, solitary time is precious to me too, and I would describe myself also as a friendly, active-listening, introvert. Even though I fall more on the introverted side of the scale, I like to laugh and have a good time -so people usually are surprised to hear how I classify myself.

    Thanks Wanda. You are also very authentic, because all the ways that you describe yourself come through on your blog.

  3. Introvert, extrovert, I'm both, at different times. I go nuts if I don't have regular "intro" time, whereas some time can go by without me missing the extro. It's so delicious to have time to catch up inside. Recharges the batteries.
    Balance is, of course, ideal. Solitude and loneliness aren't the same, and for me, the term solitude seems a better description of your poem's evocation.
    Loneliness has the added quality of not feeling oneself as adequate company. There's pain and deprivation in it, a way of not being able to open the gates and join others. Yet, there's great benefit in staying with the pain long enough to learn what it is trying to teach us. I think that's what Hesse's quote is about, and I agree with that. There can be a lot of numbing-out and running away to avoid the message. Not good.
    As I reflect, the loneliest times have been when I've been with others and have felt unseen, unheard, unmet, unmatched. The deprivation is greatest when I can't find how to be true to self and still be with others.
    Thanks for a fine message on a solitary Saturday night. Alone, but not lonely ;)

  4. Loon: Thank you for so many insightful thoughts. I agree loneliness and solitude are not the same. I think that what Hesse might be suggesting is that some people avoid solitude and get caught up in continual distractions. It is only when loneliness is imposed upon them in some way or another, that they are forced to experience solitude - and then find the treasure within - self. So while loneliness can be full of pain - it can be the 'conduit' to a productive encounter with self.

    Oh, I so agree about the occasional bind of how to be with others and still be true to self - when to just remove yourself and when to disclose.

    Please come back again - enjoyed your participation here!

  5. Oh..what a thought provoking post! I am a balance of both (at least I like to THINK I am). I had a friend once tell me that I was very hard to get to know...I rarely "let people in" was the actual phrase used. She had said that I am always outwardly open to anything and anyone, but the inward shell was one that I guarded. Now with that observation, one would find that I was lonely although I can not really recall a time of ever feeling lonely. So I would have to agree with the Hesse quote. To me, one needs to know the true self to be able to not be lonely.
    You always pull me into another realm and I love it, Bonnie!

  6. Alicia: I don't think your friend's comment indicates you are lonely - to me it indicates you are more of an introvert - they are not necessarily synonymous. Perhaps my post is misleading that way.

    I just hoped to explore loneliness, solitude and introversion a bit - but one does not = the other. And I wondered if anyone who did experience some lonely periods in their life, found that they got to know themself better because of it.

    Thanks for your interesting observations.

  7. After reading Loon's comments, I agreed that my text was somewhat confusing and have edited it to express more clearly my feelings and intent. Thanks Loon.

  8. I am an extrovert, but I like my alone time, too. The times I feel lonely is when we've been on the road for a long time and I haven't seen my family or friends in months. Then I just want something "familiar", you know? Either I get quieter to my husband, or crabbier.

  9. Hi Bonnie

    One of the big differences between Solitude and loneliness to me seems to be the matter of it a choice or is it imposed - is it circumstantial...

    Loneliness can occur in a crowd or a family surrounded in noise and by activity. Loneliness and inner refection are not necessarily mutually exclusive...
    Loneliness often implies isolation, deprivation, despair, lack or loss of connection
    and can occur equally well within groups as in a place of solitude.

    Solitude implies to me a choice to remove myself from the hustle and bustle of the world, from the day's activities to reacquaint myself with myself - to be nourished and replenished.

    I find solitude absolutely essential in my life and have a high level of need for it daily. I function very well when I am's my preference... and that's because I am an introvert, who can be warm and inclusive, and enjoy company but only at times...

    Having said that I also know loneliness quite well. When my children were all young and I had no family in Australia to be a support or a offer help, to lend an ear or an arm, I felt very lonely at times.
    I have also felt lonely in an intellectual way when I needed some mental stimulation, creative encouragement and support that I don't necessarily have because I am a bit of a recluse...

    So the choice to enjoy solitude can have both positive and negative repercussions...

    I think there are many different types of loneliness but back to your quote, I think Hesse is suggesting that sometimes if we avoid spending time on our inner worlds a period of loneliness may help to stimulate a quest for self discovery...

    Thanks for the platform for some contemplation...

    Happy days

  10. I have a very outgoing nature, usually with a wide girn on my face. So, when I choose solitude people often ask me if there's anytihng wrong. But no, there's nothing wrong, I just ened itme to charge up my batteries. Brilliant post and quote.

    Greetings from London.

  11. I am fully an extrovert and find it hard to be fully silent with myself. Seems I am always seeking input in some way, whether it's music, blog time, or reading, when I am alone. I don't often find myself feeling "lonely" per se, and don't seek time to be by myself much at all. Yet, I am able to have "think time" even when my mind is engaged. Does that make sense? :c)

  12. hello bonnie - in my work as a teacher, there's a degree of stage-presence necessitated by the simple fact that student engagement is often a feature of the sales pitch with which the material is presented. as a teacher i use the role of extrovert when necessary. similarly, in social circumstances that are being played out close to the surface, the extrovert is given free reign. i value introversion as a tool to give myself permission to be in solitude. solitude being a more purposeful state than loneliness in terms of it providing a benefit that goes beyond the emotional experiencing of aloneness. thanks for sharing this thought-provoking quote. steven

  13. Pat: So are you saying that when you get lonely you become more introverted?

  14. Delwyn: An interesting exploration of the topic!
    I have had similar experiences and have a similar take on the two, loneliness and solitude.

    Loneliness can either lead us deeper into ourselves as Hesse suggests or outward to put a bandaid on the difficult feelings it brings. I think it also spins some down into self-pity which is not a healthy place to be.

    Thanks Delwyn - you expand the topic, nudge it further and add your insights. I love that!

  15. Cuban: Yes. We need to be clear here. Just because one enjoys solitude at times, does not mean they are an introvert. Extroverts appreciate the value of solitude as well! Thanks for articulating that Cuban.

  16. Jayne: Hi there happy extrovert. As long as it makes sense for you - that's what counts.

    Getting too caught up in all the distractions this world has to offer - could lead one away from oneself, from awareness, presence, mindfulness. Balance, as always, is what is needed.

  17. I'm certainly both an introvert and an extrovert but more the latter in so many ways. I have no difficulty entering situations where I don't know anyone and I have no difficulty in introducing myself or being the first to speak in a group setting.

    Lonely? I think everyone have experienced loneliness at some point in their life. For me it was at a time when I was going through a lot of trauma and I was in my teens. I wasn't sure who I could talk to, if anyone would care or listen and I felt isolated. I worked through that because the loneliness became a solitude of deep introspection and change. It brought me to a new understanding.

  18. Hey Steven: Such good points. We do have the capacity to 'use' both at our guise. That happens when one understands these are roles that we assume - and we can choose, as you say, to don the extrovert role or style - if it suits the situation. Psychologists would call this - psuedo-extroversion. That is not to suggest at all that it is false - but that it is not our default position - and when called for we can assume the role. Assagioli would have called it being the master of our sub-personalities.

    What no one has mentionned is that sometimes when we are experiencing loneliness, it is a deep longing for an authentic experience of self. Loneliness is not always a longing for the presence of others - it truly can be a signal that we are alienated from self. I imagine that is the deepest form of loneliness.

  19. Sherry Lee: I think what you describe is exactly what Hesse is suggesting. Loneliness "can become a deep solitude which leads to understanding". Thank you!!!

  20. California Girl: I love the Channing quote on my sidebar too. I just resonate with every syllable!

  21. I am a natural introvert who has evolved a pretty sophisticated set of social tools, and can now pass for an extrovert with no problem whatsoever.

    I have learned to love my extroversial side and sometimes have to work to keep it in check. Sometimes have to remember to give my introversial side the quiet time it needs.

  22. Yes, I guess I am. At least towards my husband!

  23. I am an introvert and an extrovert, depending on the surroundings and occasion.

    This post is very timely for me. I have always enjoyed spending time alone in solitude, and never feel lonely during these wonderful, introspective times.

    There have been times, like yesterday at a wedding for one of my in-laws, where I felt incredibly lonely in the midst of over 200 people.

    But yesterday this loneliness felt different, because as I sat there and watched everyone, I was more convinced than ever that I'm on the right path for me. The materialistic things they care about, strive for, and brag about are not important to me. I have to be true to myself, because it's the only way I can live in peace with myself. I think I experienced exactly what Hesse wrote about.

    I was once one of them, valuing the same superficial things. But I have grown into the true me, and I'm never going back.

    I re-read the terrific Channing quote on your sidebar several times just now. That is how I feel, and that is how I live my life now.

    Thanks for this wonderful post! It came at just the right time for me.

  24. Bonnie, I'm somewhere in between introvert and extrovert. Though I work alone as a writer, which gives me solitude, sometimes it's too much solitude. I totally admit to loneliness now and then, usually when I'm longing to be in the big world outside of my little writing place. But loneliness as an action verb? No, for me, loneliness feels like a waste of precious time, while solitude can be productive time. Your post made that distinction suddenly clearer to me, though. Very interesting.

  25. Barry: I have had the same experience. I know at my core I am more of an introvert - but sometimes the extrovert in me gets out and just has a grand old time. However, the quiet, less exuberant introvert subpersonality always demands its space.

    Isn't it wonderful to have the choice?

  26. Pat: Isn't it great - when we stop and look we find out just how complex and interesting we are!! Our inner states/styles can be driven by the situation . . . Once we learn we can be both, then we can learn how to shift back and forth at will - when we choose.

  27. Angela: What I hear you describing is a situation where you felt alone or apart (lonely as you say) because you were in the midst of a group operating from a different set of values. You were acutely aware of the differences, did not participate in the perhaps materialistic conversations . . . you excluded yourself . . .

    But you knew right away why you felt apart and were/are content with your values and choices. That is such a good feeling, isn't it?

    Happy you like the Channing quote too.

  28. You are so correct, Bonnie. I guess I did exclude myself from my surroundings emotionally. But I find I still feel alone/lonely in this situation, even when I am fully content with my own values. I like to feel a part, not apart in these situations, but it's often not possible and out of my control.

    (P.S. I refer to your post, blog and quotes in my post today. I hope that's OK with you.)

  29. Angela: Yes, it is sometimes difficult to feel alone in a crowd - especially when the crowd is celebrating.

    Thank you for talking about my post today and the Channing poem on my sidebar in your blog - and, of course, for the link.

  30. hello bonnie, i couldn't resist following angela's reference and recommendation. you sound wise.

    lonliness and solitude: sometimes i get it, and sometimes i don't. there's a story i know about the great gods being afraid humankind would learn the secrets of the universe. they held a meeting to brainstorm how to hide those secrets. some suggested on top of the highest mountain, another at the bottom of the deepest sea. then the littlest among them said, "i know! let's hide the secret INSIDE of them. they'll never think to look there!"

    nice to make your acquaintance, bonnie. thank you for the comfort.


  31. kj: Thanks for stopping by. What a great story . . . yes - the gods knew it was an infrequently visited place!!!

    Imagine if the "secrets" of the universe and self are hidden there - no wonder one can feel empty, or lonely if one never goes there!

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  33. I love this part of what you wrote, Bonnie, "Then,
    if we are wise,
    self born of solitude or loneliness
    can open the gates
    to greet and gift the world
    anew." Beautiful and wise words.

    It is all about perspective...I think when we feel lonely it forces us out into the world to heal that need. Solitude is a good is in the quiet spaces that I really discover who I am, what I really want in my life, restores my balance. So I suppose both solitude and loneliness are valuable as they can both bring us to a place of healing. Does that make sense? I hope so.

    Anyway, great post! I LOVE your blog, Bonnie! I have so much fun over here!

  34. I am still thinking whether i'm lonely or not?? I meet a group of people talk to them solve their problem, but can never express my problem and never them solved...... Am I lonely???

  35. Illusion: Only you can truly say whether you are lonely or not. But in terms of the description you give here, it could be the issue is more about taking the risk to disclose or express. The risk of not disclosing, is that you could limit relationships - and then find yourself lonely.

  36. ChicGeek: You present two key words worth applying or considering in every situation:
    perspective & balance. Thank you!


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