The Terror of Being Alone



We are unnecessarily scared of being on our own because we fail to keep in mind the distinction between solitude (a fine condition) and loneliness (a pain). We need to recover a sense of the good sides of being by ourselves – in order to be able to make the right choices around friendship and love.
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“In the privacy of our minds, one thought – highly shameful by nature – may haunt us as we evaluate whether to stay in or leave an unsatisfactory relationship: what if we were to end things and end up in a place of appalling loneliness?

We’re meant to be above such pragmatic worries. Only cowards and reprobates would mind a few weekends (or decades) by themselves. We’ve heard of those books that sing the praises of solitude (the divorcee who relocated to a solitary hut on a bare Scottish island; the one who went sailing around the world in a dinghy). But we can admit that we’re not naturals at this sort of thing: there have been empty days when we almost lost our minds. There was one trip that we took on our own years back that was, behind the scenes, a psychological catastrophe. We’re not really in a position to wave away the dangers of being left alone on our rock…”

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CREDITS

Produced in collaboration with:

Tomas Espaillat
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Title animation produced in collaboration with

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34 thoughts on “The Terror of Being Alone”

  1. Sorry, but I dont like this at all. It's always the same thing. People who are/feel alone are accused of not liking themselves and it's all just in their own mind. Or there is this notion of how great solitude is… (not saying it wouldnt be true for a few). But, in general, human beings are social creatures by nature. Some need more company, some need less. But it is among our most basic needs. I don't know what your understanding of being alone is. It's not about being alone for a certain amount of time. Or being able to fill days all by yourself… that is all managable.
    But don't tell me you'd be able to live decades or even an entire life without ANY connection and any (proper) contact to other human beings.
    I'm an introvert, too. I need downtime from people and time alone. But that doesn't mean I can live alone for my whole life. And yes a lot of relationships dont work out or are not as perfectly happy as you might imagine. But still they are social. You are still being social. fights and arguments are also social activities (I am not talking about extreme cases). And just because there is also crisis there is also times of happiness (even if it is just in the beginning). there is good and bad. But I'd take all the pain any day if I can get the love with it, too. Because we need it. I think a lot of people giving advice like this have never TRULY been alone. And what you mean by choose freely? for some of us there is no choice.

  2. I feel so moved by this precious video. Thank you very much for it. It's always a good time to see such a great amount of wisdom and compassion.

  3. My first boyfriend broke up with me when quarantine began. I was the loneliest I had been in that relationship because I kept comparing my solitude to his friends. While he was watching movies with his friends, I'd be alone in bed waiting for another text from him. I forgot that I actually enjoy my own company because it was a sort of forced solitude. Comparison is what makes being alone feel lonely.

  4. All that you will ever need in life is inside you. So you better make sure you have a great relationship with yourself. Make sure you love yourself, take care of yourself and stop relying on other people for your happiness.

  5. I've been single most my life. Ideally I'd like to find someone to settle down with soon. I've recently started dating and it is a constant war with myself. I love and hate being single at times, a lot of the men I date I end up rejecting because I realise at some point in the relationship that I'd rather be single than commit to them, but then pretty soon I inevitably become lonely again and the vicious cycle continues. I tell myself it is until I find the right man, a man who doesn't make me miss being single so much. But then I wonder if he even exists; am I being too fussy? or maybe I've been single for too long that I've become cold or unable to share my life with anyone else.

  6. I love how tsol manages to make everyone feel better about almost anything by unfolding the pointlesness of human existence so very eloquently. Yes, we might feel separated from other humans in a highly individualistic, competitive system constantly – however, there is a presence we often forget about: a whole net of consciousness. by walking down the street, birds will notice us and tell each other about our existence, trees will communicate our humanness to each other by releasing messenger substances into the air, the human body contains trillions of microorganisms. we are never alone, we are relationship. maybe not so pointless after all…

  7. hello „The School of Life“ i‘m from Germany and have a Presentation about Otto from Bismarck – i wanted to use „Machiavellis advise for nice guys“ as a material for my Presentation. It would be very nice if you add an german subtitle because not everyone likes videos in english. I really hope you read this 🙂 – the german translation has been send!

  8. Not sure or anyone will care enough to read this but : I've been in relationships from age 13-19 without any moment single. I also had a big 'friend' group for many years. After the last breakup at 19, I felt horrible because I always had someone to lean on, and I thought I needed to be in a romantic relationship to be happy. I know it sounds stupid because it's such a young age, but it made me realise that wasn't right and I had to do some serious work on myself before going in another relationship. So that's what I did… in that process I lost many friends too because they were not real friends, I realised I was around them to not feel alone instead of being around them cuz i actually liked them as a person. So now, almost 3 years later I have one friend left (who i barely see) and my mum. But, I've never felt happier and at peace with myself than ever before. So the next time, I won't let people into my life because I don't want to feel alone, but because I actually appreciate them as a person and value the time we'll spend together. It's a process, I definitely spend many sad months feeling lonely in my room, but all I can say for now is that this 'alone' time for the past couple of years has really helped me to find and understand myself way more than when I had people around me all the time. If anyone had a similar experience or wants to respond to this, please go ahead I'd love to read it! Also a big thank you to this channel because you helped me so much on this journey, and still do. Wishing you all good health & happiness!

    Edit: Being 8 minutes in the video I'd like to add that in this process I have deleted most social media accounts, because it made me compare my life to others. "Oh look at her and her boyfriend they're so happy together and I'm super lonely" , "oh he/she went on a tropical vacation while i'm spending my summer working to help my mum financially" , "damn he/she graduated uni already while i'm still here because I failed a year" etc etc. It only added to my sadness and feeling like I was failing at life on every field. Once I deleted social media, i didn't get confronted with it so much and got to work on myself, realise that I'm doing the best I can to live on this weird planet, and that there's no need to compare my journey to others. I just wanted to add this part because it was a huge part in my self discovery (idk how else to call it) process

  9. I started being alone in high school for a month and eating lunch alone
    Never in my life, I felt more independent and confident
    I started making good friends after that and never relied on anyone from that date

  10. Every negative feeling is a kind of widrawl symptom from the loss of a feeling that pleased our mind. But that widrawl symptom has it's own limits of existence. Once you keep going down the road and have no widrawl symptom left then you'll be satisfied and happy without any outside source.

  11. my concern is that some people like my partner, inspire me to shower, cook and go out. If I were living on my own, I'd die out of sadness. Also, the scientific facts regarding loneliness can kill you earlier. Yet I just want to be surrounded by those who are genuine interested in me.

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