Learning to Be
by Carolyn Bushong
When I talk to women about learning to be alone, many
of them say, "But I don't want to learn to be alone. I've spent my whole
life making sure I wouldn't have to be." Women often believe that being
alone means that no one wants to be with them and that they're unloved.
The main reason many women fear being alone is because when we are
alone, our paranoias and insecurities appear. Being with someone else is
like having a fix—we stay so involved with them that we don't have to
deal with our own thoughts and fears. As little girls, we learn to try
very hard to hide from things we're afraid of. When we're afraid of the
dark, we leave the light on; when we're afraid of being yelled at by
dad, mommy covers for us. We are never taught how to, or are expected
to, face fears and overcome them.
Without spending time alone, you cannot feed the soul, stay in tune with
yourself, or learn to face fears. The void that you feel from time to
time will be filled by developing a relationship with yourself and
learning to handle your fears. A sense of spirituality and a feeling of
oneness with the universe will develop as a natural by-product of
creative time alone focused on yourself.
Without time alone, we become confused as to who we are. We feel empty
because we don't have an intimate relationship with ourselves. Then we
feel scattered and unclear when dealing with others because we have no
solid core; therefore, when we're around others constantly, we become
reflections of them. We end up so confused that we don't know who we are
or what we want from someone else. Reflecting our identities off of
others can also be incredibly draining. People often ask me how I have
so much energy and I tell them, "I spend a great deal of time alone
reenergizing myself." Once you take the time alone to know yourself, you
will find that your time alone will give you energy and help you stay
strong and "on track" in your relationships.
You must give up the fantasy that anyone can, or ever will, "be there"
for you totally, and accept yourself as ultimately alone in this world.
Terri Schultz says it best in her book Bittersweet: "Until you know that
you are the most important person in your life, you cannot let anyone
else become important to you without feeling threatened by it."2
You must make a promise that your primary relationship will always be
the one with yourself. Continual peace with yourself must be your
ultimate goal. Staying in touch with your feelings and desires as you
change is the process by which you learn about the "real" you—and book
Gift From the Sea, becoming self-reliant involves learning "how to
remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain
balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center;
how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and
tend to crack the hub of the wheel."
Aloneness is a requirement for facing fears and issues and working them
through. Only when we're alone can we get in touch with our feelings of
insecurity so that we can overcome them. Only when we're in touch with
these insecurities can we become clear about a direct course of action
needed to take charge of our lives.
Alone time can be one of the most positive and creative times in one's
life. It's a time to find and appreciate our own uniqueness, a time to
get in touch with our real feelings without fear of how others will
perceive us, a time to open our senses to the world and really see,
smell, touch, hear, and taste. You will get stronger and stronger, learn
to rely on yourself more and more, and finally fall in love with
Setting Aside Alone Time
Though it may seem difficult, in order to work
through this program it will be necessary for you to set aside this time
alone by making dates with yourself. You won't be able to do these
exercises at the office, at home with family, or in the presence of the
TV or ringing phones. You must have as much uninterrupted time as
possible. You will need to set limits with yourself and others, such as
turning on your answering machine and recording something like, "I'm
working on a project this weekend and won't be answering the phone.
Please leave a message and I'll return your call if it's urgent. Other
calls will be returned next week."
To get to know yourself, you must make this alone time a priority—the
way you would make time for a new man in your life. Instead of trying to
figure out what he would like or what his favorite foods might be, think
about yours. You may have trouble telling a friend, "I can't go skiing
this weekend because I need to spend the weekend alone working on myself
and becoming self-reliant." He or she might think you've lost your mind,
or at least think you're being rude and self-centered. But you will have
to have the courage to go against the grain of approval to be able to
complete this program.
Spending a short time alone now and then won't do it. This must be a
creative, committed endeavor. Limiting the time you have with yourself
will keep you from accomplishing the task. You must have enough time to
allow your mind to wander, to go on an inward journey on an internal
winding staircase of thought. The answers to your life are in there and
only you can find them. No one else!
To some it will seem silly to spend some time alone every week or every
day. It may even seem selfish, especially if you have a husband and
children and/or a job that demand your time. Your instinct will probably
be to feel unjustified in doing this. But finding and spending time
alone is one of the most crucial steps in attaining and maintaining
For more on this topic, see my book
Loving Him Without Losing You.