B1 Intermediate UK 38 Folder Collection
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It's not hard to understand the fear of being alone: the empty apartment after work,
the eerieness of Sunday afternoons, the sense of exclusion during the holidays… We know
the agonies of being on our own very well. What is far less well understood,
is the enormously high price exacted on the other
side of the equation. The fear of being alone is perhaps
responsible for more unhappy relationships, more throttling of psychological development
and more pent up misery than almost any other: it is – by any reckoning
– one of the single greatest contributors to human misery and the driver of some of
our weightiest and most unfortunate decisions. If only we were able to get the costs of what
is for the most part a simple misapprehension clear in our minds, we might save ourselves
a substantial portion of our lives.
We can pick out at least seven unnecessary penalties:
– For a start, and most obviously, people who are afraid of being alone make some very
wrong choices around the company they keep. They have no option but to privilege any one
over the appropriate one.
They don't have the
strength to be able to hold out – as one must – for the 20th or 200th candidate.
The only souls with any realistic chance of ending up with the partner they deserve are
those who have properly reconciled themselves to the prospect of never being with anyone
at all. – Being with not quite the right person
sounds almost bearable but extended over time, like a proverbial pebble in a shoe, 'slightly
wrong' ends up indistinguishable from 'entirely horrific'. No nagging doubt one has ever
entertained on a wedding day will fail, with the addition of several years, to become a
cause for mind-shattering despair. Every beautiful location we travel to together will be ruined,
every promising moment will be trampled upon, every success will be compromised. What may
begin as slight fractiousness or tedium winds up as cataclysmic irritation, self-disgust,
sexual misery, broken finances and the kind of excruciating loneliness that – ironically
– merely and innocently being 'on our own' would never have the power to generate.
– Furthermore, when terrified of loneliness, we have no strength to argue for our needs
within any relationship. One is always at the mercy of the one who fears loneliness
less. Partners develop an advanced sense of the person who has nowhere else to go. It's
no use stamping our feet after an argument and saying 'we've had enough' when,
in reality, everyone knows that we will never have had enough – so scared are we of having
dinner on our own. – What's worse, after time in the wrong
sort of company, we tend to develop learned helplessness: every reluctance we once had
to be alone grows worse, even as we acquire more experience of what bad company actually
means. In our comfortable but deadening captivity, the wild appears more terrifying still: we
can't now imagine ever knowing how to change the dishwasher fluid alone, walking into a
party by ourselves or taking the initiative to send our nephews birthday presents, so
used have we become to using the other to compensate for our weaknesses. We experience
none of the bracing, but also educative pressures visited upon the single, who have no choice
but to overcome their inhibitions: those brave souls who
have to learn how to garden, go on holidays in the
mountains, endure empty weekends, call up their mother or cook a chicken – and thereby
achieve the resilient competence upon which true social discrimination and liberty rest.
– For those who have too lightly signed away their freedoms, there are sure to be
constant, and searing, reminders of what they have foregone. Every party and every walk
down a busy street will provide evidence of what might have been, all those potentially
fascinating or charming members of humanity they have now forever been disbarred from
getting to know – because they were so unnaturally scared of having a bed to themselves for a
few more years. – It isn't just other people we won't
get to know, it's also ourselves. The constant presence of companions stops us from making
friends with our own minds, and exploring our feelings and ideas in a way that only
extended stretches of solitude allow. We fail to develop our identities, we grow more like
everyone else. The chatter outside prevents us from being able to follow the feint but
vital dialogue we might otherwise have been able to have with ourselves. We use another
person to distract us whenever any slightly painful or challenging internal matter comes
into view. There ends up being so much we won't ever really feel or understand about
ourselves, so many big questions about our careers and our ultimate purpose that we will
ignore, because there was always someone else on hand to chat to about what to order in
for dinner. – Worst of all, we might not even be actively
miserable after a while. We'll grow used to cosy mediocrity. We won't be curious
or restless. We won't dare – as the single must – to go up to strangers and risk our
pride. We'll stop learning. We'll believe that we've answered our needs completely,
but only on the basis of suppressing our knowledge of what our needs really are. We'll have
ended up in a conspiracy against uncertainty, novelty and the flux of life.
To start to correct everything that stems from this ridiculous fear of being alone,
we should from a young age learn that that being alone never means there is something
wrong with us, just that we are being appropriately patient, until what truly satisfies us shows
up (if it ever does); we have a choice; we have not been punished.
We will never
learn the true promise of community, discover our own interests or hold out for the connections
we deserve until we make genuine peace with the prospect of a life by ourselves.
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The High Price We Pay for Our Fear of Loneliness

38 Folder Collection
Mayu Okuuchi published on January 14, 2020
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