In his philosophical text Pensées, French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote: “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.” Pascal wrote this in 1670! Already then did humans contemplate the ills of boredom. And this was way, way before any of the modern distractions of today were invented.
I think about this quote a lot, probably for that exact reason. It appears as though since the dawn of society, people have faced the challenge of spending quiet time with themselves. They may not have had television and smartphones in the 17th century, but they had books and card games and other activities to divert themselves. The issue appears to be, then as now, that mindless distractions make us miserable. We aren’t satisfied with what we have and crave more: more action, more entertainment, more numbing of the senses.
Many people avoid being alone because they’re afraid of what they might discover. Spending time in your own head is a tricky thing. We are always warned against thinking too much — overthinking the little worries. We are scared to face the things that aren’t so pleasant about our lives: financial troubles, unhappiness in a relationship or a career, fears about the future and where it all might lead. It’s easier to just switch on the television and delay those important questions for another day.
But clearly, not tackling those questions doesn’t solve them. They persist day after day. We avoid being alone to prolong the confrontation with ourselves. We go out, we party, we watch countless videos on Youtube or scroll for hours through social media. We talk on the phone or text people, read dumb things on the internet and seek out other mindless, fruitless distractions.
You are the person you spend the most time with. You are in a committed, unbreakable relationship with yourself. You can cheat and lie to yourself by trying to please others or to become more like somebody else, which is ultimately impossible. Or you can finally realise that this is who you are, and you commit yourself to helping yourself grow. You invite yourself out for coffee and ask yourself what you’re into, what makes you smile, what makes you feel good or bad. You go for a walk and learn more about your own past, what shaped you and made you into who you are today. You take a bath and open up about your dreams and aspirations. You show up for yourself and build trust over time. You will feel comfortable with yourself, knowing that you understand yourself completely and always have your own back. So that even when life sucks and you feel that you are alone, you are not alone.