Alone with oneself: Solitude and Loneliness

Publication type Article
Status Published
Occupation: PhD student of International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation
Affiliation: National Research University Higher School of Economics
Address: 20 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow 101000, Russian Federation
Occupation: Deputy head of International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation
Affiliation: National Research University Higher School of Economics
Address: 20 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow 101000, Russian Federation
Journal nameChelovek
EditionVolume 30 Issue №3

The relationship between the concepts of solitude and loneliness in religious, philosophical and psychological contexts is discussed. The authors focus on theoretical analysis of solitude as a specific phenomenon. In religious traditions solitude is seen as offering opportunities for thinking in silence, meditation, prayer, appeal to conscience, as helpful to get closer to God, to achieve wisdom and compassion. However, in solitude a person may also experience loneliness, despair, be influenced by self-deception, or become insane due to a prolonged lack of communication with other people. In philosophical and psychological sources, the terms “solitude” and “loneliness” are not consistently defined and are used rather indiscriminately. But in the history of thought it is possible to identify the idea of loneliness and solitude as different phenomena. Barbour help to identify loneliness and solitude as different phenomena. The analysis of these concepts through the lens of psychological theories (psychoanalytic, humanistic, cognitive-behavioral, existential) makes it possible to assert the fit of “solitude” to a separate identity independent from that of “loneliness”. In a cultural-historic and an ontogenetic perspective we see a tendency towards a differentiation of these notions: a mature personality does not tend to suffer from loneliness as much when alone; personality development is associated with increasing acceptance of solitude and discovery of its creative potential. Solitude is a situation of auto-communication that is open to positive and to negative experiences, leads to a development of self-reflection, and offers opportunities for awareness and transformation of one’s inner relations with the world. In turn, loneliness is a negative experience, in which auto-communication is absent or does inhibit a person to realize the desire for relation with oneself, others or the world in general.

Keywordssolitude, loneliness, aloneness, personal development, interdisciplinary research
Publication date24.06.2019
Number of characters35438
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