Ammar Mian

Solitude - Anthony Storr

The Significance of Human Relationships

Anxiety about relationships has replaced anxieties about the unpredictability and precariousness of the world (loc 135)

Psychoanalysis can purge us of emotional blocks or blind spots that prevent us from having fulfilling interpersonal relationships (loc 146)

Psychoanalysis works on our nervous system (and hence our mental apparatus) to reduce the uncontrollable intensity of instinctual impulses (loc 212)

The nervous system when deconditioned of certain expectations can reserve its instinctive reactions to respond to actual danger

Many of our neuroses emerge from early emotional experience within the family. Separation anxiety manifests as protest, despair, and detachment (loc 247, 267)

The positive of early emotional experience is it gives us a chance to learn and mature from healthy, fulfilling contact with adults

Despite the difficulties of trauma and pain, we are extraordinarily resilient and can re-adapt to healthy relationships with ourselves and others (loc 281)

Thus, intimate attachments are one of many possible hubs that life revolves around, not necessarily the only hub (loc 373)

The Capacity to be Alone

In both subhuman primates and in humans, secure attachment to mother encourages exploratory behavior (loc 382)

Clingy behavior points to a child who has no confidence that mother will return (loc 424)

Proximity to other children helps a child learn that his own difficulties are often shared by others (loc 387)

Studies have found that adults struggling with their sexuality often disclose they had unusually isolated childhoods (loc 389)

The capacity to be alone originates in a child being alone in the presence of mother. In this aloneness, the child can discover his personal life (loc 435, 442)

Without this solitude, a child may develop a “false self”, one that is overly compliant and living in ways expected of him (loc 452, 454)

A different form of clingy, insecure behavior can emerge when a child does not learn to express his deepest feelings for fear of being rejected or criticized (loc 478)

The capacity to be alone allows the brain to function at its best, allows for reduced stress, better sleep, deeper imagination, and intimacy with deep needs and feelings (loc 582)

The Uses of Solitude

Coming to terms with loss is difficult, painful, and a largely solitary process. Bereavement is a profoundly traumatic event and should not be distracted from (loc 612, 625)

However, nowadays the therapeutic emphasis is on group participation, keeping the patient occupied and distracted with one another and doctors and nurses (loc 659)

Enforced Solitude

After prolonged periods of isolation, many fear resuming social relationships and dare not seek intimacy (loc 838)

Imprisonment and enforced sensory deprivation can cause debilitating mental illness and disruption. But history also shows a lineage of those thrown into solitude like Edith Bone (jail), Dostoevsky (jail), Goya (deafness), Beethoven (deafness) who converted their condition into transcendent imagination (loc 895, 953, 976, 1068)

The Hunger of Imagination

If and when an environment changes, the animal governed by pre-programmed patterns is now at a disadvantage. It cannot adapt easily to change (loc 1123)

The price of flexibility and imagination is that happiness -- aka perfect adaptation to current environment + fulfillment of all needs -- is only briefly experienced. What does that say about happiness as a goal, then? (loc 1130)

Imagination is a natural byproduct of the secure child who begins exhibiting interest in toys (loc 1250)

Even artists can exhibit insecurity and inflexibility. Their work becomes imbued with so much importance that it is no longer playful for them (loc 1271)

The Significance of the Individual

Hobbies and interests often most clearly define one’s individuality. To discover what really interests a person is to be well on the way to understanding them (loc 1287)

Even those in the healthiest of relationships have something other than relationships to complete their fulfillment (loc 1319)

Those who are not too dependent on or closely involved with others find it easier to ignore convention. Originality implies the boldness to go beyond accepted norms (loc 1426)

Even the most intimate relationship is bound to have flaws, and it is often people who do not accept this that end up unhappier than necessary + more likely to abandon each other (loc 1469)

Solitude and Temperament

The child who has not formed secure bonds of trust and acceptance will later react to others via placation or avoidance strategies (loc 1646)

Many parents impress upon their children that their love/acceptance is contingent on impossibly high standards of good behavior (loc 1655)

These children may grow up to repress their “authentic self” and develop a stance of placation towards life. Only do what will be met by everyone’s approval. Love exists, but it may not last (loc 1665, 1738)

Many other parents isolated or ignored their children when they required protection/help, impressing on them that you cannot rely, depend, or trust others. They doubt the existence of love (loc 1709, 1738)

These children may grow up stuck in avoidance patterns of approaching, avoiding, and raging at those they wish to get close with (loc 1733)

Separation, Isolation, and the Growth of Imagination

Isolated children often invent imaginary companions or stories (loc 1828)

Feeling rejected often leads to watchfulness, to always be wary of the motives of people who may be setting them up for pain (loc 1854)

Many examples of writers whose experiences with isolation as children informed their adult works: Kipling, Saki, Wodehouse, Trollope all were fond of animals, children, and bucolic spirits who expressed their emotions and motives very clearly and authentically (loc 1957, 1961, 2000, 2034)

Bereavement, Depression and Repair

It has been shown that people who feel their lives are mainly controlled by external forces suffer more from illness than those with a strong sense of agency over their lives (loc 2166)

Those who can turn to creative work have an advantage over those whose self-esteem relies entirely upon close relationships (loc 2182)

The extraverted person who loses himself in others can recover in solitude (loc 2439)

The introverted person impaired by early separation and isolation can find solace in the use of imagination (loc 2439)

The Search of Coherence

Some people are so disturbed when relationships go wrong because for them the meaning of life is bound up in intimate relationships. When relationships fall apart, so do they (loc 2480)

Some people say only in solitude do they feel most themselves, their most creative selves. They may have a tough time maintaining relationships, which become impositions on their lives (loc 2493, 2653)

The deepest anxiety one can experience is “disintegration anxiety” felt by individuals who have not built up a strong, coherent personality due to lack of parental maturity or empathy. This anxiety sometimes manifests as obsessive compulsive drives towards people, things, ideas, art (loc 2524, 2771)

The Third Period

In old age, there is a tendency to turn from empathy towards abstraction; to be less involved in life’s dramas, more concerned with life’s patterns (loc 2847)

First period of artistry: the capacity for productive reaction against one’s training. To use one’s imagination to avoid destructive instincts. The courage to dispense with aspects of the past that are irrelevant to himself (loc 2855)

Second period: the manifestation of both mastery and individuality, being able to pursue one’s individual expression and some objective standard without disintegrating or falling apart (loc 2855)

Third period: the view of belonging to the magnificent pattern and tapestry of individuals struggling to belong and to be free

The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole

Jung’s self analysis of life -- The young individual emancipates himself from his original family to establish himself in the world. The middle aged individual discovers and expresses his own uniqueness as an individual. Personality to Jung was “the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being” (loc 322)

Men become neurotic in mid-life because they have been false to themselves for too long (loc 3226)

In solitude, we can discover our personality, emancipate ourselves from our patterned reactions, and come in contact with our authentic, imaginative, creative selves (loc 3396)

Such a pursuit leaves us seeking a perpetual balance -- we cannot ignore relationships but we also cannot ignore ourselves. The desire and pursuit of the whole must comprehend both aspects of human nature (loc 3405)