While some people thrive on interaction, others are quite content with solitude. They don’t often feel the need to be around many other people, they don’t place as much stock in constant conversation and they are completely comfortable being alone with their thoughts. Though this can be completely healthy, there is a particular brand of solitude that can actually be quite dangerous.
Loneliness, warns U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, is a deeper type of solitude that carries with it an element of danger, the danger of becoming too comfortable in it to recognize its darkness. And when you do begin to see a change taking place within yourself, you’re simply too familiar with the “lonely” label that you shrug it off.
“That’s the danger with loneliness: You kind of begin to accept a particular kind of solitude… You know this place already, you’re fine with it,” he says. “You ‘just happen to be a lonely person’… You take on this burgundy-colored cloak and you accept it.”
If you’re wondering what the problem is with accepting loneliness, Herrera answers: plenty.
“The problem is that it really isn’t you. The problem is that there is no joy there. The problem is that you’re kind of like a ghost,” he says. “You’re just floating through life and invisible.”
Loneliness itself, Herrera explains, isn’t actually the only force driving you to this place. Something else is at work beneath the surface.
“It’s not really loneliness. It’s sadness,” he clarifies. “That’s the heart of loneliness… Sadness got the best of you and has been whispering in your ear for too long.”
To overcome this sadness and loneliness, Herrera say it’s crucial to recognize the truth about this negative feeling and stop fooling yourself about what it can offer.
“The thing to realize about loneliness is that it does not offer joy. There’s no joy there waiting for you at the middle of it or at the end of it,” Herrera says. “That’s the danger of that figure, that ghost-like figure that you’ve accepted as yourself.
“That’s not really you. You’re a volcano of joy,” he continues. “When you embrace that, you’re going to see loneliness dissolve and run so fast away from you, because its enemy is joy.”
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