There are two emotions I don’t do. Loneliness and jealousy. I don’t do jealousy and I don’t do loneliness. And you have no idea how lucky I am to be free from the toxicity of these emotions. I have seen them wreak havoc on people’s live, stripping them of self-worth, inner peace and happiness.
When I was thirty years old my world was disrupted. I ended a relationship with possibly the nicest person on the planet, left a secure but toxic workplace and made a decision I would not live in my home country again. I immigrated to the US without knowing anyone here and I started from scratch. At age 34, I was on par with a high school kid looking for a summer job. That was me. And I didn’t know anyone.
I came to realize relatively quickly that there was no one I could count on, not even for the simplest of things or smallest of courtesies, but my self. At the same time I realized that I was able to meet all my needs. Yes, all of them. I realized through my years of solitude and contemplation that everything you’re looking for, you actually have to generate yourself anyway. I saw lonely people longing for love and I also saw married people being suffocated by their spouses. I saw rich people who were miserable, and homeless people who never stopped smiling. I saw accomplished people who thought they were worthless and worthless accomplishments being touted.
I studied neuroscience and I realized that quite literally everything we feel toward others or ourselves is a product of our own, mental, and therefore, neurological processes. Nobody makes us feel anything, we are the ones making ourselves feel it all. If you feel disconnected and isolated, only you have the power to reconnect and integrate. And in all honesty an external world doesn’t have to rise up to meet your needs, not even then, because you have the power to meet those needs inside you.
In my darkest moments I have somehow still managed to be able to draw strength from the earth and the trees, and from the distant mountains in a way that is not phantasmal, a way that is just as real, if not more, as any human interaction.
I studied and practiced numerous arts of self-regulation, and knowing the history and techniques of so many mind management systems has certainly helped me. I wish this knowledge and these abilities for everyone; they are the surest paths to self-actualization and self-realization.
I learned how to change my moods; how to generate positive emotions; how to numb physical pain; how to increase physical arousal; and even how to take my sense of self off-line and be in a place of inner quietude that is greater than any experience you can imagine. I have seen the part of myself that is invisible and I understand my humanity at both visceral and ethereal levels.
In those years of solitude, I became an astute observer of the mind and a devoted student of consciousness and perception. I started to see the mind as an object distinct and separate from its own claims about reality.
Long periods of social isolation do wreak havoc on the mind — but they don’t need to wreak havoc on you. You do not have to be your mind. You can learn to suffer skilfully.
Hermits and mystics throughout the ages deliberately sought endless hours of isolation (what you may now be thinking of as “loneliness”) for a reason — because they understood that it is a gateway to transcendental knowledge of the world and the self, to altered states of consciousness.
I came to face a mind that was frightening itself, and later learned from my research that social isolation results in the emission of certain neurochemicals that induce feelings of fear and even hallucinations. This is why solitary confinement is a form of punishment, and many a prisoner confined to this punishment will tell you that they start to hallucinate and feel like they’re going to die of fear. It’s something that happens naturally, of its own volition. And it is such a great teacher. It taught me to reject the thoughts and to accept the sensation. Reject the narrative (it’s a lie), accept the emotion. Reject and accept simultaneously. Reject. Accept. Reject. Accept. This is how you train your mind and influence your brain.
In these experiments I also came to understand what fear actually was and how it worked. Fear lives in your thoughts. Isolate the fear to the thoughts and fight it there, it cannot overwhelm once you become clear on this fact. The same thing goes for loneliness. Loneliness is not knowing what to do with solitude, not seeing its gifts. It’s a misunderstanding.
If you’re not a priority to anyone, that’s ok. It’s how things panned out, for whatever reason. Things may stay this way or they may change. Either way, your situation is a gift. The gift of a space big enough for you to gain insights and skills that are far more valuable to you than living a life of continued dependency on a world and people who may or may not show up for you.
Samar Habib is a writer, researcher and scholar who lives in California. You’ll find her sharing what she’s learned in seminars, public lectures, books and online courses. In fact, you can check out more of her lifestyle management hacks by taking her course Quantum Mind: Stop Suffering and Take Back Your Life. You can get in touch with her on drsamarhabib [at] email [dot] com
Originally published at medium.com