home - obstacles home - contents - solitude

I consider myself an expert on loneliness, though I don't say that with pride or satisfaction.  That's just the way things have been for me.  Our family moved around constantly while I was young, so I spent a lot of time by myself when I wished I was with others.  Both tendencies followed me into my adult years-- moving a lot and spending a lot of time alone-- so I've had plenty of time to feel loneliness, ponder loneliness, and learn to dislike loneliness a great deal.

I don't regret those times at all.  Through loneliness I've learned the beauty and wealth and necessity of solitude, and I've learned to be able to do many things on my own that many people would love to be able to do.  I'm not bothered at all by sitting alone at a table in a crowded restaurant, and I'm not afraid to leave a negative situation just because I might be alone.  I never allowed myself to be dragged into a negative relationship just because I was afraid of being alone.  I never dread being alone, and I often look forward to it, for I know just how healing it can be.

I didn't marry until I was 38, either, so I had an awful lot of time to learn about loneliness.

Here's much of what I learned.  I can't tell it all because I'm not sure that I'm fully aware of all that I've learned.

My loneliness depends on my perspective.  I can be alone and be lonely, or I can be alone and enjoy the quiet time and the chance I have to reflect, meditate, be introspective.  

When I'm with myself, I can listen to whatever music I want, watch what I want on TV (or turn it off when I want), and eat whatever I feel like eating.  There was a time when I would have traded all of these freedoms for anything, but I also finally reached a point before I met my wife at which I appreciated these freedoms, and did my best to take advantage of them.  I can see being alone as lonely, or I can see being alone as enjoying solitude.  It's up to me.

Loneliness is very real.  It's a very strong feeling that can be very debilitating, and it's difficult to live with.  It affects a person to the depths of his or her being, for in loneliness one sees oneself as being rejected by other people who would rather be with someone else--anyone else, we tell ourselves.  Somehow we're unacceptable, undesirable, unlovable.  We have plenty of time to be alone to tell ourselves all these negative things about ourselves.

And how many people are afraid to leave destructive relationships or marriages because they're afraid of being alone?

In hindsight, one of the most tragic things about my loneliness was that much of it was caused by my fear of rejection.  I've learned when I was moving away or when someone else was leaving that they really wished they could have spent more time with me.  But I never picked up the phone to say "Hey, let's get together" because I was afraid that they would say no.  My loneliness was bad, but it was worse when I was spending time alone after being rejected.  But much of my loneliness, I now know, could have been averted by a simple phone call now and then.  I could have gone hiking, could have gone to movies, could have had more people over for dinner, could have done a lot of things with lots of people.  Instead, I sat home alone.

And by calling someone else, I might even have helped them feel less lonely.

Jesus went to the desert for forty days in order to be alone.  Most of our great spiritual leaders make sure that they have plenty of time in their lives to be alone.  Our time alone is very important to us--if we give it a chance and try to recognize the lessons that it's trying to teach us.  It's up to us, though, to define that time--is it loneliness, or is it solitude?  How we see it, how we treat it, and how we treat ourselves when we're with it make it what it is.

Quotations and passages on Solitude


We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned
that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.

Dorothy Day


Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.

May Sarton

The eternal quest of the individual human being
is to shatter his or her loneliness.

Norman Cousins


Our loneliness is but our fear of life.

Eugene O'Neil

The deepest need of the human being is to overcome our
separateness, to leave the prison of our loneliness.

Erich Fromm

Loneliness is black coffee and late-night television;
solitude is herb tea and soft music.

Pearl Cleage


People who like themselves and realize that they are God's creation,
are never really lonely.  It is only when we lose track of our
own value, and our personal connection with the divine, that we
are desperate for others to distract us from our loss.

Richard Nelson

The secret to overcoming a feeling of loneliness is not going outside
to meet people.  That will only keep you from being alone.  The secret
is going inside yourself, to realize your true kinship with God and
with all the human beings that he created.

Amy Grant

What should young people do with their lives today?  Many things,
obviously.  But the most daring thing is to create stable communities
in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.

Kurt Vonnegut
Palm Sunday


My life is spent in perpetual alternation between two rhythms,
the rhythm of attracting people for fear I may be lonely
and the rhythm of trying to get rid of them
because I know that I am bored.

C.E.M. Joad


quotations - contents - welcome page - obstacles
the people behind the words - our current e-zine - articles and excerpts
Daily Meditations, Year One - Year Two - Year Three - Year Four

Sign up for your free daily spiritual or general quotation
~ ~ Sign up for your free daily meditation


Loneliness is one of the most feared states in modern life.  Perhaps
this fear has come about because so many of us have a vague awareness
of a surging river of loneliness deep inside.  Much of our activity and
busyness is designed to keep that river within its banks.
   Maybe loneliness has received a bad rap in today's world.  Maybe
loneliness is one of the ways our inner being communicates with us,
letting us know that we need to take the time to get back in touch with
ourselves.  Could it be that the emptiness we feel in our solar plexus
(and try so hard to avoid) is a friendly reminder that something
(or someone!) has gone missing--we ourselves!
   When we are lonely, it's usually a signal that we need to spend
some time with ourselves.  The next time you get this signal,
try taking some time alone.

Anne Wilson Schaef

Loneliness is like sitting in an empty room and being aware of the space
around you.  It is a condition of separateness.  Solitude is becoming one
with the space around you.  It is a condition of union.
Loneliness is small, solitude is large.  Loneliness closes in around you;
solitude expands towards the infinite.  Loneliness has its roots in words,
in an internal conversation that nobody answers; solitude has its roots
in the great silence of eternity.
Most people fear being alone because they understand only loneliness.
Their understanding begins at the self, and they are comfortable only
as long as they are at the center of their understanding.  Solitude is
about getting the "I" out of the center of our thoughts so that other parts
of life can be experienced in their fullness.  It is about abandoning the
self as the focus of understanding, and giving ourselves over to
the great flowing fabric of the universe.

Kent Nerburn
Simple Truths

Never fear being alone, because you never are.

Rod McKuen

Loneliness can only truly be conquered
by those who appreciate solitude.


There is no loneliness if one is satisfied with oneself.

Hans-Ulrich Rieker

The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.

Mark Twain

Being alone is a markedly different experience than being lonely.

Clark E. Moustakas


Art thou lonely, O my brother?
Share thy little with another!
Stretch a hand to one unfriended,
And thy loneliness is ended.

John Oxenham

Articles and book excerpts on loneliness:

To Be Long      tom walsh

You try being alone, without any forms of distraction, and you will see how quickly you want to get away from yourself and forget what you are.  That is why this enormous structure of professional amusement, of automated distraction, is so prominent a part of what we call civilization.

If you observe, you will see that people the world over are becoming more and more distracted, increasingly sophisticated and worldly.  The multiplication of pleasures, the innumerable books that are being published, the newspaper pages filled with sporting events--surely, all these indicate that we constantly want to be amused.  Because we are inwardly empty, dull, mediocre, we use our relationships and our social reforms as a means of escaping from ourselves.

I wonder if you have noticed how lonely most people are?  And to escape from loneliness we run to temples, churches, or mosques, we dress up and attend social functions, we watch television, listen to the radio, read, and so on. . . .

If you inquire a little into boredom you will find that the cause of it is loneliness.  It is in order to escape from loneliness that we want to be together, we want to be entertained, to have distractions of every kind:  gurus, religious ceremonies, prayers, or the latest novel.  Being inwardly lonely we become mere spectators in life; and we can be the players only when we understand loneliness and go beyond it.

. . . because beyond it lies the real treasure.

J. Krishnamurti


I remember my grandfather telling me how each of us must live with a
full measure of loneliness that is inescapable, and we must not destroy
ourselves with our passion to escape the aloneness.

Jim Harrison

At the innermost core of all loneliness is a deep and
powerful yearning for union with one's lost self.

Brendan Francis


I began to see that loneliness is neither good nor bad, but a point ofintense
and timeless awareness of the Self, a beginning which initiates totally new
sensitivities and awarenesses, and which results in bringing a person deeply
in touch with his own existence and in touch with others in a fundamental sense.

Clark E. Moustakas



We choose solitude.  We think loneliness chooses us.  People fight loneliness because
they think it is a statement about their self-worth, instead of a choice they have made.
You might be lonely because you've defined only a few unavailable or select individuals
as worthy companions:  your ex-lover or ex-spouse, your adult children, someone who
is dead, or someone of your "class" and accomplishments.
You are lonely because you are a discriminating person.  There are lots of people
available to be with if you are willing to seek them out.  Loneliness doesn't choose you,
you choose loneliness in preference to the alternatives.  There is nothing wrong with your
preference--just recognize it and adapt to the circumstances that result. . . .
The difference between loneliness and solitude is your perception of who you are
alone with and who made the choice.

Jennifer James


Lonely people, in talking to each other can make each other lonelier.

Lillian Hellman


Any decent society must generate a feeling of community.  Community offsets
loneliness.  It gives people a vitally necessary sense of belonging.  Yet today
the institutions on which community depends are crumbling in all the
techno-societies.  The result is a spreading plague of loneliness.

Alvin Toffler


We have some inspiring and motivational books that may interest you.  Our main way of supporting this site is through the sale of books, either physical copies or digital copies for your Amazon Kindle (including the online reader).  All of the money that we earn through them comes back to the site in one way or another.  Just click on the picture to the left to visit our page of books, both fiction and non-fiction!


If  someone listens or stretches out a hand or whispers a word of
encouragement or attempts to understand a lonely person,
extraordinary things begin to happen.

Loretta Firzaris


Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but
from being unable to communicate the things that seem important
to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.

Carl Jung


What we don't let out traps us.  We think, No one else feels this
way, I must be crazy.  So we don't say anything.  And we become
enveloped by a deep loneliness, not knowing where our feelings
come from or what to do with them.  Why do I feel this way?

Sabrina Ward Harrison

Quotations and passages on Solitude

quotations - contents - welcome page - obstacles
the people behind the words - our current e-zine - articles and excerpts
Daily Meditations, Year One - Year Two - Year Three - Year Four

Sign up for your free daily spiritual or general quotation
~ ~ Sign up for your free daily meditation

It is not physical solitude that actually separates one from other people,
not physical isolation, but spiritual isolation.  It is not the desert island
nor the stony wilderness that cuts you from the people you love.  It is
the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which
one wanders lost and a stranger.  When one is a stranger to oneself
then one is estranged from others, too.  If one is out of touch
with oneself, then one cannot touch others.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Gift from the Sea

Loneliness, far from revealing some defect, is proof that your innate
search for connection is intact.  So instead of hiding your loneliness,
bring it into the light.  Honor it.  Treat it.  Heal it.
You'll find that it returns the favor.

Martha Beck


It's important to note that loneliness and being alone are very
different things.  Being alone or inhabiting solitude can be a powerful
and healing thing.  As an introvert, I deeply value alone time, and I
often feel the loneliest when I'm with other people.  In our house,
we call that sense of being disconnected "the lonely feeling."
I can't tell you the number of times I've called Steve from the road
and said, "I've got the lonely feeling."  The cure is normally a quick
chat with him and the kids.  It seems counterintuitive, but Steve
then usually advises, "You may need some time alone in your hotel
room."  To me it's a great cure.  I don't think there's anything
lonelier than being with people and feeling alone.

Brené Brown
Braving the Wilderness


Loneliness is such an omnipotent and painful threat to many persons
that they have little conception of the positive values of solitude, and
even at times are very frightened at the prospect of being alone.  Many
people suffer from “the fear of finding oneself alone,” remarks André
Gide, “and so they don’t find themselves at all.”

Rollo May
Man's Search for Himself



Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.



Explore all of our quotations pages--these links will take you to the first page of each topic, and those pages will contain links to any additional pages on the same topic.

HOME - contents - Daily Meditations - abundance - acceptance - achievement - action - adversity
advertising - aging - ambition- anger - anticipation - anxiety - apathy - appreciation - arrogance
art - attitude - authenticity - awakening - awareness - awe - balance - beauty - being yourself
beliefs - body - brooding - busyness - caring - celebration - challenges -
change - character
charity - children - choices - Christianity - coincidence - commitment - common sense - community
- compassion - competition - complaining - compliments - compromise - confidence
conformity - conscience - contentment - control - cooperation - courage -
creativity - crisis - criticism - cruelty -  death - decisions - desire - determination - disappointment
discipline - discouragement - diversity - doubt - dreams - earth - education - ego - emotions
encouragement - enlightenment - enthusiasm - envy - eternity - ethics - example - exercise
experience - failure - faith - fame - family - fate - fathers - fault-finding - fear - feelings - finances
flowers - forgiveness - freedom - friendship - frustration - fun - the future - garden of life - gardening
generosity - gentleness - giving - goals - God - goodness - grace - gratitude - greatness - greed - grief
growing up - guilt - habit - happiness - hatred - healing - health - heart - helpfulness - home
honesty - hope - hospitality - humility - hurry - ideals - identity - idleness  - idolatry - ignorance
illusion - imagination - impatience - individuality - the inner child - inspiration - integrity - intimacy
introspection - intuition - jealousy - journey of life - joy - judgment - karma - kindness - knowledge
language - laughter - laziness - leadership - learning - letting go - life - listening - loneliness
love - lying - magic - marriage - materialism - meanness - meditation - mindfulness - miracles
mistakes - mistrust - moderation - money - mothers - motivation - music - mystery - nature
negative attitude - now - oneness - open-mindedness - opportunity - optimism - pain - parenting
passion - the past - patience - peace - perfectionism - perseverance - perspective - pessimism
play - poetry - positive thoughts - possessions - potential - poverty - power - praise - prayer
prejudice - pride - principle - problems - progress - prosperity - purpose - reading -recreation
reflection - relationships - religion - reputation - resentment - respect - responsibility - rest
revenge - risk - role models - running - ruts - sadness - safety - seasons of life - self - self-love
self-pity - self-reliance - self-respect selfishness - serving others - shame - silence - simplicity
slowing down - smiles -solitude - sorrow - spirit - stories - strength - stress - stupidity - success
suffering - talent - the tapestry of life - teachers - thoughts - time - today - tolerance - traditions
trees - trust - truth - unfulfilled dreams - values - vanity - virtue - vulnerability - walking - war
wealth - weight issues - wisdom - women - wonder - work - worry - worship - youth - Zen sayings

- summer - fall - winter
Christmas - Thanksgiving - New Year - America
Native American wisdom - The Law of Attraction
obstacles to living life fully - e-zine archives - quotations contents
our most recent e-zine - Great Thinkers - the people behind the words - articles & excerpts