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What We Can Learn From Loners

What We Can Learn From Loners

The life of St. Anthony can leave the impression that solitude is at odds with attachment, but this need not be the case so long as the one is not pitted against the other. True lovers, says the poet RM Rilke, should not only tolerate but “stand guard over” the solitude of the other.

In Solitude: A Return to the Self, the psychiatrist Anthony Storr convincingly argues that:

“The happiest lives are probably those in which neither interpersonal relationships nor impersonal interests are idealized as the only way to salvation. The desire and pursuit of the whole must comprehend both aspects of human nature.”

Be this as it may, not everyone is capable of solitude, and for many people, aloneness will never amount to anything more than bitter loneliness. Younger people often find aloneness difficult, while older people are more likely, or less unlikely, to seek it out. 

So much suggests that solitude, the joy of being alone, stems from, as well as promotes, a state of maturity and inner richness.

For more, visit Neel Burton’s website now.


McPherson M (2006), Social isolation in America: Changes in core discussion networks over two decades. American Sociological Review 71 (3), 353–75.

F Nietzsche (1886), Beyond Good and Evil, Ch 2, 49. Trans. Helen Zimmern.

F Nietzsche (1881), The Dawn of Day, 491. Trans. John McFarland Kennedy.

RM Rilke (1902), Letter to Paula Modersohn-Becker dated February 12, 1902. Trans. Jane Bannard Greene and MD Herter Norton.
A Storr (1988), Solitude, p202. Flamingo.

Written By Neel Burton
Originally Appeared In Psychology Today
What Learn From Loners pin
What We Can Learn From Loners
What We Can Learn From Loners PIN
What We Can Learn From Loners
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Dr Neel Burton

Dr. Neel Burton is a psychiatrist, philosopher, writer, and wine-lover who lives and teaches in Oxford. He is the recipient of the Society of Authors Richard Asher Prize, the British Medical Association Young Authors' Award, and the Medical Journalists' Association Open Book Award.View Author posts