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Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life

by Lauren Mackler


The following excerpt is taken from the book, SOLEMATE: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life, by Lauren Mackler. It is published by Hay House (April, 2009) and will be available at all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com

Solemate

Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life

Chapter 2

Embracing Your Aloneness

Today, in one out of four American households, someone is living alone.1 In 2005, America reached a milestone. According to the American Community Survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2006, for the first time in history fewer than half of all American households—just shy of 50 percent—consisted of married couples.2 And, for the first time, more American women were living without a spouse than with one.3 This means, on average, Americans now spend half of their adult lives outside of marriage.4 These are major shifts that have been brewing for decades, and yet people’s attitudes about being alone have changed remarkably little during those years.

Aloneness is still associated with a variety of negative emotions. As an example, at the start of every Mastering the Art of Aloneness workshop, I ask participants what they think of when they hear the word “aloneness.” What words and feelings come to mind? I hear the same responses over and over. “Lonely.” “Depressed.” “Unwanted.” “Afraid.” “A loser.” It’s no surprise that most people think of aloneness as a negative state, something to avoid rather than embrace. From early childhood, we’re conditioned to associate aloneness with emotional pain. We’re taught that it’s a condition to pity, something to be ashamed of. That attitude manifests itself in all kinds of ways. Parents become anxious when their children don’t have enough play dates. Teenagers base their self-esteem on how many friends they have. And, all too often, adults measure each other’s well-being according to whether or not someone is married or in a committed relationship. For most people, being alone means being unhappy.

With this book, I’m not suggesting that being alone is something we should aspire to or that it’s the ideal lifestyle. Mastering the art of aloneness doesn’t mean living in isolation or never needing the love, support, and involvement of others. It means creating and living a life in which you feel whole and content as an individual on your own; a life in which you can take care of yourself emotionally and financially. Mastering the art of aloneness is a process. It involves developing the self-awareness, life skills, and emotional intelligence you need to share healthy relationships—and to live a rich, full, gratifying life whether you’re living it alone or with someone else. That process involves thinking about aloneness in a radically different way—making a conscious and deliberate change in the way you think and the way you live.

Recognize that the more you engage in new behaviors, the more you will create the new results to which you aspire. Here’s an example: Let’s say you have a free Saturday. You can look at it from two perspectives. You can stay at home feeling sorry for yourself because you’re alone with no plans and nothing to do. You can sit around in your sweatpants and a T-shirt watching television, eating chips, and feeling lousy. Or you can look at it a different way: “I have a free day all to myself and I can do anything I want. I can go to the gym and work out. I can call a friend and go to the movies. I can work in my garden, make myself a delicious lunch, and read a great novel.” Then do something. Do something gratifying. Do something productive. Or do something that truly engages you. But make a conscious effort to avoid doing something that will make you feel isolated and sad. By being more active and more positive, you’ll reinforce and solidify your new perspective on aloneness and begin to create a new reality.

This same approach can infuse every aspect of your life—not just your plans for an open Saturday, but your plans for your future, where to focus your energies, and how you approach the challenges you routinely face. You can begin to see opportunities you may have never seen before—instead of being trapped in negative feelings about aloneness and the conditions those feelings invoke.

Assessing Where You Are Today

We’re all different. Each of us faces a unique set of challenges and confronts a unique set of obstacles to mastering our aloneness. The following questionnaire will help you assess where you are today, and which areas of your life require further development as you move forward in mastering the art of aloneness.

Mastering the Art of Aloneness: A Self-Assessment Exercise

The following areas include the core components of mastering the art of aloneness. Check those areas that are going very well in your life—areas where you are experiencing a high level of satisfaction. Check all boxes that apply.

? Physical Health and Well-Being:

· I am in optimal physical health and rarely get sick.

· I’m physically fit and energetic.

· I consistently practice self-care by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

? Relationship with Yourself:

· I feel good about who I am on the inside and about my physical appearance.

· I have a strong sense of self-esteem and self-respect.

· I enjoy emotional and mental balance, health, and well-being.

· I consistently honor myself by expressing my feelings and needs and setting healthy boundaries with others.

? Professional Life:

· My work is enjoyable and meaningful to me.

· My work activates my full potential and leverages my skills and strengths.

· My work provides me with the level of success and compensation I want to have.

? Personal Development:

· I have a strong sense of who I am and what I want in my life.

· I have a clear understanding of my strengths, weaknesses, passions, and values.

· I’m able to set and follow through on goals and commitments to myself and others.

· I can effectively communicate my thoughts, feelings, and needs to others and manage conflict in an effective and resourceful manner.

? Social Relationships:

· I share healthy, supportive, and joyful relationships with others and actively engage in the world around me.

· I feel connected to a community that uplifts and supports me.

? Spiritual Life (if it’s important to you):

· I have a connection to a higher power or energy and draw from it in my daily life.

· I’m able to be fully present in each moment and take time to appreciate the blessings I have.

? Financial:

· I have the financial resources I need to provide the life quality and experiences that I want to have.

· I am financially self-sufficient and feel in control of my financial security.

Identifying your Challenges and Opportunities

Now, look at the areas you didn’t check. Identifying the specific areas of your life that are not satisfying, and the opportunities inherent in improving them, will help you to develop a more positive view of aloneness.

Challenges and Opportunities Exercise

Step One. Take out your journal and write “The Challenges in Mastering My Aloneness” at the top of a new page. Referring back to the items you did not check on the questionnaire, make a list of all the challenges and obstacles you face in moving toward your mastery of aloneness—the areas on which you feel you need to focus to move forward. These will serve as benchmarks as you go through this process. For example, if you didn’t check Relationship with Myself, what are the reasons? Your list might include: “I’m out of shape and feel self-conscious about the way I look,” or “I make other people’s needs more important than my own,” or “I feel shy and insecure when I’m around people I don’t know.” Identify anything you feel is holding you back from reaching your fullest potential—such as negative emotions (feelings of sadness, loneliness, hopelessness) and negative behaviors (overeating, smoking, drinking too much).

Step Two. Now write “The Opportunities in Mastering My Aloneness” at the top of a new page. Based on the challenges you’ve identified, list the opportunities inherent in these challenges—those things you can focus on to begin changing your perception of aloneness from a negative situation to one that’s full of opportunities. Based on the challenges I listed as examples in Step One, your list might look something like this:

· Get in great physical shape.

· Learn how to set healthy boundaries with people and better meet my own needs.

· Develop greater self-confidence and feel more at ease around people.

This list can be as general or specific as you like. It might include such opportunities as: “Become more independent.” “Learn how to manage my finances.” “Uncover new interests and passions.” “Engage in social activities that will inspire and fulfill me.” “Find more meaningful work.” “Increase my self-esteem.” Or it might include more specific goals and actions, such as: “Join Weight Watchers and lose fifteen pounds.” “Go through a Human Resources certification program so I can increase my income.” “Find a coach or therapist, and focus on developing a better relationship with myself and increasing my self-esteem.” What’s most important here is to develop a list that inspires you to begin to turn your own challenges into new opportunities.




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