I guess it’s not a surprise to see a growing need for solitude and simplicity these days. I believe this is true when from a growing number of people in my outpatient practice that is a personal problem or conscious need that I hear about almost on a daily basis. This growing voice and desire for a change in lifestyle is a growing concern and interest when people are increasingly feeling overwhelmed, overloaded and too busy in just trying to keep up with the basic needs of daily living. The results are devastating and pervasive when more and more we are being robbed of having the peace and quiet we require for healthy living. There are few that would deny the fact that we are moving faster and faster attempting to compress the time of each day to get done all too much. The social and psychological dilemma behind all this is strangely self-inflicted or globally driven. The detrimental pace complicated by technological advances or personal ambition is in contrast to the busyness that is by choice and filled with richness.
The prevalence of excessive busyness in the midst of modernity and contemporary culture is a trend seen with noise pollution, road rage, choice overload in the market place, materialism, over crowding and congestion on the roadways and trying to keep up with the growing number of hours expected in the workplace without exceeding our limits. The question is by what measures determine what is excessive.
The clinical signs of exceeding our personal limits are shown from observing the symptoms like anxiety, depression or alcohol and prescription drug abuse. Yet for others, it’s only a matter of adjusting to or being stretched to the next level of what might be considered a breaking point. So whether we become aware of this social phenomenon as a problem or not, the effects of post-modernism continue. The effects of being too busy can be deceptive. The question now is what can be done after recognizing this condition as a problem.
I grew up in a small city of about 100, 000 people in northeastern Minnesota but always felt compelled to live in a rural setting. So after graduating from High School, I found a lifestyle living on a dairy farm. I always felt a need for silence in contrast to the sensitivity of the urban noise that I found physically aversive. I suppose it was just the way I was made but I believe the need for solitude and simplicity is a basic need for all human beings.
Humanity I think has always felt the need to experience peace and resisting the stress in feeling overwhelmed or overloaded. But our common senses are being compromised by our vision that becomes blinded within a matrix of social forces. The progressive nature and rate of acceleration during the last few decades is exploding exponentially. I witness what appears a growing number and depth to those that I see with psychiatric disorders and addictive behaviors and only wonder about their causes that might be associated busyness. The complications of being too busy could also be connected and seen in those working too much, spending too much and over eating.
In a world of fads and meaningless trends that come and go overnight we become challenged to find or maintain a healthy orientation to what has meaning and purpose to our lives. With the daily demands and unrealistic expectations of life also is challenging our need to maintain our sense of self and personal identity. This kind of persistent stress can result in personal disorientation and depersonalization. These characteristics are described when our world becomes or feels more impersonal and emotionally disconnected from one another. This disconnection is found with our neighbors, co-workers and even those that we should feel the closest to like our spouses.
This kind of social and psychological disorientation can largely come from our attempts to compress time in trying to accomplish too much in a day. The results can turn into compulsive behaviors to accomplish a seemingly endless number of tasks or only to be used to avoid what is uncomfortable inside us emotionally due to the lack of finding the deeper need for emotional connectedness and spiritual fulfillment.
Some of the most pertinent and fundamental questions that has confronted the human race is a matter of origin, identity and destiny. The specific questions posed are those that ask where we come from, who we are and where are we ultimately going. Whether these questions hold either practical or philosophical implications remains a constant source of deep significance when it comes to our need to know ourselves. In our relentless need for significance we will need to find a way to slow down enough in order to hear the voice within that provides a moral direction in teaching us about right and wrong. This moral compass has the capacity to teach us about a special and unique way to produce healthier living. The way to healthy living is through the practice of different disciplines that includes a need for simplicity and solitude.
Our interest to be close to others is rooted in our need to not being alone. This need as social creatures to be connected emotionally, spiritually and psychologically will necessitate the need to slow down and be quieted. In doing this we can hear what we may really think or feel inside that includes the necessity for hearing others and ultimately to hear God. The outcome can be life changing. The benefit is a solution to our addictive tendencies within a society that is filled with addictions. In the final analysis the pursuit of such values and practices is to get the kind of results that will transform our lives. The practice and discipline of solitude and simplicity will do just that. The biggest challenge is often and simply found in the question we ask, how?
Of all the questions that people ask me as a therapist to solve their problems is, how, how do I do it?