Q. I find that I am spending a lot of time alone. I have a busy job that takes up time in the evenings and on weekends. When I am alone I like to read, take walks, watch TV, surf the Internet, and take naps. Sometimes I just sit and enjoy watching the clouds. When I have opportunities to be with friends or family, I do not make the effort to reach out. As a child I used to imagine moving from Texas to Alaska to be by myself. Recently when I was sharing some of these things with a friend, he mentioned that behind my withdrawal there might be some hatred. At first I was shocked but as I think about it, I suddenly feel anger and even rage towards others. I usually don’t express it, but I can feel it. I would like to understand this issue.
A. Withdrawing and isolating can have many aspects, and can be different for each person. However, there are some underlying issues worth exploring. Fear of social situations is a common reason people spend time alone. Shame and low self-esteem are other reasons. You’re willing to look at a tough one: hatred. Frustration and hatred are definitely a part of human experience from childhood.
When a child’s desires are thwarted, he or she can feel frustrated. Instead of being kind, if the adults were mean, then, the child can experience their responses as hateful. This gets internalized as self-loathing and self-criticism. A child can also feel helpless, ineffective and powerless. Unless these feelings are understood and processed with someone the child trusts, they can fester into hatred of others—individuals, groups, organizations. Some people express this through criticism or revenge and others through withdrawing.
To withhold and deny others who want your presence can be an act of power. It’s a passive way of saying “No.” Does any of this speak to you? If you were to express these feelings, rather than withdrawing, what would you say and to whom? Making room to explore these feelings and memories will unlock the deeper hurt.
Wanting to move to Alaska could also mean other things at this time. It’s obviously cold and remote there. When we don’t trust others, we want to go somewhere where they can’t reach us. If you had a lot of chaos in your early life, you might be seeking somewhere quiet, cool and clean. Your question is important and has many dimensions to it. Taking the time to understand your situation and feelings will help you gain some of the insight you’re seeking.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com