Stephen Fry’s Thoughts on Loneliness

Being an introvert is an incredibly lonely experience.

That might sound odd, since introversion is commonly described as “having to expend energy on being with others” versus extroversion’s “gaining energy from being around others,” but it is something I find true nonetheless.

Stephen Fry recently commented on some of the difficulties and loneliness regarding an introverted personality, and I wanted to ruminate on the matter myself.

This section in particular is what really resonated with me:

In the end loneliness is the most terrible and contradictory of my problems. I hate having only myself to come home to. If I have a book to write, it’s fine. I’m up so early in the morning that even I pop out for an early supper I am happy to go straight to bed, eager to be up and writing at dawn the next day. But otherwise…

It’s not that I want a sexual partner, a long-term partner, someone to share a bed and a snuggle on the sofa with – although perhaps I do and in the past I have had and it has been joyful. But the fact is I value my privacy too. It’s a lose-lose matter. I don’t want to be alone, but I want to be left alone. Perhaps this is just a form of narcissism, vanity, overdemanding entitlement – give it whatever derogatory term you think it deserves. I don’t know the answer.

This sums up how I feel in such a perfect way. I do lose energy being around others. I want to be left alone, and what’s more sometimes I don’t want to have to tell people I want to be left alone. I don’t want to be asked every day “want to do something?” I want to have a day where I can wake up and say no words to anyone, just hibernate and read and relax and play games without having to leave the essence of myself.

But I  don’t want to forsake that fellowship with others. I like being asked if I’m alright, if I would like to spend time watching a movie together, being called out of the blue to reminisce about good times past. It’s a contradictory thing, but it makes sense in the end – people do drain me, but I crave friendship, because humans are social primates. We’re wired to need the care and attention of others.

This terrible loneliness lead Stephen to nearly kill himself. He rather aptly puts it as “self slaughter.”

What an image. What a horror.

This is part of what makes me think so hard about issues of feminism and male privilege and all those other things we call what we’re discussing – the realization that others have a secret world of suffering within them. People struggle against titanic forces each day of their lives. Am I good looking? Do I do the right things? Am I wasting my time? Did I do something to offend my friend? Was it wasteful of me to order so much food? Is that spot on my hand a freckle or a melanoma? Why didn’t I call my grandfather in the week before he died?

 

People have an entire secret world of suffering they must struggle with, and yet still we make eachother suffer in countless little ways. Microaggressions, cutting comments, presumptive language, exclusion. In each of these actions, we reinforce the loneliness and etch that personal horror just a few millimeters deeper.

 

This is a world of deeply lonely people. Ours is a community where the lonely can talk about something we have in common – let us think hard about what we say to those who would share the space with us. Let’s be sure that when they do marshal their forces against the demons of their own fears in order to sit at the table that the seat is not concealing a razor.

 

 

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