Who’s Afraid of Being Alone (Fearless February Day 6)
Posted on February 6, 2014
by Catherine Austen
Autophobia. AKA Monophobia. The fear of being alone.
Table for one?
Few of us relish the idea of going out to eat alone. You need a book or a tablet to keep you company.
Going to bars alone? Ew.
Being home alone? Bring it on. Please. I need to be alone to work. I get mean if I don’t get my alone time. You don’t want to see me at the end of the Christmas holidays.
I like going away alone, too: driving away cranking the tunes, heading off to some adventure, solo.
But I have a full house to leave and return to. (And I was raised in a full house, the youngest of five.) Alone time is a treat for me. I’d feel differently if I were always alone. I wouldn’t like that at all. It would be lonely.
(Or not – maybe it would be awesome. I might be like the guy at the end of that Twilight Zone episode who finally had time to read all the books he wanted – only I don’t wear glasses, so my ending would be happier than his. Still, after a month or so, it would start to feel pointless. Humans – you can’t live with them, you can’t live without them.)
If you have a yearning for company and a discomfort at being alone in strange territory, you are a normal human. But if you break into a cold sweat upon saying goodbye, if you follow people from room to room, if you try to be late so that you don’t have to wait one minute on your own, you might have autophobia.
You should know that people who can’t be alone are incredibly annoying. Conquer your phobia for the sake of the loved one whose leg you are clinging to.
This is actually a multiplicity of phobias:
- Fear of being alone in a house – or even just alone in a room. Most of us outgrow this common childhood fear by suffering through it and pretending we’re fine. But you can beat this fear at any age, with the help of a friend. Start with your friend hanging out in the next room, then on another floor, then out in the garden, then down the street, then just on the phone. See how well you’re doing? (NB, this therapy is not recommended for those with stalkers.)
- Fear of being alone in public. You know you have this phobia if you have two tickets to Cirque du Soleil and your friend cancels at the last minute, and you just stay home. OMG, you have to cure yourself of this! (Or just give your tickets to me.) Work with a friend in a restaurant. Have them leave you alone at the table for a bit, eventually working up to you arriving ten minutes early and enjoying a glass of wine all on your own. (That’ll take a while.)
Possible exposure therapy roadblock: If you’re autophobic, you might not have a friend to do these therapies with, since you probably drove all your friends away with your insatiable clinginess. But they might come back to help you face your fear. Worth asking, anyway.
- Fear of being alone forever. This is actually a somewhat rational fear for people who are always alone, because people who spend too much time alone get weird (and not in a good way), which increases your chances of being alone forever. It’s another vicious circle. If you have this fear, you should rush out right now and join a club or make a friend or visit your ailing aunt. Attend to someone else’s needs for a bit and you’ll either (a) avoid the fate of being alone forever or (b) embrace it. Either way, the fear is gone.
We are alone, each of us muddling through our tiny lives, hurtling through a vast and indifferent universe, knowing it will all end in death, and that is terrifying. It helps to have a hand to hold onto. But let go every once in a while or it’ll get way too sweaty.
No one is ever alone in 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6, because hanging out alone is not comedy gold. Leave a comment on this blog during Fearless February and you could win a copy and spend some time alone reading it.
(The woman on the road photo is by nuttakit and the man alone is by Vlado, both from FreeDigitalPhotos.net; the not-welcome mat is from canadamats.ca. Thanks.)
I’m with you on the crankiness that comes from alone-withdrawal. It’s like a craving at times. My family mostly understands when I disappear.
One of my favourite movie-going memories was watching Raiders of the Lost Ark in Halifax in the middle of the afternoon in an almost empty theatre. Alone. Don’t know why the theatre was so empty coz that movie was wicked!
My family doesn’t seem to get it quite enough – it saddens them that I’d rather be with imaginary people. (“Because I control them,” I have explained.)
I like to go to movies alone, too. I had my own private screening of “Gladiator” years ago at a local matinee. (I found it incredibly violent, but I have since become desensitized and it has become one of my faves.)
Much as I do frequently feel the need for company, that unwelcome mat does have its appeal… X)
Yes, we all have our “go away” moods. And what better way to announce it?
I totally get this! I LOVE my alone time, and as you know there has been a LOT of it for the past few years. Oh dear! Have I gotten all weird too?
However, the pets are great company but Odelia NEVER likes to be alone, so I guess I’m not really “alone.” I totally get the “being able to control the situation through writing and thinking of new tales to tell.” I was once asked the what and why of a piece of art I created. My honest answer is: I am in total control of what I put in the box, and how it is arranged. I can’t do that with real life (no matter how I may try!)
Great series on fear.
Thanks, Jennifer. Dogs are natural autophobics, aren’t they? You’re never alone if you have a dog. No weird worries there.
Hmm, about the link between creativity (which flourishes with alone-time) and control – maybe that’s why it feels so good to create. At last (at least?) we are in control of something. It’s a natural antidote to existential terror. And fun, too.