The quasi-centennial woman had been living in the same humble shack with a loyal dog and a dozen chickens in a small clearing of one of the most forbidding sub-tropical forests of South America—El Impenetrable, a large expanse bordering the Bermejo River in the northwestern part of Chaco province and the southwestern part of Formosa provinces of Argentina. One of her many grandchildren, and sometimes even a great grandchild, would come to check on her and bring supplies almost daily but they all preferred to live in a nearby small urban settlement.
She claimed that her social isolation in such natural habitat suited her just fine. She woke up early every day to do her homely errands with enthusiasm, preparing her own meals based on a largely vegetarian diet with some poultry or freshwater fish. She continued to smoke moderately, and she sometimes drank a little alcohol too. When the reporter asked her what the secret of her unusual longevity was, she said:
“Because I don’t have a man that heats up my head every day.”
The forced social distancing and isolation brought by the Coronavirus pandemic has forcibly obliged millions of people to stop working in public/ private institutions or attending educational institutions with a resulting estrangement from other persons. Individuals with stable sex partnerships have been traditionally considered as more apt to withstand the Mental Health consequences of this kind of social situation. However, the previous existence of millions of men and women who had expressly chosen a single lifestyle in modern societies has gravely questioned that assumption.
In an article of the Health section of The Washington Post, Joan DelFattore reviewed the responses from several singles contacted by e-mail or found in the social media. “This is the moment I’ve been training for all my life!’ an unnamed introvert asserts in a Facebook post…Edie Jarolim, a freelance writer and editor in Arizona, can relate to that sentiment—that adults who have chosen to live alone may be better adapted than many to the stay-at-home restrictions in place in large parts of the USA.” Most of the respondents were nonetheless concerned that they could be discriminated against if rationing of the scarce health care resources—lifesaving ventilators for example—were eventually instituted in a dramatic junction of this terrible pandemic.
A longstanding complaint of the singlehood-by-choice surfaced again: the lack of respect for their lifestyle choice from the mainstream citizenry. Many persons confound the fact of “being alone” with the sentiment of “being lonely.” Especially because they disregard that many of these singles do have a strong social support. Moreover, the lack of sentimental strings prods them to seek a varied company.
Since Biblical times, humans have been strongly encouraged to socialize and live in partnership with the opposite sex for healthier social outcomes. There has been a large pool of scientific literature to buttress the need for a stable sexual partner to avoid anxiety/depression, insomnia, obesity, cardiovascular disturbances, etc. But how about those individuals that expressly chose the singlehood to be more creative?
Julie C. Bowker, Miriam T. Stotsky and Rebecca G. Ekin published a seminal paper in 2017 where they examined the links between the withdrawal subtypes and some psycho-behavioral variables, finding challenging results for the avoidance models of withdrawal; they found that unsociability is associated positively with creativity. Julie Bowker said: “they are not antisocial…they don’t initiate interaction, but also don’t appear to turn down invitations from peers. Therefore they may get just enough peer interaction so that when they are alone, they are able to enjoy that solitude.” In order to study these unsociable-by-choice from the truly shy individuals or those who exhibit abnormal anti-social attitudes, they recruited 295 college students and subjected them to a battery of psychological testing. They found that those who were in fact shy or antisocial scored lower than average on the creativity indicators; the participants who were “unsociable” scored higher on those same indicators.
These authors proposed that unsociable persons “may be able to spend their time in solitude constructively, unlike shy and avoidant individuals who may be too distracted and/or preoccupied by their negative cognitions and distress.”
A question that has lingered in our mind for many years might merit to come into the open on this occasion. Like most human beings, we have commiserated with the miserable and lonely life that Vincent Van Gogh endured until the very last instant of his tortured life. However, would he have been able to produce so many beautiful tableaux of so many simple situations if he had been a most happily married man?
Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.
(This article is based on our upcoming new book Emotional Frustration – the hushed palgue)
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.