Updated: May 17, 2021
I am an extrovert.
An external processor.
But, when faced with extreme emotions, I want to be alone.
Alone is safe.
Or, at least that’s what something inside me must believe, based on my default responses.
When my mother called at 2 am to tell me my father had died, my body got out of bed and moved me to another room, alone. I had been in bed with my husband, a source of safety and comfort. And yet, without conscious choice or thought, I found myself isolated in a dark room, staring at the floor and asking my mother to explain herself. I couldn’t comprehend what she seemed to be telling me.
Early in my marriage to Judah, when I was still very wounded from my first marriage, I had awful dreams in which he treated me like my first husband had. When I woke up, I couldn’t shake how real it felt, couldn’t stop crying. Deep inside, I chided myself for getting married again, for trusting another man. What was I thinking? I should have stayed single for the rest of my life. Then I would be safe.
When I feel trapped in a situation or at a seemingly insurmountable impasse, I want to evaporate. Cease to exist. I don’t see a way forward, and the pain feels too heavy to bear.
If I was alone, I wouldn’t have to feel these feelings or face the pain of others.
I believe that we are hurt in relationship and healed in relationship.
So, why is there such a deep desire to be alone when I’m in pain? Wouldn’t that leave me stuck “in the hurt”?
I always end up back in community. Once I’ve shared my pain, found clarity in a miscommunication, or found my way forward in a seemingly impossible situation, I feel lighter. Often, I feel closer to the people I initially moved away from.
And yet, my initial response is still to find a space where I can be alone. Because alone feels safe.