How did you learn to talk kindly to yourself about being a hermit?
April 18, 2021 3:24 AM   Subscribe

If you have an abnormally high need for solitude, and once felt guilty about it but have come to feel not-guilty, how did you make that change? Answers that are not just "go to therapy", please; that does not work for everyone.

Every year that passes -- I'm now in my mid 40s -- I find myself wanting less and less contact with other people. I have less energy for it, less interest in it, more painful memories from past relationships, more of a sense of the dwindling remainder of my time on the planet, and more desire to control how I spend that time.

I live with a (non-exclusive) partner who I love but I need (and usually get) a lot of time apart from them. I have family but I don't see them, rarely call, and don't really want them to visit. I have friends but I'm increasingly disinterested in talking to them or seeing them also. I have a job that uses most of my waking time -- I work remotely, thank goodness -- and I'm increasingly defensive about wanting all of the remaining time for myself. I enjoy some email and text chat, and I have fleeting periods where I'll want to have one-on-one conversations or sleep together with someone, but these are exceptions. The rule I want, the default, is to be left alone.

I have fond memories of taking solitary vacations in countries where I didn't speak the language, and so spent weeks or months at a time not talking to anyone.

Some of this may be related to sensory or cognitive predispositions that go beyond (anti-)sociability. I'm a night owl who keeps the blinds closed during the day. I like the winter, basements, dark-and-cold places. I moved to a small town to get peace and quiet. I'm overstimulated doing almost anything -- work or play -- beyond the sorts of habits I have when I have solitude: reading, walking, sleeping, listening to music, watching movies, programming computers. I like to focus on one thing at a time, fairly deeply.

I have profound guilt and shame over this aspect of my nature (along with several others -- don't much like myself). Everyone I've been close to, I seem to have eventually under-performed expected parts of the relationship so much that they're left feeling neglected, disappointed and hurt. If I try to make this fact about me clear in advance, they tend to speak words of acceptance but then don't perceive how far overextended I am -- this is my fault, I'm bad at expressing or defending my boundaries -- and so by the time I inevitably push people away to assert the need for more solitude, they feel like I've misrepresented myself, set them up to be invested in a neglectful relationship. This pattern makes me even less likely to want to try again: it's exhausting to everyone, doesn't feel like it produces positive experiences worth the costs.

If any of this sounds familiar to you: have you managed to find peace with it? How do you talk to yourself about these things, in a way that is less full of self-loathing and sadness, more accepting? Is there writing or reflection that helped you come to terms with your nature, not fight or ignore it? I want to be able to live with myself, and treat my needs as legitimate and healthy to pursue, rather than broken, defective or shameful.

I've been to therapy, for this and some other issues, and we just go around in circles verbally, I have "deep" insights I then immediately forget, and feel like I've wasted everyone's time. I've tried multiple therapists. I do not want to keep trying. Are there other, non-therapy things that have helped you?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
First of all, I’m sorry for the pain this causes you and I relate to many parts of your story including needing solitude and the conflicts it brings.

The first thing I did was to stop calling myself a hermit or a loser or a fuckup or ugly or fat or stupid or dumb or any negative name. That was the first step to hating myself a little less.

The first therapist I ever saw told me I was depressed. That was what they call “acknowledgment.” It gave me a whole new perspective on my life and lifted a shit-ton of my self-blame.

I don’t know how to solve this without therapy - I’ve been a frequent flier there for thirty years and I’m still working on it.

That said, I’m a good listener and completely non-judgmental. I’m happy to MeMail or text any time.

Love and good wishes to you. ❤️
posted by bendy at 4:17 AM on April 18 [3 favorites]

On re-read, the hermit vacation thing is totally fine. I’ve had great vacations in Chicago and Antelope Valley and Pigeon Point but I dunno. It sucks to go somewhere awesome alone - I’m sick of it. I’m picking up what you’re putting down.
posted by bendy at 4:31 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]

Everyone I've been close to, I seem to have eventually under-performed expected parts of the relationship so much that they're left feeling neglected, disappointed and hurt. If I try to make this fact about me clear in advance, they tend to speak words of acceptance but then don't perceive how far overextended I am -- this is my fault, I'm bad at expressing or defending my boundaries -- and so by the time I inevitably push people away to assert the need for more solitude, they feel like I've misrepresented myself, set them up to be invested in a neglectful relationship

I want to push back against this being your (or anybody's) fault. I think your need for solitude the way you describe it is unusually high. So much so that potential friends, who have met other introverts, think "oh yeah, anon needs lots of alone time, no problem for me", because they severely underestimate how much you actually need, and how that is going to play out in your relationship. It's the kind of thing that's hard to convey in words.

So I think this is one aspect you can maybe stop blaming yourself for so hard. I'm not sure it's possible to make other people understand in advance, no matter how well you express yourself (and I'm sure you've tried multiple ways!).

The other thing is: In your question, you've mostly expressed what you don't want from people. It would help to know what your ideal friendship would look like on an everyday basis. Like, you would text once a month? See each other on birthdays? What kind of contact would make you feel comfortable and happy? (If you want you can ask a mod to post answer.)
I take it from your question that you don't want to actually never see people, (though that would also be fine). But it would help to know and be able to express positively to potential friends what they can rather than can't expect from you.
That means owning your desires, owning what a happy-making friendship would mean to you. Which in turn means examining those fantasies without shame. Would journaling about that help?

And lastly, in my experience, everyone talks about liking yourself, but when you don't and can't like yourself that becomes an additional source of shame. You go through life having to pretend you like yourself, in order to be palatable to others, ugh.

I don't have good advice on this because for me, therapy was the catalyst for finding out why I had such a bad relationship with myself. From my perspective it was important to realise that the bits I didn't want to associate and identify with, the past-me bits, were the ones that had kept me alive and intact during a difficult childhood. I had done myself wrong by wanting to bury those bits, I was sorry for that and very, very grateful. I feel like I'm a whole person now and it has changed everything about my life including how I relate to others. It's made me able to accept other people's friendship signals, their calls, their invitations, as they are: as declarations of love, without feeling guilty and pressured and faulty. I was being showered with appreciation and love but I was starved nonetheless because I'd never been able to accept what they gave me as genuine. I felt pressured and responded with avoidance and guilt. If this resonates, maybe think it over.
posted by Omnomnom at 4:33 AM on April 18 [21 favorites]

On reading Omnonom’s comment, I thought this.

It helps me to think of “setting someone else’s boundaries.” If I want to imagine that someone is angry at me or thinks less of me without them explicitly saying it, then I’m assuming what they think about me and usually thinking the worst.

There’s not enough time in the world to figure out what people think about you and therefore no reason to assume the worst. Or to assume anything.
posted by bendy at 4:51 AM on April 18 [3 favorites]

Hmmm... I might not be qualified to answer this question because I'd describe my need for solitude as "high" but maybe not into the "abnormally" range. But yeah, I used to feel kinda guilty about it. The people who would encourage me to feel guilty self-selected out of my life, though. It sounds as if that has happened to you, in unpleasant ways, but perhaps you could turn it around (mentally) that way instead? They didn't take you at your word, and they went away, and sometimes they tried to make that your problem because hey, humans sometimes do that kind of thing, which sucks, but now you don't have to deal with that any more, so... hooray?

The part about "increasingly disinterested" makes me wonder if you're having job burnout or something, too. Like, something additional dragging on you that's driving you to claw out ever more time for yourself just to recover. (That's pure speculation.)

As for recommended writing, it might be cheesy, but Desiderata makes some good points.
posted by inexorably_forward at 5:21 AM on April 18 [4 favorites]

The part where you spoke about having fond memories of when you "spent weeks or months at a time not talking to anyone" resonated with me deeply.

Before I met my partner, I would take time off work and deliberately not contact anyone, not go anywhere I might have to make small talk (I don't count ordering a coffee or saying"please" and "thank you" to a cashier small talk, but nonetheless I would keep those interactions as infrequent and short as possible), and definitely not use the time to catch up with friends and family. I valued those weeks more than anything, and I yearn for them now in a way my (understanding, supportive) partner just can't understand because they're not like me.

Your "sense of the dwindling remainder of my time on the planet, and more desire to control how I spend that time" is, I think, not unusual for people your age. The forties are where a lot of people start to have serious realizations about how long they may or may not have left, which is why I find it offensive that people make fun of men having a "midlife crisis" just because they buy a motorbike, or take up sport, or, like you, want to hide away from the world, or anything else they've had to sacrifice because they put work and family commitments first in their 20s and 30s.

There is nothing wrong with what you want, and you are not a weirdo.

I can understand why someone upthread suggested depression because some of what you say fits the diagnosis of depression. But it also fits a lot of the diagnosis of autism, especially the requirement for solitude, the need for deep focus, and the difficulties in expressing yourself to others. I am not qualified to tell you - at all - if you have depression or autism, but for your own sake it's worth getting tested because if either are true, it will give you a framework to understand what you're feeling. It will also definitely help with the feeling of shame that you have.

I hope you can find some peace, because this should only trouble you if you honestly think you're doing something morally wrong. Your description doesn't sound at all morally troubling to me (I would do the same as you if I could), but my opinion isn't important, yours is.

For what it's worth, you have nothing to be ashamed about. Solitude makes you happy, and you have the right to be happy.
posted by underclocked at 5:29 AM on April 18 [13 favorites]

Others feel rejected when we don't want to hang out with them. They tell us we're rejecters and we feel bad. This dynamic makes us want to spend even less time with others. The threat of this happening makes us more fearful of social activity and makes us more awkward about asserting our boundaries. The avoiding of relationships thus turns into its own form of a bad relationship.

Because your socialization style is uncommon, it's easy to feel that you are in the wrong but unless you accept yourself, it makes matters worse. But that's what you asked, right? How do you accept this about yourself. The answer is that there's no solution that doesn't have some discomfort involved, but the minimum discomfort is when you accept it. Being different doesn't make you wrong and them right. The conflict won't disappear but is at a minimum when you don't have to defend who you are.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:31 AM on April 18 [4 favorites]

I am a severe introvert, and the reason for this is that I like myself more than anybody else. Genuinely and sincerely. I adore myself. I am my own best company. Mixing other people into the equation just dilutes the amount of time I get to spend with myself, and why would I want to do that?

And because I like myself so much, I also have no qualms at all about telling anyone and everyone how much I like being by myself and how little I enjoy other people. I share this as a matter of fact, while I'm talking to people--people I'm getting along with who I even like! They chuckle and go "yeah ok" but I've laid the foundation for disappointing them later on. "No, I will not fly to another city to spend your birthday with you at a cabin you rented for 15, remember how I told you I don't like people? Happy 40th!" And so on. And it works fine because folks who have a problem with that or me don't end up staying friends which means over time I have fewer and fewer people in my life who Don't Get It.

The part about being super vocal about your needs and preferences is key. Folks usually don't believe I'm an introvert because I'm friendly and socially capable and confident. But I just have to remind them that at the end of the day I retreat back to the mossy rock I live under like the newt I am just like everybody else. (Oh wait, you don't? Maybe I AM an introvert, then, Larry.)

Being a hermit is only a negative trait when it's something that disappoints others. It makes you feel safe and happy, so it's positive for you. And you can avoid disappointing others by owning your situation and being extremely honest with them about your needs and boundaries.
posted by phunniemee at 5:36 AM on April 18 [36 favorites]

My spouse is at your end of the spectrum so maybe it helps to hear me say - over the years I’ve been fine being his buffer and explaining his need for solitude to others. At every family and neighborhood event. :) one of our kids is looking like he will have the same need...he has blossomed over the pandemic in interesting ways.

I don’t think of this as a failing at all. Have you read Quiet by Susan Cain? It’s a great look at the ways in which society both fails and needs introverts. Other places to look are memoirs of people who have travelled kind of that hermit/pilgrim path. Loads of religious traditions express it through saints and monks and I don’t know your background but at the point early in my marriage when I was coming to grips with both the needs of my spouse and a few other things, I found some of those stories great to explore. But Quiet is kind of the life-changing text for me because once you see how extroversion is overly and proveably wrongly elevated in modern society you can’t unsee it.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:51 AM on April 18 [14 favorites]

I have a friend who admitted to himself (and others) that he could either be great company for a short amount of time (jovial, engaged, caring), or terrible company for a longer amount of time (irritable, disengaged, etc). This helped him really reinforce boundaries, and go after quality, not quantity.
posted by sdrawkcaSSAb at 7:23 AM on April 18 [10 favorites]

One way to stop feeling guilty is to simply run out of spoons. I’m in so much pain from other things that I need to redirect literally all my energy to the tasks that keep me from being homeless, like focusing on my job and the little things (commuting, laundry, etc.) that go with said job. Guilt is a luxury I don’t have anymore.
posted by Melismata at 7:30 AM on April 18 [3 favorites]

I understand that you do need this amount of solitude, but maybe try to reframe it in your mind? It sounds like you're ashamed of this need that you have. How about talking and thinking about it like you get to have the alone time. Think of it as a gift from your circumstances that you're grateful for. Shame comes from a place when we want to be a certain way that we are not. Why would you want to be any other way? You have a life where you are getting what you want.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:57 AM on April 18 [3 favorites]

I think in some ways it can be helpful to reframe your thinking away from this is how or what I am, this is an intrinsic quality I have and more toward this is what I need right now. Maybe right now lasts forever, or maybe circumstances in your job or life shift and you find yourself wanting a little more contact with people, and your sense of yourself changes. Either way is great if it works for you, and I think the really important thing is that you've realized what you need right now and how to get it. You can be proud of that, because a lot of people don't get to that point and do a lot of reacting and pushing and pulling and sort of inflict on others their lack of knowledge about themselves, their boundaries and needs. So that's one thing.

I would gently suggest that maybe you don't need to think about diagnosing yourself with this or that unless that feels helpful to further understanding of what you need. As someone with similar sensitivities I have found it useful to remember that there are billions of people in the world and we are all subtly different, equally valid, and within that enormously evolving human spectrum there will be vast differences in what people want and need and can tolerate--what frequencies they're tuned to. To me, that's something that makes life so incredible and rich. What's hard is that many of our societies are organized to reward ever-narrower sets of behavior and personality, and that's where the friction and the shame get produced. Within the history of human societies there have probably been places and times where your specific characteristics were ideal. Who knows. Right now is difficult.

I'm getting away from myself here but the tl;dr is that I think you can remind yourself of the work you've done to even recognize this about yourself and to make accommodations to avoid hurting others with your totally-valid need for solitude. Most people never make that effort, but it's a great kindness. Thank you for that.
posted by EL-O-ESS at 8:35 AM on April 18 [3 favorites]

I also have a spouse like you for whom I've ben a buffer for 20 of our 27 married years. He developed some conditions that caused a change in him that others have a hard time understanding. It's almost impossible unless you live with him. He gradually came to terms with what his needs are and fully embraces the fact that *everyone* has needs and we are all different. His needs have angered and disappointed various family members over the years, but that is their problem to deal with, not his/ours.
posted by manageyourexpectations at 8:50 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]

Oh, hello, and welcome to the club (you didn't ask to join)!

I am currently, like, right now, TODAY, thinking about this myself. I have some ideas: take them with the grain of salt that is I am a (happily attached) married woman in her early 50s and I am in therapy that is working for me.

I think like some others who answered already that the label "hermit" is sort of hanging you up in a negative place. You don't have to label yourself! For me, this kind of thing happens when I give in to self-deprecation, a habit that keeps me thinking about what others think of me but leaves me no room to think my own thoughts.

This past year has really pushed me over the edge, but I've been coming to this place for a long time - I'm in a bit of an identity rebuild at the moment. Quarantine, and a move to a new state, has literally forced this process in solitude, and as I've gotten used to my surroundings I've been feeling calmest when I think least of the people and places I left behind.

I have a "complicated" (unhealthy) family history and a lot of reasons why I have had to be selective about people in my life. It's taken me 51 years to realize that I am simply someone who does not use the term "friend" lightly and I do not award it often. I am enthusiastically, 100% happy about this discovery! It means I won't exhaust myself feeling obligated to make others comfortable with my existence. Yes, I have some work to do on my self-esteem, but mostly it's in the areas of feeling comfortable in my own skin. What I'm trying to say is: the guilt and shame you feel about wanting solitude are misplaced. Be kinder to *you* - after all, you are going to be spending a lot of time together. (Lucky you!)

For what it's worth, I recently let go of a friendship that seemed unbelievably entwined with my adult life. The *idea* of losing a person who had been through so many foundational experiences with me was more painful as a concept than realizing that the friendship was already long gone - but I'd been clinging to old bits of my former identity that were tied up in the friendship. It turns out that life really does not have to be a popularity contest and you do not in any way have to justify what makes you happy - to anyone!

I love that you asked this question and I really hope you find what you need...consider yourself seen, if it helps you!
posted by Otter_Handler at 8:52 AM on April 18 [5 favorites]

How did you learn to talk kindly to yourself about being a hermit?

I figured out (about a year ago) that I'm autistic. I'm not broken, just wired fundamentally differently from most people.

Are there other, non-therapy things that have helped you?

Reading and listening to the experiences of other [late-identified] autistic people. For example, this YouTube channel is my current kick.

(Gonna go read what other people answered now...)
posted by heatherlogan at 9:14 AM on April 18 [3 favorites]

You don’t mention spirituality, so this might be a bit off the mark, but I read this article last year and found it beautiful and comforting, maybe you will too: What We Can Learn from Solitude. It’s about contemporary hermits and the joy and peace they find in living their chosen lifestyle. Lots of resources linked in the article to track down further readings and resources, too.
posted by stellaluna at 9:52 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]

It's hard to feel OK with being different, especially when you're different in a way that other people notice and make unkind judgments about. I also prefer to spend most of my time alone and in the quiet, and I also stay up late because I love the solitude and freedom that comes with it. When I was a teenager the shame heaped on me for this was enormous and from every corner. Now that I'm older I've made peace with my needs and I don't feel like being solitary is a flaw.

- I've learned that a large number people are incredibly self-absorbed to the point that they're blinded by it. They think every single person on Earth should enjoy the same things they do and think the same way they do, and there's something deeply wrong with you if you deviate from that. It's pure head-up-arse idiotic. Once I realized this was happening I just started disregarding these peoples' (worthless) opinions. If you want an example of this behaviour, have a look at the comments on that Guardian article about Wilf Davies that was linked on the blue recently. So many people insulting him or pitying him because *they* wouldn't be happy with his lifestyle, or with his meals. They literally can not and will not understand life from another person's perspective.

- If you knew someone just like you, would you think there was something wrong with them? Probably not. Extend that compassion and understanding to yourself.

- There have always been people who prefer solitude. Humans are a mix of all sorts, and we're a normal - if rare - part of it.

- Some of the negative feelings I was having around preferring my own company were regret or envy, or maybe even grief. I WISH I could have as much fun as other people seem to have around lots of people. I wish I didn't get overwhelmed at concerts or festivals -- they seem like joyous occasions for so many! But I'm not wired like that, and those people are missing out on what I experience, just as I miss out on what they experience. Once I was trying to explain to a friend how extraordinarily happy I was one day when I found myself on a beach all by myself. I floated in the cold waves and let my fingers drag along in the sand underneath me. I smelled the dune grass, listened to the sea birds, and stared at the blue, blue sky. Nobody was observing me. Nobody was demanding my attention. I was miles away from any other human being and I felt so free and so safe. She just could not understand. Wasn't I scared? Didn't I feel lonely?
posted by Stoof at 10:11 AM on April 18 [11 favorites]

- When I do spend time with people, I choose people who are lovely, accepting, and a little eccentric themselves. I have no room for rigid, shaming people in my life. It's actually made a big difference in how I think about myself.
posted by Stoof at 10:14 AM on April 18 [6 favorites]

An autism diagnosis at age 53 was very helpful to me.

I'm still coming to terms with it two years later, and I still get myself into social situations that I regret later ... just happened this morning as a matter of fact.

But I'm much better at cutting short draining / toxic situations, sometimes with very little or no notice. As a similarly disposed friend of mine often says, "'No' is a complete sentence."

And getting comfortable with the fact that I seem to need much less human companionship than many people, in fact thrive that way, has come with time. I had all these notions about how being no one's "ride or die" was going to leave me alone and in the poorhouse, and none of that parade of horribles has come to pass.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 12:20 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]

I also have a very, very strong preference for living alone and traveling alone the majority of the time (or traveling alone and meeting up with other people I like for a small portion of the trip). I've never quite reached the point of self-loathing about it but every few months I do anguish over whether there's something wrong with me, is this a pathological response to past trauma, am I failing to develop some essential skill all mature adults should have, am I missing out on valuable potential friendships, am I screwing Future Me over somehow...?

But then, honestly, I just remember how utterly miserable living and spending tons of time even with people I love and trust was, and feel better that I am doing the right thing for me.

And it's the right thing for the people around me, too! I am a much better partner and friend when I live alone and otherwise get the levels of solitude I need. I'm able to give my partners and friends get the types of support they need from me when my own oxygen mask is on/cup is full/whatever metaphor resonates with you. And when I haven't gotten that solitude, I'm cranky & irritable & less likely to be able to think about others' needs.
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:43 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]

There's a lovely Le Guin short story called "Solitude" that envisions a society of people with much the same attitude...if you like fiction. It has helped me value my own time alone.

Every choice does have costs, and so you have to accept that you may not be able to maintain many friendships with this setup. But if it's worth it to you, well you only get one life. Live it in the way you flourish most.
posted by emjaybee at 7:00 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]

I did do the therapy and one thing we do, amidst the rest, is any time I am an asshole to myself about being 'wrong' I stop, and reframe it. Because yes, having a central value of 'quietness' makes you very very different. The pandemic year has been my preferred level of social. I also am finally living alone as an adult for the first time and it made a HUGE difference. I do enjoy moments with people I like and am capable, after a year, of enjoying Real Social Events for short periods. Because I have finally finally filled my cup with enough solitude as to have that capacity to enjoy having an ice cream with someone new, or going out (with earbuds to a live music gig then going home). I still have a lot that I do because I need to: I'm a mum, so a lot of my social energy is devoted to her and her activities.

But living alone means I don't talk unless I choose to. I wake how I want, eat how I want, enjoy my time the way I want. I've recently started dating someone and he is an extrovert, but we see each other every other week mostly, and we spend a lot of time simply being in each other's presence in one way or another. He is well versed in introverts (on a spectrum as well or not), so asks if I want music while I cook, or if I want to talk while I'm taking a break from work, or company while I cook. And that missing each other doesn't mean we need to spend that time together because the more alone time I get the better quality social time I get.

Many of my friends and family were perturbed that I moved out alone in a pandemic and was okay. I didn't increase the time I spent contacting family or friends, I don't complain, or any of that. So now I'm dating nearly everyone has expressed relief that I leave the house sometimes now. They are all people who don't get it. I love them mostly but they don't get it.

But basically any time I start in with the negative self talk about being a hermit, I reframe it as me being able to meet my own needs. And remind myself that there are people who appreciate me as I am and that the more I meet my own needs the better I am at tending relationships that I choose to maintain.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:13 PM on April 18 [5 favorites]

Your "sense of the dwindling remainder of my time on the planet, and more desire to control how I spend that time" is, I think, not unusual for people your age. The forties are where a lot of people start to have serious realizations about how long they may or may not have left,

Has someone close to you died? My dad died 25 years ago and I’ve thinking about my own mortality ever since.
posted by bendy at 11:53 PM on April 18

No answers other than the chorus here - you aren't alone, we like to be alone too!

I don't feel guilt for being alone when I'm doing it but boy do I when dating comes up. I can't explain how much alone time I need, and that I can debit that account for a while but at some point I'm done. I can't tell you when or why and don't think the specifics matter other than that I get to a point when the other person makes my skin crawl.

I've 'joked' that I'd like an LDR, but I don't think I would - too much keeping in contact, talking/vid/chat/txt, even if they aren't in the room with me. It's the brain space they take up that I dislike.

That's the crux, and makes it confusing for friends/lovers: I enjoy being chatty and friendly with random strangers. I really enjoy it, I get something out of it, it puts a smile on my face (and usually theirs...), so I look social on the surface. But random strangers take no energy, no room in my head, they're purely fun entertainment. The relationship is over as soon as we walk away.

Friends learn this and don't resent it, but I haven't figured out lovers yet. I don't know how to explain how introverted I am (seconding Quiet for being lovely!) while they've met me because I was either talking to randos or they've watched me in public.
posted by esoteric things at 12:19 AM on April 20 [3 favorites]

I've reclaimed the word "hermit" for myself. I see myself as belonging to a category that includes Henry David Thoreau as well as people from various religious traditions who seek solitude. Even though I only have a surface level understanding of any of that, and I don't mean it in an egotistical or self-aggrandizing way, it is fun to picture myself as a sage on a mountaintop or a medieval thinker whose writings endure through the ages. Like, "did you just call me a hermit? Thanks for the compliment!"

The book Neurotribes by Steve Silberman was helpful to me in seeing how common threads of real variations in human nature were grouped under labels like "autism" and "Asperger's" along with an unhelpful heap of judgment. Toward the end of the book, he mentions some titles by autistic people that I've slowly been working my way through. It's a slow process, but I think unraveling the judgments that are baked into those labels is helpful.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 7:09 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]

For non-therapy modalities, I found the most success stamping out guilt with: loving kindness meditation, daily, for at least a year. It is very much a process that takes some time to see fruit.

That being said: Are there humans with whom you, based on your own appetite for interaction and boundaries, spend time with and NOT feel like you've underperformed in some manner? Can you be frugal with your time based on how you feel when and if you do spend time with people and just weed out everyone, work and family, notwithstanding, who doesn't leave you feeling at the very least good about yourself? You don't have to give apologies or reasons, just slow fade it out. No hard feelings, just: not a match. Easier typed than done, I know, but I am just wondering here how much the person you are living with is contributing to this.

I'm like you in almost all ways except that therapy turned my negative views about myself right on their ass--but only AFTER 3 decades of unsucessful, terrible, desperation.

Hello from the Internet, fellow cave-dweller!
posted by abuckamoon at 2:41 PM on April 20 [1 favorite]

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