For today’s post, we present an excerpt from SHUNNED: A Survival Guide by Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed.

 When being shunned it is only normal to wonder how you can survive being cut off, alone, and lonely – and how you can bring an end to this enforced aloneness. While your goal during the distress of being shunned is to heal from the abuse and make new connections, in your pain you may forget that periods of being alone and having nothing to do can have tremendous value.

Being alone is an opportunity to deepen your connection to self and to learn to feel at home in your own company. From this perspective, periods of solitude offer an opportunity to develop, grow, and create a more truthful, meaningful life for oneself.

Imposed solitude feels very different than periods of chosen solitude. While you may be experiencing a time of imposed solitude due to being shunned, you can change your relationship to this solitude by deciding to embrace the solitude and turn it to your advantage. Making this slight adjustment in how you view the solitude will change how being alone affects you. Recognize that the solitude is temporary and that you can choose to use it to deepen your connection with the most important relationship you will ever have – the relationship with yourself. Sometimes we just need to stop, be still, be alone, and do nothing, to allow the next part of our life to emerge.

Charles Eisenstein suggests that periods of solitude, periods when we have left the known and stand on the cusp of the unknown, allow us to develop a level of comfort in “the art of doing nothing”:

Doing nothing … is specific to the time when a story is ending and we enter the space between stories… It means freedom from reflexive doing: acting when it is time to act, not acting when it is not time to act. Action is thus aligned with the natural movement of things in service to that which wants to be born.”

Another term for this sacred, solitary, “in-between” state is “liminal space”. The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word “limin” which means “threshold”. When you are in liminal space, you are on the threshold of leaving “what was” and simultaneously on the verge of a new beginning which you have yet to enter – like standing on the threshold of a door – leaving one space and about to enter another. Because liminal space is neither here nor there – because it is on the threshold or on the cusp – it is full of possibility – and some call it sacred space.

If you were cast out of a community and have not yet stepped into your new life – you are standing in sacred liminal space. Liminal space is where you will transition from the old way of life to the new – from the old story that defined you to the new story you are about to create. You are on the threshold of really getting to know your authentic self and creating a life of your choosing. Don’t discount the importance of this.

Psychoanalytic political theorist at Medaille College, Matthew Bowker[1] says we often use our membership in groups to “define ourselves … and use others to fill out our identities”. He says that periods of selected solitude offer the opportunity and space to allow who we are, what we value, and how we want to live our life, to finally be born. What is more sacred than the birth of the new you?

Those of us who are being shunned by controlling groups will understand the need to rebirth, redefine, and reclaim our true self or authentic identity, apart from the group. This is best done when not bombarded or overwhelmed by the din of talking heads, idle inner chatter, or persistent striving.

Bowker also tells us the ability to be alone is “self-strengthening”. He continues:

“You have to have that capacity: the ability to know that you’re gonna survive, that you’re gonna be okay if you’re not supported by this group … Put another way, a person who can find a rich self-experience in a solitary state is far less likely to feel lonely when alone.”

There are psychological, emotional, spiritual, and creative benefits when one part of our story ends and we find we have a period of solitude and an opportunity to just do nothing. If, due to being cut off from family and friends, you now have to reorganize your life – time alone with nothing to do will be required. Adjust your perspective. Instead of viewing alone time as a punishment, see it for the gift it is!

You now have the opportunity to design and create a life and identity without the interference of the group. Decide which parts of the old you and the old story you value and want to keep, which parts were created as an accommodation to the group, and what qualities, values, principles, relationships, and goals you choose to develop and embrace now. Now, more than ever, we need our solitude. Being alone gives us the power to regulate and adjust our lives. It can teach us fortitude and the ability to satisfy our own needs. A restorer of energy, the stillness of alone experiences provides us with much-needed rest. It brings forth our longing to explore, our curiosity about the unknown, our will to be an individual, our hopes for freedom. Alone time is fuel for life.”  – Dr. Ester Buchholz

Editor's Note: While we at OMF value all free expression of opinion, the views expressed by our contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OMF, its board members, or trustees.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Do you have a story about shunning and solitude that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! And check out Bonnie’s other books. She has written several books related to recovery after leaving coercive groups, including: