If we were to look past the possibilities of chemical experiments taken to an extreme (or acts of magic and potion-making) and focus solely on the factual present, we’d probably come to believe that alcohol is our very own truth serum. Friends forbid you from calling or texting the person you like when you’re drunk – because everyone knows you’ll be honest, maybe too honest, when you’re not quite in control of yourself.
Lately I’ve come to think that isolation has the same effect.
When you are alone, without someone to reply to your texts, without someone to call, without someone to go out and have coffee with, you close in on yourself. You create a small universe just for you where no one can enter simply because you’re convinced no one wants to. Disappointments and heartbreak have led you to believe that people cannot actually take an interest in you, therefore there is no reason to speak your mind. There is no reason to waste time, effort and oxygen in expressing yourself to someone, when you have already decided that person does not want to listen.
Isolation drives you to think of yourself as a burden. Maybe you are alone because people simply don’t want you there, because they got sick of you. The myriad of external causes that may have led to you being stuck in your living room watching films alone don’t even facture into your hypothesis. People, simply, do not want you, and with that you resolve to spare yourself more pain and stop hoping that things will ever change.
This is what I believe people who have not been isolated don’t understand and I try to explain only to hit a brick wall of “you just need to go out more”. A single week, or even day (depending on all the complexities that make us individuals) without human contact can drive you to feel fundamentally alone, both physically and emotionally. It’s when you get to that conclusion of why you’re alone (“it’s all my fault” “I’m not good enough”), which you have attained through reasoning in blind panic, that you make a subconscious decision that yes, maybe it’s best to stay alone. Partly because you don’t want to be a burden, the last thing you want to do is bother others; but truly because you don’t want to go through disappointment again.
So it’s not exactly better, but it’s definitely safer, and more stable, to stay alone, than to reach out into the wilderness and ask for someone to grab your hand and pull you along in the dark. They might drop you, you know. Like all the others did before.
The “truth serum” effect of isolation comes from a deep-rooted tree of belief that no one wants to listen to you and no one cares about what you have to say. You get used to, and accept, the made-up fact that people simply will not talk to you. When they do talk to you, when you do somehow end up getting thrown into a social situation (or are brave enough to force yourself out into the big bad world of human interaction), you can’t stop yourself.
A person is talking to you. They are asking about you. And a simple “How are you?” turns into a detailed account of your life since you learned to ride a bike up until your last exam or job interview two days ago. You have been alone in your mind for so long that it becomes hard to differentiate between talking to yourself about these things and talking to someone else. It is, after all, the same voice, and the very idea of having a real human ask about your life is so absurd your brain assumes it’s just some sort of automaton placed in front of you. That human being is to you what Yorick’s skull is to Hamlet (hopefully without the ensuing tragedy).
If you see yourself in this text, I will tell you one thing. Something I find I am telling myself more often than ever now. Take a chance. No matter how badly you’ve been hurt or how disappointed you have been in people, relationships or just plain life, you have to take a risk. Do not allow the fear of isolation, this overwhelming paranoia that things will never change to lead you into a path that will not allow you to make that change. In the words of the late Nelson Mandela, courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. Go out there. Be pushy, as rude as you think that might be; someone won’t mind, eventually, and you should never give up before you try.
Whoever you are, wherever you are… good luck.