August 7, 2021

Take your secret special separateness and run into the corner


As creative people, as thinkers and observers and reflectors and renderers of the world, it’s tempting to take an antisocial vantage point outside of society.

Because doing so makes us feel heroic. And special. Like we’re somehow being responsible to our artistic gifts by separating ourselves from the herd.

But there’s a very real difference between observing life, and being observant in a way that always keeps us just outside of living life. There’s a very fine line between healthy individuating, and becoming trapped in our own mythological status as outsiders.

Take it from someone who always felt too eccentric and iconoclastic to be accepted, so he rejected and removed himself before anyone else got a chance to. Take it from someone who so feared becoming an outcast from the herd, that he cut the threads of connection before any real intimacy could be achieved. Take it from someone who prided himself on created art that guaranteed he would remain obscure, but then resented the world for not knowing who he was.

It was a nauseating experience. Both for the artist and the people around me. Having to breathe the air of existential estrangement, ordained separateness, social deviance and extreme oppositionalism, blech.

Humans weren’t meant to live that way. We’re social animals, not islands. We need connection, not eight billion sovereign nations. We need a more evolved and less adolescent approach to walking in this world.

Maisel’s manifesto on the mental health revolution says it perfectly:

Brooding about your circumstances, stewing with your feelings, and standing alone and isolated, will only worsen your situation. You may have many powerful reasons for isolating. Feeling embarrassed, too angry to reach out, doubtful that anyone will understand you or care about you, scared that you’ll lose control and freedom if you share your truth with another person, and more. But still, isolating isn’t the answer.

Do you see how you make yourself an outsider? Good. That’s the first step.

And each step we take out of isolation, out of our old antisocial behaviors, is a major mental health achievement.

Next time you’re tempted to take your secret special separateness and run into the corner to play by yourself, try extending your arm instead.

How can you change your relationship to the world so you feel less estranged from it?