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Hikikomori (Social Isolation) vs . Positive Solitude

Hikikomori, A Culture-Bound Syndrome of Social Withdrawal versus Positive Solitude

Hikikomori, a form of severe social withdrawal has been described in Japan and is characterized by adolescents and young adults who become recluses in their own homes. Hikikomori may be considered a culture-bound syndrome/ psychiatric disorder and warrants further international research (The Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, 2016, June 17, (pages 1-10)

The current digitalized world permits this kind of lifestyle with its easy access to food supplies, medical care, social media access and even education. Human interactions can be minimalized for those who do not desire it. Do many people really want to stay alone?

“The Loneliest whale: The Search for 52”, is a documentary that, over 30 years, tracked a whale that produced high-pitched sounds on a frequency unique to that whale, to which no other whale responded. They thus called this whale “the loneliest whale” as it lived in complete loneliness, wandering the seas with its unanswered call.

(Michael Laitman - Quora Digest, July 24) Many people identify with this whale, because sometime in life we feel like this whale - as no one hears us. On the surface, we all appear busy with some form of social connections - friends, social media, parties, get togethers… yet disconnected. We try to surround ourselves with the people but do not experience a true friendship or inner peace. We do not truly connect with others - we are all harping our own musical tune and yet no one is listening!

Several important lessons have been learned from this documentary entitled, “The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52” A solitary whale, roaming for decades, was a mystery to ocean exploring scientists. Some of the greatest minds (Director of Film - Joshua Zeman) were enticed into this research. It inspired a movement towards “saving the whales” instead of killing them. Whale 52 (as she is referred to due to the sounds she creates - 52 hertz) was regarded as “a great mystery, a legend and unique.” Its search inspired several people, showing that “when people care, they can change the world” - Josh Zeman, Director of Film.

The greatest joy is actually connectivity with life and yet this solitary whale continued with its unique pursuit of calling out to other whales with its high pitched sound, and no other whale responded.

“Why do so many people identify with the loneliest whale?” A video by Kabbalist, Dr Michael Laitman presents a very thought-provoking analysis of this aspect of whale 52. As stated earlier, we could be surrounded by a lot of people and have a social life on the outside, but on the inside, we feel so lonely that no one responds to us. Yet, whale 52 is regarded as a unique whale, a legend and complete in itself.

“The mysterious 52 hertz whale emits a call unrecognized by other whales, leading to a life of solitude” - (Quora Digest, July 2021) Whale 52 is actually in the state of positive solitude - happily communicating her message whether or not anyone paid heed.

Coming back to where we started , “Hikikomori, A culture-bound syndrome of social withdrawal….” we can now surmise that a reverse of social isolation or dysconnectivity could be a state of positive solitude, where we have a unique message for the world (as whale 52). This message from the whale could be a complete unconditional love (One-ness) - where she did not care to get a response from other whales, ang kept harping on her own tune. In doing so, she became the cynosure of many oceanographers, related scientists and interested others.

Positive Solitude is generally associated with a more complete,meaningful and purpose driven life. It can only be pursued by individuals who are complete and content within themselves. Great works of art, music, literature could only be created in an environment of peace and solitude. As stated very well by a Belgian-American poet, May Sarton, - “Loneliness is the poverty of the self, solitude is the richness of the self” One cannot create or think deeply when surrounded by the materialistic and mundane activities of life. Inspiration generally comes from nature or the darker side of life (such as depression or sadness) and not in the humdrum of a routine life, which most people lead today. Aa aptly stated by Mary Doria Russel - (American Novelist), “How can you hear your soul, if everyone is talking?”

If we examine the lives of great writers, poets, thinkers, artists…. Most of them chose to spend a significant time of their lives alone. In fact many suffered from episodes of depression and dark nights. Yet, they accomplished very meaningful lives and left indelible marks with their great works. Humanity owes a lot to such great people who chose “positive solitude” over the mundane worldly activities.

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