Book Review: The Self Alone by Angela Rossmanith.

Published by Collins Dove. ISBN 1 863 71 448 0. Paperback, 
no price given.

This is a book about understanding and coming to terms with the loneliness in our lives. Of the range of feelings experienced by the human race, loneliness can be the most painful and the most hidden. Because to admit it would mean that we were inadequate in some way; unloved and unloveable, unable to make contact, unable to form relationships. Yet all of us, if we were honest, would admit to feeling lonely at some time in our lives. If it is a reactive loneliness – following loss of a loved person, moving to a new area, children leaving home – it is somehow acceptable and we know that, eventually, we will adapt. What is different is the haunting presence, the insistent ache that rarely eases, like a loneliness of the soul where we believe we are totally alone. Attempts to deal with it may only intensify the feeling, usually because the nature of the loneliness is not understood or examined closely enough. And it is this intense feeling which often brings people into psychotherapy.

The author devotes part of this book to defining loneliness, helped by descriptions given by many people. Robert Weiss, who has made a significant contribution to the development of this subject, maintains that a real phenomenon, which he believes loneliness to be, can be described but not defined.

This is a wide ranging and useful analysis of loneliness which helps us to understand it better. The section on self as a first resource is helpful as she stresses the importance of surrendering and embracing ourselves and our solitude. Rossmanith uses Carl Jung’s belief that “… meaning for life is so often found in the inferior and undeveloped side of the personality”, to accentuate her premise that through our life experience we come to recognise, if we are fully awake, that we have our very own shadow , the Jungian term for those aspects of ourselves that we have long kept hidden and unrevealed. Emily Dickinson’s poem, which Angela Rossmanith used in her introduction, says it all:

I fear me this – is Loneliness-

The Maker of the soul

Its Caverns and its Corridors

Illuminate – or seal -

Mavis Arnold