Why even introverts are struggling with self isolation/quarantine — it’s not about being alone, it’s about the loss of agency and control.

I came to realisation last year when I was quarantined for pneumonia induced sepsis (fingers crossed won’t happen again this year), that it isn’t always so much the being alone part that is so unsettling about being forced to isolate.

Being alone is a factor, but the crux of it is the loss of agency. Anyone can joke that they spend all their time alone in their room anyways, but the key difference is that they’re still in control. They can still see people if they want to. They can still make their own choices. They can leave if they want to, even if they don’t do so.

Meanwhile, if you are forced to stay alone at home now, with no other choices, you have lost control, autonomy, agency, and choice. Apart from the isolation that may drive loneliness and rumination, the feeling of your own life no longer being in your own hands is difficult to handle, to say the least.

Interestingly, agency is at the centre of individualist cultural values, and this may correlate with why people living in collectivist cultures found it easier (though nonetheless a difficult time) to adjust to a sudden loss of daily agency. And why some people living in highly individualist cultures (such as America, Canada) are finding it very hard to emotionally come to terms with what’s going on.

Nonetheless, things will be okay. Brains may take time to adapt, but they do.

uni student, writer in vancouver, bc [aristhought.com]