Personal space is a concept, it is not physical but psychological. It helps to have a physical space of our own, and we seem to be driven to create one where none exists (think of how people ‘claim’ it by decorating their desk space at work, for example), but having an area we call our own doesn’t automatically provide the psychological space we all need to function well.
Personal space is vital. The capacity to be alone is an essential resource that helps to stay balanced and connected. Paradoxically, the better we are able to withdraw and find personal space the more likely we are to remain connected with others and the world that surrounds us. The capacity to be alone, Anthony Storr says “facilitates learning, thinking, innovation, coming to terms with change and the maintenance of contact with the inner world of the imagination.”
Our world is obsessed with interpersonal relationships. Other people and our interactions with them are often vaunted as the key to happiness. It is easy to forget that we must first be at one with ourselves before we can find any sort of completeness in our relationships with others.
Personal space already exists; it is yours, you can claim it. We regularly read of creative ways to find some seclusion but few of us manage it on a regular basis. Even when we do there is a risk that we we simply replace one location with another and do not connect with ourselves in any meaningful way, as we must if we are to claim personal space.
The trick is to be able to find our space where we are, without having to go to some far-flung location. We can all benefit from opportunities to just sit and think, read, listen to music or write, and we can all create a spot or corner in our lives where we can be alone with our own thoughts, a little place to withdraw to.
Personal space is not about where we are; it is about who we are. “Intention creates possibility”, as they say. Recognising our need for reflective space is a first step, then developing the habit (and possibly the ability), to stand back from our daily demands, sit and do nothing, observe our experience, learn and even make sense of our lives.
Storr, A., (1989), Solitude, a Return to the Self, Ballantine Books, London.
WikiHow: How to make a personal space.