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Solitary Confinement. Wednesday October 7, 2015

I've never understood why solitary confinement is used as a punishment.*

It's that time of year when the parents of year six children troop around their local secondary schools assessing to which they should apply for their precious darlings.

There always seems to be an almost unhealthy glee in the voices of the teachers as they point out the isolation unit, where disruptive children are sent as a punishment. There those children have to do their school work, alone, and in absolute silence, under the strict eye of a member of staff to see that they don't just kick back in their chair and stare vacantly into space. Apparently it works very well.

When we visited one such unit with my eldest daughter, three years ago now, I could see the gleam in her eye. "Mummy," she whispered as we left, "Do you think they'd let me go to the isolation unit without me being naughty?"

You see for her, as for me, the concept of being left alone, in peace and quiet, to get on with our work, with the built-in discipline of a watcher, is alluring indeed.

Real people are scratchy, they are distracting and demanding, they are emotionally needy, they take our energy when we need all that energy for ourselves.

Not always of course. My daughter is socially poised and confident, she works well with others. Most people cannot possibly believe I am an introvert; the life and soul of the party is what they see. Most of the time we have energy enough to give away. We enjoy giving it away. We like being with others.

But, oh, we love to be alone. When I'm down at the bottom of my bi-polar cycle it's a necessity. I just can't cope with people.

I know I'm not alone (ha ha) in this. One of my friends likens her withdrawal to being in her fortress with the drawbridge up and the moat well stocked with piranha.

I would ideally stock my fortress with a computer and the internet and an e-reader. But just pencil and paper will do. Or even nothing at all.

Because whereas real people are a distraction, the people in my head are a delight.

You're never alone with a good book. Even if it's one you're writing yourself.

A Moodscope member.

* And please – yes, I know solitary confinement is a severe punishment for most people, that it is over-used in our prisons and causes psychological stress and damage and that the rates of recidivism are higher for prisoners subjected to this. This hopefully light-hearted post expresses my own very personal point of view only.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Lilly Petal Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 6:30am

Morning Mary,
Great blog, thanks. I think punishment just causes resentment, whereas if it were put across as being given the oppotunity to concentrate on what you need to do and allow others to do the same it might be more effective! I was always naturally a person who was happy to do my own thing, I definitely prefer to shop alone! Thanks for the reminder of how nice a bit of "me time" can be.

Mary Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 9:14am

Yes, it's all about choice, isn't it?

Liane Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 7:34am

Thank you, Mary, for your message. As a former educator, I immediately identified with your observation at the school. Children, like adults, have different needs. For some a "time out" is helpful. Schools are noisy and chaotic at times. A quiet place could be thought of as a retreat, if's in the eyes of the beholder. (I loved your comment that your isolation room would be decked with a laptop! Sounds great!). I think a time out room could be interrupted as punishment or a reward, depending on the individual. To make a comparison with a current news topics, being tied up and swatted to some is pleasure not punishment. Again, different needs, different views. Life is nice, we have choices! Thank you, Mary.

Mary Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 9:08am

Yes Liane, to be honest, one teacher did comment that the isolation unit was not an effective "punishment" for those children who actually preferred to be on their own. Sadly, the option of tying children up and spanking them is not an option in our schools these days! ;)

Liane Thu, Oct 8th 2015 @ 9:10am

My apology. My illustration was meant to say ADULTS in play. ( NO association to schools!) Schools must always be a place of safety for all. There should never be any physical punishment! A school's goal must be to make all children want to attend school because each child feels wanted and supported! Our schools are society's means to level the playing field, allow for equality and teach tolerance for others.

Bearofliddlebrain Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 8:01am

Ah, Mary, Mary,...the chance of peace and quiet is a joy to behold when it's by choice!!
Love, love my spare room, with sewing machine, threads, colourful and plain fabrics, Radio 4 Extra on with a play, cuppa tea...bliss! The same can be said of just sitting with a book or just sitting. Might get a chance to do that after dog walk...
Bear x

Mary Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 9:09am

And a dog (or cat) is often the best company in the world.

Louise Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 8:24am

Good morning Mary,

Having read Susan Cain’s wonderful book: “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking” I have discovered I am a “talkative introvert” which means that I love people and enjoy socialising, but up to a point. I also need peace, quite, solitude (with the cat for company, of course) a good book and a cuppa (maybe some sewing...) to recharge my batteries. Oh, if only I had know this sooner in life! ;)

This is clearly another area in our lives where we need to find our own balance – as you say, the internet is a boon because we can talk when we like and have “company” without having to put on a performance of a “happy face” for the world all the time, which can be emotionally and physically draining, especially if you are not at your best.

Seems us Moodscopers are finding yet more we have in common...;)
Have a good day folks – or perhaps I should say have the best day you can?


Lou & Petal the cat x

Mary Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 9:11am

Hello Lou and Petal, I really must read that book. A number of people have recommended it to me now. Suspect I too am a talk it I've introvert.

Hopeful One Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 8:25am

Hi Mary- great blog. Oh for a book and a cosy nook. I remember reading a poem with that as its first line as a child but unfortunately cannot remember the rest!

Louise Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 9:03am

Good morning Hopeful One! This made me curious so I went and looked it up; “Oh for a book and a shady nook, Either indoors or out, with the green leaves whispering overhead, or the street cries all about. Where I may read at all my ease both of the new and old, For a jolly good book whereon to look is better to me than gold” by John Wilson Lou

Mary Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 9:12am

Great sentiment there. We are currently rebuilding our holiday home. One of the essentials is a reading corner.

Hopeful One Thu, Oct 8th 2015 @ 8:56am

Hi Lou-Most grateful to you for taking the time and trouble to look it up. It made my day.

Hopeful One Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 8:29am

Hi Mary - just remembered you like a joke- so here is the offering this morning.

A husband and wife are going to a costume party.The wife hangs the costumes in the cupboard before her husband has a chance to see her costume. On the day she has a headache and asks him to go alone. So he takes his costume and goes to the party. The wife, after a rest for for one hour ,finds her headache had gone so she decides to go the party in her costume. She thinks she could have some fun watching her husband to see how he acts when she was not with him. She joins the party and soon spots her husband cavorting around on the dance floor, dancing with every nice girl, flirting and sneaking a kiss if they let him.His wife sidles up to him and after a little kissing and hugging decides to let him go all the way since he is her husband after all.Just before unmasking at midnight, she slips away and goes home and puts her costume away wondering what kind of explanation her husband will give for his behaviour. She asks him when he comes home " Oh, the same old thing. You know I never have a good time when you're not with me ." She asks "Did you dance much?" He says , "I'll tell you, I never even danced one dance. When I got there, I met Pete, Bill Brown and some other guys, so we went into the den and played poker all evening. But you're not going to believe what happened to the guy I loaned my costume to..."

Mary Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 9:02am


Bearofliddlebrain Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 9:49am

Hee hee tee hee....! Bear

the room above the garage Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 11:15am

Bravo HO, bravo! :-D

Anna Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 9:16am

Thanks Mary. To echo others above me I too relish the occasional time alone. It often involves music, a notebook, reading books, Internet and tea. Often candles or fairy lights and usually cushions.

Having spent months filming women in solitary confinement however (and I did read your disclaimer) we ought to remember that they have a bed covered in plastic, a cold floor, a metal toilet uncomfortably close to the bed, no computer, phone, books, cushions, tea, music etc etc.. Just a flap in the thick metal door through which their compartmentalised meals (if you can call them that) are slid three times a day.

Strangely, one woman I spoke to who was there often, said she had learnt to meditate in there and use it to her advantage, but that was unusual. Most went crazy, as the graffiti left etched on the walls was testimony to. One woman sharpened the end of her toothbrush and stuck it down her throat so that she could be taken to the infirmary. Another threw her faeces at anyone who tried to open the door. These people were "sane" before they went in.

I did like the sentiment of your post about solitude, but just wanted to share x

Leah Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 10:19am

Anna, That must have been a life changing experience. What country was that in? I could not begin to what that experience would be like. I think words have certain connotations. Choosing solitude is different from it being forced on you. I too like the sentiment of the post. Thanks Mary.

Mary Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 12:00pm

Thank you for sharing, Anna. Yes, I realised the need for a disclaimer for exactly that reason.

Bearofliddlebrain Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 9:58am

Gosh Anna, how did you cope 'going through some of it with them' each day?
What an incredible insight into a totally different world.

Controversially, I also think they could be looked at as the 'lucky ones'...they chose to do wrong and have ended up in solitary confinement, whereas those of us with depression/anxiety and have no choice - we can't always choose to be alone or choose to get out there and be with people.

Oh heck, I've looked at the word controversially too many times to see if I have spelt it correctly, and now it doesn't make sense!!! Definitely a slow-Bear day!
Bearwithme x

Leah Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 10:27am

Bear, Many people who end up in solitary confinement have not done anything wrong. Some have been framed, some may live in countries where being a female and being raped is seen as a crime, some are there because of their race, their religion, their sexual orientation, their disability. I think people in solitary confinement and people experiencing depression are both suffering and we don't need to compare the suffering. I know you stated it was controversial and I think healthy discussion is a good way to communicate. I respect your views. Take care.

Anna Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 10:31am

Hello, just have to clarify that Inwas filming in a women's prison in Indiana for five months, not actually in solitary. I just spoke to them befor and after and filmed stuff like their meals being Id through or their faces at the letterbox sized window

When you say about "choosing to do wrong" however I think you need to be careful. As it was a maximum security no-contact faculty (in order to prevent sexual relationships) many women got sent there for a simple shoulder run or a hug. And in terms of their crimes? Well that's not always choosing to do wrong either. But that's a whole other debate..

Anna Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 10:34am

Apologies for dreadful phone typos! A shoulder "rub" - hope others make sense

Kate Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 10:35am

This is my first post although I have been doing the daily test since April. My score had steadily climbed but has just plummeted from 73% to 44% and I know the depression has returned again. Every time I climb out I hope it will be for the last time, but it wasn't to be. I live with my dog & cat and at this point could not cope with any social activities but I have to go to work later & put on my okay face. When I am feeling better I enjoy my single life but now it just feels so lonely.

the room above the garage Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 11:12am

Hello Kate, welcome in, it can be a brave step saying hello and I'm glad you have. Keep talking. I too have to pull on my face daily, hourly, half hourly. I'm in a dip too. I'm finding my best way of coping is to treat myself differently depending on which bit of the day it is. So some parts, when there is time, I allow myself to be ill...I am the patient and treat myself as that. I'm not's ok to sleep, eat whatever gets me through. Other times, I need to be the carer to myself and take a line of encouragement...right now I'm about to make myself walk because I know it will help. It's a seesaw. We must learn not to push too far one way or the other. My job feels impossible when I'm ill but it's also my saviour. How would I be if I didn't have to rise up to it? Don't be disheartened by the evidence. Use it. The more you learn how to climb out the easier and shorter each climb could be. One day you will only wobble and somewhere on the way you will be able to pull someone along with a technique you developed. Well done for posting x.

Mary Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 12:03pm

Kate, you may live alone, but by joining in here you be assured of the support of the Moodscope crowd. Sending you hugs. You will get through this depression too; just keep on hanging on.

Anonymous Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 1:49pm

Hi ratg. I am sorry to read these last few days that you are not feeling good, that you are in a dip. You have so many responsibilities apart from looking after yourself. It can't be easy. I like the way you treat yourself! Such good advice for us all. I hope you enjoyed your walk. Love Julia xxx

the room above the garage Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 9:43pm

Julia you are a love xxx. The walk was renewing, short but very useful. How are you? Home? Away?

Nicola Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 9:51pm

Kate, just to say Hi, and that I can empathise as I too live alone, and that can seem very isolating when the depression hits. When we're well, life seems full of freedom. When we're ill, we feel invisible. But it will get better. Take really good care of yourself. Hug that cat. Walk that dog. Keep talking. Well done for posting. RATG - always read your posts with interest, it's a constant judgement call between nurturing and encouraging, isn't it? Take care xx

Anonymous Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 11:09am

I think we read blogs and take out what catches our attention first. This may not be the purpose of the blog but an undercurrent with which we as readers may have been deeply affected by in the past. Or the context in which the writer chooses to frame his or her blog is seen as more meaningful. I have worked in prisons and know the fear that the punishment of solitary confinement instils in prisoners. The cell is padded, bare and hostile,set well away from the main prison. It is truly isolating in a terrifying way. I like to be on my own but choose to; no-one is forcing me to be on my own or punishing me. I know you mean well Mary and by putting the proviso at the end of your blog, we know you are aware of the strong feelings associated with solitary confinement. Please do not take my or others comments personally. I am sure you are far too sensible to do that!!

Mary Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 12:40pm

There is always a risk when using humour and presenting a light - hearted take on serious subjects that one's comments can be interpreted as facetious or purile. Hence my disclaimer. And, no - I didn't take offence at these more thoughtful comments written by persons who have experience of seeing the damage inflicted by the punitive side of this (in my true opinion) barbarous practice.

the room above the garage Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 11:16am

A talkative introvert? At last. Tis me.

Amanda Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 11:45am

Chance to be alone ... oh, what joy! My daily commute is my 'me time' nearly every work day. My choice of music, talking aloud to myself, talking through my problems with my 'imaginary therapist' Ha! No-one to force their viewpoint on me, no-one to tell me not to worry, blah blah blah. No-one demanding my attention to their needs...

Mary Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 12:40pm

Oh yes........ (sigh)

Lucas Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 3:38pm

I can relate to people being surprised to find out that I'm an introvert. I taught music at an elementary school for 9 years, until health problems made me decide to quit as of this summer adter 2 years of suffering through it.

It was my passion for music and my hope to be of help to someone, as a few teachers were for me, that drove me to go into a social career. Most if the time, I needed my breaks alone so I could take on whatever was next. Pleasant socializing with coworkers did not allow me to recharge.

On the other hand, I tend to isolate myself when depressed. I know I should reach out, share with someone what's going on, but I have a hard time doing so. Even when I interact with people, I don't share what's going on, and in turn I find my interactions less meaningful. I feel cut off, but I also know to some degree that I'm doing it to myself, and ultimately feel worse.

I've been going through that now. Online is easier. Sometimes I feel like there's even an invitation to open up, which makes it ok for me to go ahead.

Mary Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 5:32pm

Always an invitation, Lucas. You are so very welcome.

The Gardener Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 5:39pm

I've always reckoned enjoying being 'alone' is very healthy - shows you are at one with your mind. People who are perpetually on phone/face book, all day shopping for nothing are often, I find, actually scared of being alone. In my current situation it is a treat to be savoured. In Australia, in one of our frequent times of substitution for daughter-in-law off on business, I would deal with the hurly-burly of getting two rowdy little boys off to school, and my husband would take son to office. The bliss. Take huge bowl of fruit out into the sun, and wait for the birds to appear. I suppose, technically, I was not alone. Mary speaks of solitary confinement as a 'punishment'. Our kids, five of them, were punished for bad behaviour by being sent to their rooms. The exile lasted seconds, they might miss something (particularly if their were guests). A crueller one was putting them out of the front door. Our first house was an estate lodge, facing another - so their disgrace was seen by the neighbours. We could do neither with number five, she crawled under her bed, threatened to bite anyone who tried to get her out, and the bed had to be lifted off sometimes. Putting her out on the step was worse - once, a slip of a thing of five, she walked off down the road in a November fog - as she was only 'speaking' to number two, he was dispatched on a diplomatic mission. Being 'alone' is frequently mistaken for being a 'loner' or 'lonely' very different. I'd like to say here what comfort I had from all the replies yesterday. I had been left a limp rag, but stiffening is taking place - loads pals on market day a great help.

Leah Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 8:31pm

Gardener, No wonder you have great organisational and time management skills- 5 children and still smiling! These days with bedrooms full of electrical devices, being sent to the bedroom would be seen as a bonus! Your description of number 5 is so evocative. Your ability to describe events and make them cinematic always captivates me. I am glad the replies yesterday were of some comfort. Take care. I look forward to your replies and future blogs.

Monica Thu, Oct 8th 2015 @ 5:32am

Enjoyed this post Mary, especially your 'quote' about 'real people' and their affect on those of us who are introverts or high sensitive personality trait. I am keeping that quote for my collection because it is really spot on for how I feel about 'real people' most times =) and it's nice to know that I am not alone in enjoying loads of solitude!

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