Friday afternoon, 3 pm, in front of my computer screen… My eyes scan the same content on the canvas while I feel the heat of the sun coming through my window. I look at the blue sky, pensive… “And if it was time?” Conflicting feelings intertwine, between stress, fear and excitement, I’m confused. “I have to go out to see friends tonight, will I have time?” A question, certainly relevant, but above all a false excuse to stay in my comfort zone. In reality, all you have to do is take a look at the timetables on the internet and the decision is quickly made.
So after a long hesitation, that’s what I do: I decide to go see the movie “Elvis”, the biopic of Elvis Presley, which made me want so much, ONLY. Far from being a filmmaker – this type of person who likes to go to the cinema alone – it’s a real ordeal for me. All the more so, if we also take into account my complex relationship with cinema itself.
A relationship with the cinema, already difficult
First, beyond my aversion to solitude in a place associated with the social group, as is the case with cinemas, the activity itself was already almost foreign to me. For good reason, before my experiment, three long years have passed since the last time I tasted popcorn on a red seat. This dates from a stay in Canada – as if I had to travel to the end of the world to see a feature film – where I took the opportunity to discover the live action of the Lion King, my Disney favorite.
Curious to discover the life-size lion cub of my childhood, but above all, accompanied by a friend, I agreed to make the effort. At the time, the simple fact of buying a place to lock myself up for hours in a dark room did not seem profitable to me. Going there only rarely, I did not understand the interest of this activity.
Alone among the others, an unthinkable situation
If seeing a film at the cinema was therefore difficult for me, going there alone seemed impossible. Already when the desire took me to see a film, I always asked friends to come with me, and only if they were available, we went there. Otherwise, too bad, I couldn’t see the projection. This habit has developed into a certain form of frustration, which has increased over the years. I felt like I was stuck and not at all free of my actions, at least when it came to carrying out an activity of this kind, alone. Finally I was dependent on others.
To annihilate this frustration, I therefore chose this famous Friday afternoon to get out of my comfort zone.
The moment T, the long-awaited moment
Friday, 3:30 p.m., after an umpteenth check of the session schedule, I leave. It is while walking towards the cinema that an ounce of stress appears in the corner of my head. “What are people going to think?” “Am I going to look strange?” However, this time, the ruminations find themselves blocked by a feeling of excitement. That of achieving this personal challenge. That of finally feeling free.
At the entrance to the cinema, I smile. “Finally, I’m getting there, I’m going to be so proud of myself”. I walk to the touch screen to buy my ticket. Uncertain of the operation of the machine, not being used to it, I always feel slightly preoccupied with the gaze of others. However, I manage to select my place, successfully. The ticket falls, I grab it and head for the confectionery stand, an essential step. I then feel happy to offer myself a symbolic snack, truly representing the “cinema outing” in my eyes.
Once the ticket control is done, it’s time. I go down one floor to find the room – hoping it’s the right one – and I settle into my chair. Even before the film begins, I tell myself that the experience is already satisfying…I realize that I no longer need anyone.
A feeling of freedom
When the names stop scrolling and the lights come back on, I feel overwhelmed with emotion. In addition to being overwhelmed by the story, powerful and moving, I am above all happy and proud… Proud to have succeeded in this personal challenge, proud to have stepped out of my comfort zone.
Before I felt stuck and frustrated, now I feel free and independent.
Why is it so difficult to do an activity alone, like going to the movies?
It can be established that there are two components: a psychological component and a social component.
If we start from a psychological point of view, it is important to differentiate phobic (social) people from people who simply experience a little fear and anxiety at the idea of doing an activity alone. It is important to distinguish the two cases because we do not support in the same way. In the first case, the very idea of being alone at the cinema will mobilize in the phobic person a very strong anxiety which will completely invade him. Just thinking about it is hard, so if she’s really in this situation, she’s likely to have a panic attack. In the second case, going to the cinema alone is an expensive step, which will require an effort, but in the idea, it is possible.
Always from the psychological point of view, the fear of the gaze of the other occupies a rather important place, depending above all on our sensitivity to the gaze of the other. One infers thoughts to others that are not even their thoughts. For example, we say to ourselves “if I go to the cinema alone, the others will think that I have no friends” or “that I am isolated, or weird”. We can experience fear, anguish, anxiety or even shame, embarrassment.
From a social point of view, this is explained by culture. There are cultures where doing an activity alone is not something atypical and where success does not necessarily go through the link with others, it is even rather well seen to be alone. On the other hand, in France, social life is particularly valued. Having friends, seeing people is synonymous with success… So if we don’t really trust ourselves, being alone can unconsciously lead to a feeling of failure. “If I’m alone, people will think I’ve failed”.
Where does our fear of other people’s eyes come from?
The gaze of the other is very important in human beings because they construct it from birth through that of their mother or father. Depending on what the parent’s gaze returns, the baby develops as a being in its own right.
Everyone is affected by this fear but its causes are different individually. First of all, we are more or less afraid of the gaze of others depending on how we were looked at – as a child – by our parents, our family but also by others at school or in the street. These first infantile experiences of the gaze will “determine” the way in which we will feel perceived in adulthood. For example, one can deduce: “If I was alone in the playground when I was a child and today I am afraid when I perform an activity alone, this can cause a feeling of repetition of this past unpleasant situation”. One can imagine that a child not appreciated at school and having received stares leading to a feeling of rejection, this unconsciously leaves traces even if, as an adult, he forgets this experience.
Going back to childhood, we reflect on the first experiences of loneliness. There, one can wonder if they were linked to times when one could release creative and imaginative capacities OR, conversely, to feelings of anxiety, exclusion and rejection? Sometimes, the only child, or from a family, has not benefited from good conditions to play alone. If the parents sent him to do an activity alone simply because they wanted to occupy him, it is not always associated with a positive experience.
In the case where the child was fulfilled in moments of solitude, in adulthood, he does not necessarily experience these activities alone in the same way.
Are there any benefits to doing an activity alone?
Yes, doing an activity alone is above all giving yourself a moment for yourself and only for yourself and freeing yourself from the gaze of others. This brings tranquility, and a certain release of our imagination. It’s also being free and independent because you no longer wait for others to want to do something to do it… For good reason, it happens that a person really wants to see a film but their friends don’t want to. not, then she will not see it. Seeing a movie alone, for example, is allowing yourself to have a moment of pleasure.
In addition to helping you feel better about yourself, it helps you feel better about others. Indeed, if we are able to go to the cinema, to the restaurant or to the museum alone, then, when we decide to go see our friends, it is because we want to and not because we are afraid of being alone. We therefore want to share this activity with them.
In concrete terms, how do you break away from this fear and dare to go to the cinema alone, for example?
There is a range of possible answers. We all have our individual quirks. On the other hand, we can follow a trail, that of asking ourselves: “What scares me?”
Once the question is asked, we try to answer it: “Is it the gaze of others?”, “Do I feel shame?” From there, it can give us more clues and we can dig into the causes: “Why do I imagine such thoughts in other people? “Where does this come from” “Does this remind me of an unpleasant experience I have already experienced?”
To dig deeper into the origin, we can also follow a psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy in order to look in depth for what scares us, what worries us.
Other very accessible methods also exist to relieve this fear and overcome it. We can do sophrology which will allow us to know the relaxation tools that work on us. Relaxation exercises or meditation before the activity alone can be beneficial. Behavioral therapies can also be helpful for working on behavior and getting started.
Carla Simondi, psychologist
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