While there are many life experiences that may contribute to a fear of being alone, the primal experience of separation, of being in the dark by oneself, is that of an individual spirit descending into its new body. This is an experience of the soul, deeper than the personality, the separation from the divine.
It is a slow drawn out experience, occurring over the months of gestation as the physical, emotional, and mental bodies begin to form in the mother’s womb, the new house for the incarnating spirit. While there is an increasing awareness of the extreme closeness on these levels to the enveloping mother, there is a corresponding distancing from the larger spirit that it has been a part of. It is a transition from an existence of connection to energy and light, to one of separation and darkness, from effortless creativity, instant communication, extended awareness, and mobility, to helplessness, and relative confinement.
This process is punctuated by the birth of the growing physical body, when the physical sense of confinement, pressure, and often danger and death, are maximum. Now the spiritual separation is compounded, by physical separation from the mother. Over the next years the individuated spirit is gradually bound into its new physical/emotional/mental bodies, which increasing dominate the awareness of the growing infant, usually as the awareness of spirit fades from consciousness.
In the yogic traditions it is said that the greatest level of suffering is the soul yearning to return home, to experience again the unity with the divine. This suffering actually increases the closer one comes to that goal, as the soul can more fully realize what it has lost and is seeking to find. This yearning is embodied in the stories of the master who holds the disciples’ head under water, until they are near to drowning, and on letting them up tells them that when they want the divine as much as they have just wanted air, they will be close to their goal [e.g. Ramakrishna].
On the physical, emotional, or mental planes we may fear for what may happen to us when we are alone, some attack or injury, and we may have had experiences that support such fears. But on the spiritual level we are simply afraid of that most intense sense of loss, of the very experience of being an individuated human being, encased in the denser bodies, limited and alone, and forgetful of, and unconscious to, our true nature.
As we grow we compound matters further by self-judgements, often internalized from others, in which we begin to separate from aspects of our own physical/emotional/mental selves that are in pain, or “wrong”, or in some way unacceptable. These we forget, cover over, and distract ourselves from.
Being alone, especially for longer periods of time, removes many of the distractions and these aspects begin to surface. We find all our fears, our self-judgements, or sense of loss returning to us, arising from the inside out. This is actually the natural healing process, our being working to become whole, to end the little separations in preparation for trying to end the larger sense of separation of the spirit.
In fact this is what makes the smaller healings so hard. At some level in our being we know that behind, or under the smaller aspects of separation lies the primal spiritual wound. In the Journey process developed by Brandon Bays, the last step in working through the layers of emotional distress is to face the dark void. This is often where people turn and run, and yet it is the final place where acceptance and surrender takes one through to the larger experience of Self and Spirit.
I suspect that this is even an integral part of our fears about “death”, the transition at the other end of life from our “birth”. If I was to describe an experience of being wrapped up in a rug and crushed or suffocated, or enclosed in a stone sarcophagus, you might naturally think these were images of death. However from the spiritual point of view they are equally apt images of birth, the descent into the body.
In Stanislov Groff’s discussion of the stages of birth and the imagery that arises in accessing them via different means, there are many images of death and struggle [The Holotropic Mind]. While it may be that the body indeed fears for a physical death, being crushed or suffocated, during birth it is in many ways a spiritual death that is actually taking place. At least a severe diminishing.
If we have had such a birth, perhaps we unconsciously assume that death will be similar. While it is true that the lower level bodies will dissipate, the spirit or soul will actually be reborn into the larger spirit. What is actually a transition back to larger consciousness we fear as the finally separation from consciousness, the completion of the process that began with conception.
Thus on many levels we confuse birth and death, and project our fear of the former process onto the later.
This all leads to the conclusion that is part of most spiritual teachings that it is by learning to reconnect with spirit, by remembering that aspect of ourselves, increasing our consciousness or awareness, that we pass beyond the fear of being alone, and so many other fears as well. When we are able to access your connection to the divine, to “lay your head in the lap of God” at any time, then the most traumatic of earthly experiences no longer affects the soul that undergoes them.
The truth is that we are not, and never really have been alone, except in our limited awareness of our incarnated self. When we reclaim this, we step out of separation back into our full place as part of the divine play of existence. This is generally the aim and goal of the various spiritual traditions and religious teachings.