4 Ways to Discover If You Are Truly an Old Soul

Dawn Bevier

There’s something magical (and miserable) about feeling lost in time

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Recently, I have been bingeing the show Outlander. The series is an adaptation of the best selling books by Diana Gabaldon. It’s about a British nurse named Claire Randall who visits Scotland soon after the end of World War II and is magically transported back to the eighteenth century. In this new time, she finds love and adventure in the Highlands but is never quite at peace with her surroundings. The threads of her old life still attach her to the modern world from which she was uprooted.

I find myself so engaged in the series because I connect deeply with Claire’s feelings of alienation. Many times, I look around at the world and feel out of place amongst others, as if my thoughts and my heart were forged in a different time.

And many close friends to whom I confess my sense of detachment make frequent comments that the problem lies in the fact I am an “old soul.” While it is true I am fascinated by the ideas of past lives, the logical part of me struggles with an idea so foreign to my Southern Christian upbringing.

However, my compulsion to understand what exactly it means to be an “old soul” led me to research the subject. And regardless of the fact I’m still conflicted on where these feelings of isolation originate, I must admit the character traits found in my studies were uncannily accurate.

So if if you share a feeling of “otherness” or have often been termed an “old soul,” then you may want to look at these characteristics.

Old souls frequently need alone time

I used to ascribe my penchant for time away as simply arising from the fact I am an introvert and a highly sensitive person (two other traits associated with being an “old soul”). But what differentiates the introvert from the “old soul” are the actions that take place in these moments of seclusion.

One thing that takes place? Planned moments of silence. Old souls crave quiet because it gives their thoughts a blank slate, allowing them to think deeply about the complex things at the forefront of their minds.

For example, in the Outlander series, I mentioned above, when Claire is thrown back into the twentieth century, one of the things most annoying to her is the noise of the modern world. Used to the silence of the Scottish countryside, she finds the buzz of Post World War II civilization extremely disturbing.

My husband and children are extremely annoyed with me when I have this same aversion to loud noise, preferring to ride in silence rather than listen to the latest music. They also find it amusing that my “music” list on YouTube is rain and thunderstorm, ocean waves, or creaky doors and crackling fireplace sounds. Oftentimes when I am alone, the only thing I pair with utter silence is the subtle popping and snapping of a wooden wicked candle, a sound that soothes me more than almost anything.

Old souls find silence comforting in a world that is too loud and busy doing, doing, doing, when they themselves would rather indulge in contemplation, questioning, and reflection.

Many old souls also often prefer to observe rather than actively participate in the world around them. They find it extremely pleasing to study people, enjoying the nuggets of wisdom they gain on the “why” of people’s words and actions.

For example, I rarely engage when I browse social media. Instead, I scroll and pause, thinking about each post and how it connects to the bigger ideas of the universe. And my scrolling usually ends very quickly because I find myself increasingly frustrated and discouraged at the trends I see emerging in the world around me. And this frustration is another sign of old souls.

Old souls struggle to come to terms with the contemporary world

Many of those described as “old souls” have a hard time interacting in a world whose habits seem both frivolous and immoral. They don’t understand the shallow entertainments and motivations that so strongly engage the majority of society, and as a result, often find themselves unable to achieve what some would call success in today’s world. However, this fact rarely bothers them, because they know true success lies in gaining wisdom and knowledge about the universal truths of the human condition.

In the same way, I am often exasperated when my own children endlessly swipe through TikTok, rolling in laughter at the inane antics of social media stars who make thousands of dollars shamelessly posing, prancing, and preening for viewers.

Old souls don’t understand the vanity of people who think the world is interested in what they had for breakfast or the arrogance of others who proudly claim they know the secret to love and happiness. They are wise enough to recognize that all humans are lost wanderers, muddling through time as best they can.

Old souls have a fondness for all things vintage and historical

Because they do not enjoy the amusements of the digital world, the majority of society sees old souls as cold or eccentric. They also find it especially puzzling that they are more beguiled by the world of the past than modern innovations.

Old souls love reading about times and places far distant from their own and take delight in those things still around from days gone by. For them, there is magic in tin-roofed houses, antique tapestries, and worn books with dusty covers and crinkled yellow pages. And though they often can’t explain the reasons these things are so beguiling, being in these environments and fingering these relics give them a sense of peace and tranquility that they cannot find in equal measure anywhere else.

For example, my husband thinks it quite strange that I bought a set of perfumes whose names were years of the past. I did so because breathing in these scents takes me to different times and places, environments that inexplicably feel like home.

And, like most old souls, nothing excites me more than historical fiction. Mind you, I don’t want to learn dates and facts when I read. I want to be immersed in the foreign worlds themselves. They somehow give me a sense of belonging, even though I travel to these places only in my mind.

Most old souls also relish the classics, finding knowledge and wisdom there that no scientific data or technological innovation can provide them. They don’t understand how the world favors reading up on celebrity gossip or new programming languages when there is no much insight to be found in forgotten masterpieces.

This is another reason old souls often feel a sense of separation from most people. Unless old souls find members of their own tribe, conversation with others can seem pointless or difficult.

For example, the words of Emerson, Thoreau, and Greek philosophers speak to me; they are one of the reasons I became a literature teacher. And to see my students scoff at their words in favor of the “wisdom” of viral sensations leaves me confused and saddened.

Old souls draw others to them

While a lot of people choose to avoid hanging out with those described as old souls, when they need advice or seek sanctuary from a cruel world, the old soul is often the person they turn to.

Why?

Because old souls are highly intuitive, people who come to them for solace or advice feel deeply understood. Old souls listen first before speaking, and their quiet, observant nature makes them great counselors. They hear the heart of a person louder than the words he or she speaks, and this rare quality allows them to give guidance that is usually exceptionally beneficial. So inevitably, when people are in need of hope, help, or direction, they flock to old souls to gain both clarity and comfort.

The bottom line:

If you, like me, see many of these traits within you, then perhaps you are also an old soul, trapped in a world whose interests and longings you don’t quite understand. Embrace your uniqueness and the unusual loves and gifts that separate you from others. If they have not already, know that someone will come into your life and be intrigued and seduced by the mysterious beauty that you possess.

As poet Nikita Gill states, “There is a beautiful thing inside you that is thousands of years old. Too old to be captured in poems. Too old to be loved by everyone. But loved so very deeply by a chosen few.”

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Sanford, NC
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