19 Apr Why I am lonely: My relationship with loneliness
I’ve come to think that loneliness is quite possibly one of the most powerful feelings that we humans can experience. This feeling does not need to be labeled as right or wrong, good or bad, but rather it is something innately possible that exists within all of us. Some are more aware then others of its presence, possibilities, and consequences.
The effects of loneliness are wide reaching, whether in social, professional, or familial circles. It is often hard to identify just how loneliness affects people, but I would suggest that it can influence and impact one’s love life, friendships, employment, creativity, self-esteem, and sense of adventure – just to name a few.
Even though negative connotations are often attributed to loneliness, I truly believe that the feeling itself is neutral. The feeling itself isn’t negative, but rather, it’s the story we believe about the feeling. The secret to facing, overcoming, and managing feelings, like loneliness, is not to avoid its presence, but rather learn to embrace them in such a way that our negative perceptions or thoughts about the feelings diminish and we are able to consider alternative perspectives and potential despite feeling lonely.
Loneliness does not only happen when we’re alone. Loneliness can also arise when in the presence of others. The following are important contributors and factors leading to an experience of loneliness:
It often starts with an aching heart. Maybe someone is struggling with unrealized hopes, broken expectations, or ruptured relationships. Whatever the cause may be, the result is a continuous, dull pain in our heart that communicates the message of “nobody understand me.”
Another common hurdle is not knowing how to communicate our heart’s internal aching so that others can understand. Carl Jung highlights the dilemma of being unable to communicate our loneliness effectively but fails to provide an adequate solution. I believe the key element to communication lies in the fact that it requires someone else needing to be present! This leads us to our next barrier!
Have you ever shared something painful with someone, only to be provided with unsollicited advice or a “you think that’s bad? You’ll never guess what happened to me” story? While our friends and family may have good intentions, these habits can perpetuate feelings of aloneness, even after attempts to connect.
Overcoming or Alleviating Loneliness
At some point or another, we all have experienced loneliness. It is a natural human experience. The biggest struggle that I see within our circles is our inability to express, talk about, or accept our experiences with loneliness.
I wish there was a magical, quick fix to alleviate loneliness, but due to its powerful nature, loneliness requires some intentional hard work to decrease its intensity. Of course the easiest solution may be to avoid it or maintain a super busy schedule. No one has time to be lonely if they are busy working, exercising, dating, reading, surfing the web, Netflixing, etc, right? As easy as it seems, I can honestly say that these go-to fixes don’t actually provide long term growth or healing.
My journey with loneliness required me to accept it and all of the negative thoughts that accompanied it. Part of the reason why loneliness is so powerful is because as we tap into the feeling, we can often become flooded with racing thoughts and other intense emotions. Unhelpful thoughts may range from criticism to self-pity, while feelings can shift around from sadness, to anger, to resentment, to rejection.
Why is getting in touch with our own loneliness so important? Because only then can we connect or relate with the loneliness of others as they share with us. If we do not walk our own journey with loneliness, we will not be adequately prepared to guide or accompany others when they divulge their own lonely tales. It is in those potential moments of connection that healing interpersonal miracles happen. As we accept our loneliness and openly accept others in theirs, we walk alongside one another, witnessing each other bravely enduring life’s rough stuff. This experience, this act, undoes the feeling of loneliness.