Loneliness is a tricky thing to combat. Loneliness seems to beget loneliness. When you feel isolated you crawl into your shell and become more so. You feel separated from other human beings. You may have physical symptoms too, like an ache or a heaviness in your chest. It’s not a good feeling.
Maybe the trick is not to combat it. Maybe the trick is to take it in and fully own it. Pay attention to how you feel. Be aware of your body. Let yourself be sad and acknowledge the sorrow. Give yourself permission to cry. It’s important to be aware of your feelings before you can take steps to heal.
Sometimes people try to distract themselves from their loneliness with alcohol or the Internet or busyness. Distraction devices are limitless—you can stave off your feelings by plunging into chores or playing video games or whatever keeps you occupied.
Some people try to explain their loneliness by cataloguing all their faults. Of course they are unworthy of others. Who would want to be with them when they are so flaw-ridden and undesirable? This kind of dangerous thinking offers them an explanation, but it’s a false one.
Loneliness is part of the human condition.
You may be lonely, but you’re not alone. At one time or another, most people have felt lonely. And if you encountered a lonely person, you would show compassion to him. You would not blame him for his condition. You would give him support.
So when you’re feeling lonely, try to feel the same compassion for yourself. Understand that you may be feeling this way for a reason. Perhaps your connections with friends and family have frayed a bit. Perhaps your relationships are not as close as you would wish. Loneliness is a kind of emotional pain that signals—like a physical pain—that something in your body needs attention. In this case, that something is your connection with other human beings.
So accept it. Own it. Understand that feeling lonely is sad, and you deserve better. Be at least as compassionate with yourself as you would be with others. Then you will be open to working on easing the pain of loneliness. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to experience connectedness with others. It takes courage to reach out, but you can do it. Next week I’ll talk about how.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.