A Way of Mastering and Avoiding Loneliness
By: J. Marlando
I read the most startling statistic the other day that said that 25% of adults suffer from painful loneliness every few weeks. I was so surprised by this that I began doing some research finding out that there’s no one who seems to know what to do about it other than to suggest a few obvious solutions like find a friend, join a group or seek counseling. Not that this isn’t good advice but since there is no quick-fix anti-lonesome pill to take it’s no sure-cure answer either.
I’m like most others in that I have felt lonesome a few times in my life but I am not sure that I have actually endured serious loneliness which is not the same as aloneness. You know, there are some situations that arise that make you wish that you could escape you, that’s aloneness in its most desperate state but still it’s not “loneliness.”
I thought back to a friend of mine, I’ll call him Steve. I believe that Steve lived in loneliness nearly all the time as he had a desperate need to be validated by others. He was a person who never stopped talking, never listened and remained in a persona state that mirrored Jung’s Social Strong Man at least most of the time. That is, a man who portrayed having every great quality and virtue publicly but at home was really more of a child, crying and whimpering about how hard life is, as opposed to being the adult.
He constantly “cheated on his wife” but it wasn’t because he didn’t love her, it was to fulfill his terrible loneliness; he had a need to keep being validated as existing in the precepts of others and that kind of intimacy was most “validating.” I have no doubt that a psychiatrist would have had a field day with him but of course Steve saw himself as a victim in that he had a situation or person to blame for anything that he did that wasn’t quite right or didn’t suit him.
I don’t think that most people carry such an unhappy load on their shoulders as Steve did but I am convinced that loneliness—or at least most loneliness—begins with the lack of self. Indeed, *Carolyn Hobbs tells us that loneliness comes when we are “disconnected from ourselves.”
I believe there is a lot of validity in this. After all, a person can suffer loneliness in a crowded room or even at a get together with close friends and/or family. Quite often loneliness has little to do with being alone. Being alone can make a person yearn for company but not turn into loneliness so loneliness must be a symptom that extends loneness.
Let us return to the thought that loneliness is being disconnected from the self. There can be manifold reasons why a person disconnects from the self but a major cause behind the effect of loneliness is self-hate and self-hate’s qualities—guilt, shame and regret; deep seated self-anger and/or…self-pity. While the person enduring those feelings of inadequacy might reveal him or herself as being overtly egocentric to the outside world, beneath the surface there may be a total experience of inadequacy. This could have been sowed by too strict and non-approving parents or, the reverse of this, non-caring and so non-nurturing parents. This could be caused by the terrible aspects of poverty, of growing up in the absence of things and so in want; this could be based on actual past events creating terrible guilt feelings, the list goes on so extreme loneliness should be treated by a professional because where there is (real) loneliness there is invariably depression and depression can have physiological consequences.
With the above said, let’s talk about what we can do for ourselves to rid ourselves of dreaded loneliness.
First, go inside and seek the real cause for your loneliness, I promise you it is not the grey sky outside or because you’re stuck with nothing to do. Anyone who is bored is actually choosing to do nothing as opposed to something. Anyway, confront any self-anger that you have. Think back to what you did or what happened to create the self-repulsion. When you have it in your mind, say to it, “go away, I don’t want you in my body anymore. I forgive you now go away.”
Yes, I know this directive sounds like so much hooey but if you do it strongly enough and sincerely enough you can actually “feel” the negativity leaving you. I’ve done it, and years ago many of my students did it so try it, you have nothing to lose.
If you feel that your parents, a relative or some stranger is at the roots of your loneliness, visualize them in your mindscape and tell them that you forgive them. Forgiveness it the greatest cure for old hatefulness, resentments and anger. Even if there is, we’ll say, a molester or rapist in your past, forgive him…forgive him with all your heart because as long as you don’t all you’re doing is hanging on to the pain. You are hurting you!
How can you forgive someone who has clearly and actually penetrated your life with something truly terrible? First, by understanding that the past is gone forever in the moment you let go of it. As long as you hold on to it you are the victim in continuum; your present is forever shadowed by your past. Yet, the moment you decide to forgive you, become the victor. Those that have harmed you either intentionally or unintentionally are neutralized and you have taken them out of control.
The other major action you can take to defeat your loneliness is to make it your practice to self-love.
Go to the mirror and tell yourself daily that you are loving and lovable; when you believe this about yourself, you lose the need to be validated by others and so your loneliness goes away.
Loneliness, I believe, is a symptom of an open emotional wound. It isn’t the same that a person who has a serious illness feels. Such persons can feel isolated and alone because no matter how many doctors they have, how many friends and loved ones are around them, they are still confronting the illness by themselves. Loneliness is a disease in and of itself but one that I am convinced can be illuminated through love and forgiveness—self-forgiveness and forgiveness of others…self-love and love of others. When we speak of love, however, we are necessarily speaking of unconditional love.
Unconditional loving is new to most people and so reactivating it can be difficult at first. We say “reactivating it” because you loved unconditionally as a child. This way of loving was taken away from you by your socialization as it was from all of us. And so, you are used to demanding that love be reciprocal because you have been taught not to trust the motives of others and so forth. So simply practice loving unconditional begin with a house pet or even a plant or a tree outside. Begin projecting your unconditional love onto strangers and you can do this by simply saying silently to yourself, “I love you” to people you greet each day.
If you actually muster the courage to do this, your cynicism and mistrust should simply go away. Mistrust and cynicism are common maladies for folks who endure loneliness.
Also, realize that it is okay to take social risks. That is to meet new people and be receptive to new friends. However, it is okay if someone rejects you, this happens to everyone from time to time—some people just don’t hit it off but that too is part of socializing. Indeed, another problem that some people enduring loneliness have is becoming too quickly involved with people before a real friendship is developed. Then, if the friendship doesn’t work out, the person enduring loneliness is suddenly feeling inadequate or betrayed again. It is simply okay for some people not wanting to get “cozy” with you and it is okay for you to be discriminating with who you want to get “cozy” with. You are loving and lovable and this is all you need know about yourself and when you do, you begin feeling just fine in and about the world.