Loneliness is a feeling of emptiness inside you; a feeling of isolation or separation from everyone; cut off from those you would like to have contact with. However, you may also feel emotionally isolated, though surrounded by people; you have difficulty socialising with them.
Like it is in all emotions, people who are lonely might feel unwanted, unloved, undesirable, insignificant, insecure, or abandoned. It can make you feel empty, and you may wish to have someone in your life who will relieve the emptiness. Yet, loneliness may also exist when connections with others are fleeting, meaningless, or not what you consider to be consequential. Thus, you may have many friends, or be in a room filled with people, and still be lonely. This isolation, thus, can have a serious damaging effect on one’s mental and physical health.
As Paul Tillich puts it, “Language…has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone”. Claire Danes is more forthright. ‘I have a huge, active imagination, (and) I think I’m really scared of being alone; because if I’m left to my own devices, I’ll just turn into a mad woman.” But a nonchalant Azgraybebly Joslan puts it matter of fact, ‘If you’re sad about being alone on Valentine’s Day, just remember that nobody loves you on any other day of the year either’!
Some prefer the inner world of their own mind rather than the outer world of sociability. External stimulation depletes them and they thrive on reflection and solitude. The psychic opposites, extroverts, prefer small talk and social life, as it boosts their mood. Too much solitude bores them. Most of us though, share some extrovert and some introvert traits equally.
When you have a need and desire to be interpersonally connected and recognise that it’s missing, you may become wrapped in the emotion of loneliness. It can be triggered when you’re thinking of a significant relationship that has ended, if you realise that your relationships are not emotionally satisfying; if your access to social relationships has been altered because of a life circumstance, or you recognise that you are not truly known and understood by another.
Loneliness, like all emotions, creates certain perceptions. Your longing for closeness may, at times, lead you to believe that your situation might never end. It’s understandable why people who are lonely might feel unwanted, unloved, undesirable, insignificant, despairing, insecure, or abandoned. Emotions do have a purpose, regardless of how unpleasant some of them can make us feel.
Loneliness can lead to self-involvement and a high sensitivity where you hopelessly avoid others, or desperately seek their positive affirmation. Feeling lonely is not the same as being alone. A person will always have a time when they choose to be alone. Instead, loneliness is the feeling of sadness about being alone. The amount of time you spend alone has little to do with being lonely. Many people find solitude a pleasant experience that allows one to think, be creative, rest, or simply pass time in solitary activity.
There are people in whom fear or anxiety is provoked when they are alone, but this is different than the experience of loneliness, as are situations where a person prefers to be alone in order to avoid the anxiety inherent in social activities. A prolonged loneliness can lead you to believe that you are depressed, or, in some circumstances, can lead to depression. ‘Man is not an island by himself’, is a famous adage. People who feel the threat of social exclusion are highly motivated to look for sources of acceptance, and their perceptions are in gear to find a friendly face.
However, one has to have a willingness to take risks socially, to be assertive, to self-disclose, and be responsive to others. Some strategies to defeat loneliness: Be more active, start a hobby, telephone someone you are missing who stays far away, write, e-mail or visit.
If you are lonely because you miss someone who has died, remember your happy moments with them, and knowing those memories can always be with you, can move you away from the lonely feelings. Being kind to yourself, allowing yourself to be you, and expressing your feelings to people who add to your life, not detract from it, shrinks loneliness.
When we stop expressing how we feel, we lose, not only all the vital connection to ourselves, but we also end up feeling lonely due to a lack of emotional connection with people who are theoretically in our Trust Circle. Drowning your feelings of isolation in alcohol or subjecting them to substances in order to forget is not what your emotions are telling you to do.
It’s a vicious circle. When we determine that we’re not liked, which may be more a statement of our perception than fact, it may skew unhealthy beliefs? In turn, low intimacy results in feeling lonely, and we then judge that loneliness and feel disliked.
It’s tied to self-respect
Feeling sad is actually a cue to take care of ourselves – to be kinder to ourselves, to reflect, to seek support. Severing emotional connections doesn’t help. That sense of loneliness and just feeling as if there’s something wrong with you, distorts your feelings, especially because in not giving yourself love, care, trust, and respect, any person not worth his salt will seem your benefactor, and so you’ll feel increasingly reliant on this person.
Toxic people tend to also bulldoze through your existing relationships and commitments so that they can have more influence and control – it’s how you end up feeling isolated, dependent, and shamed.
When we learn to be more self-compassionate and also recognise unhealthy people, and situations, it’s a lot easier to get a sense of who the safe people are in our lives. Don’t express your fears and worries to people who leave you drained and even use what you express against yourself, and don’t waste your time trying to convince them of your position.
Know you are a person in your own right. Start allowing yourself the right to have and express your feelings and opinions. Respect and regard yourself as you do others. Stopping judging yourself, will free you of the burden of projecting your perception onto others, or taking what they do and say and seeing it as confirmation of negative beliefs.
Let me end with this evocative poem:
shh…listen don’t you hear
I’m crying but they are silent tears
I’m crying on the inside so you can’t see
all the pain running though me
I cry for you I cry for me
I cry for the times I can’t
so if you listen you may hear my silent tears.
– Amanda Smith