Facing loneliness can be painful. Because loneliness is complex. Yet it is important in order to lift the way we feel about ourselves and the life we have.
We feel it, but often find it hard to describe. Loneliness can leave us feeling depressed, anxious and hopeless. I have felt lonely at different points in my life and for different reasons. And I have learnt something.
1. Loneliness often comes with other emotions and at different times in our lives…
… like grief, sadness, illness, poverty, feeling unsafe, being treated unfairly, bullied or abused, self-loathing, hopelessness, depression, anxiety, anger, uncertainty, transitions, personal crisis and more. Often it is a combination of 2 or more, with one feeling fuelling the other.
Often, what is down at the root of loneliness, is the difficulty of being alone with ourself.
Why? Because we may feel hopeless – without purpose or a sense of worthwhile future.
2. What do we often do when we feel lonely? We avoid it.
But the avoidance strategy has a limited shelf life and can make things a whole lot worse. Because it can lead to a vicious circle, which makes facing loneliness much harder.
Instead of avoiding the feeling of loneliness and unhappiness, our behaviour is making it worse. Over time, we need more and more time to recover from what we do to ourselves. Mondays, Tuesday etc are affected by the weekend pain. On Thursdays and Fridays fear of the terror of it all starts setting in again. And on it goes.
3. There are only two ways we can play this:
Facing loneliness and doing something about it or letting loneliness destroy us.
And I don’t mean to flippant. Because destroying us, any sense of hope, self confidence and self belief, it will – slowly or quickly.
I have struggled with loneliness a lot, at different stages of my life, often for different reasons: teenage angst, when relationships end, friends die, moving home, moving jobs, mid life crisis, illness, facing my mortality. I had no one to teach me how facing loneliness is done.
My father struggled with it in retirement. My mother struggles with it since my father’s death.
Loneliness is human and does not always have to be a big or long-term problem.
Facing loneliness is part of our personal development and growth. This might not always be what we want to hear, when we are in it, but it is the only way to go.
Befriending yourself, as far fetched as it may sound, is the first and main task.
4. Truths about loneliness
There are many. Here I would like to share my top 7 truths about loneliness and how to cope. Because the single most important of all truths about loneliness is:
Face loneliness and do something about it or let loneliness destroy you.
When you start facing up to your loneliness and try doing something about it, it may get worse (for a while).
Why? Because with facing the reality of your life, you may started feeling the pain.
When you feel lonely, you can get quickly disheartened.
Keep going. To keep going is the only way to weaken the vicious circle and the feeling of loneliness.
Feeling lonely can make you feel the odd one out.
But you are not odd. You don’t have loser written on your forehead. You are not alone in feeling lonely!
And sometimes you may wallow in self pity and hopelessness and then nothing seems to work.
Yes, I had (and still have) those moments, too. When I would revert to the old pattern of avoidance and numbing feeling lonely. At least I have learnt not to beat myself up over it. And so it would pass.
Build on your success in facing loneliness.
Whatever you do, how ever little, it does matter! Those short walks you can take by yourself; the brief moments when you can feel good about who you are; when you can let the past be the past – savour them and build on them.
When loneliness turns into solitude.
At some point, I started enjoying my own company. Loneliness turned into much loved solitude. That is how I like it. That’s who I am. Without it I would not be able to do the things I like best. Try it.
Loneliness does not really go away – fully.
I have accepted that, which does not mean I have given in and turned into a victim dominated by loneliness.
Facing loneliness has made me understand it better. When you do that, you end up less frightened of loneliness, even though you do not like it. But you will be better equipped and can face it and feel it – without loneliness destroying you.
Every person and every story is different. What works for me does not necessarily work for you.
You too can find your own path, with a bit of courage, a bit of blind faith, a bit of determination.
Want to find out more?
Feature image courtesy of Nidan via Pixabay
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Need some advice? Submit your question to my #DearKarin advice column here. Karin Sieger BA (Hons), MA (PsychCouns), Reg. MBACP (Accred) is a therapist and writer. All rights reserved © Karin Sieger. Neither articles nor videos substitute medical advice or therapy.