menu/ LONELINESS

One way of understanding loneliness is to notice that it occurs for all of us whenever our expectations suddenly change.

Feelings of loneliness occur both at times of success and at times of loss and failure. Loneliness and the fear of loneliness can be found at the root of every emotional blockage a person has - either as the cause of the blockage, "If I say or do that, people might not like me and I'll be alone," or as a way to keep the blockage in place.

Loneliness is a real emotion, so it has both positive and negative aspects.

negative

a) The negative aspects - emptiness, tears, self-pity, separation, insomnia, fear and panic - are familiar to all of us; and

b) The fear of loneliness has additional negatives manipulative behavior, loss of intimacy and commitment, despair, feelings of guilt and /or being victimized, not trusting oneself, being enslaved by a fragile ego and withdrawal from living a full and complete existence.

positive

a) Because we are so carefully taught to fear loneliness, few people know how to experience the positive aspects of these sudden shifts in expectation, which are also real and of value;

b) These feelings help us to identify what is important to us as individuals, and to gain self-confidence in our own capabilities; and

c) They act as guideposts, showing us where we need to look, explore and grow.

building self-confidence

The message you give your friend about who s/he is and what s/he is capable of influences his/her relationship with loneliness because those messages affect your friend's self-confidence.

You help your friend triumph over loneliness when you make a habit of focusing your attention, acknowledging and appreciating each small step in your friend's development of self-confidence and his/her ability to cope with unexpected change.

Begin to recognize that "all-alone feeling" we label "loneliness" as a wonderful time of openness and no expectations, an opportunity to pause and take a breath between different experiences, relationships and activities.

Learning to enjoy and take full advantage of this in-between time allows you to complete processing and healing old experiences, activities or relationships so that you can concentrate on new ones feeling refreshed and ready.

Because there are different kinds of loneliness, we need slightly different approaches in order to heal them all. They include:

- MOURNING The feeling of sorrow that occurs following a death, a loss or a perceived loss. The sudden changes that occur following death or loss emphasize a separateness which your friend may not have noticed before s/he suddenly feels lonely. This loneliness can be very constructive, allowing time for re-dedication and adjustment to change;

- NOSTALGIA A kind of loneliness for the past which can occur when a family has experienced a move, a divorce or another significant change of events. Burdened with the loneliness of nostalgia, your friend may stay so focused on what has been that s/he does not experience life fully in the present;

- THE "WHAT NEXT?" STAGE This is often experienced as "loneliness of the future." Afraid to face the fear of loneliness, the friend may become stuck and feel paralyzed, unable to solve problems in the present problems which must be addressed before moving on to future challenges and successes;

- ABANDONMENT This type of loneliness occurs when a person feels alone after being abandoned, either physically or emotionally. The sense of panic at being entirely alone overshadows everything else. People will do anything to avoid this panic;

- BEING ALONE The feeling of separateness and space between you and others is often experienced as, or called, "loneliness." Once your friend really experiences this aloneness, s/he may enjoy it. Much exploration, creativity and even pleasure can occur when a person is alone.

A lonely person may exhibit a number of these characteristics:

- Depression;

- Over- or under-eating;

- Lack of self-confidence;

- Self-pity;

- Insecurity;

- Withdrawal;

- Clinginess;

- Timidity;

- Helplessness;

- Confusion;

- Reclusiveness; and

- Obsession with being "popular," even if just superficially.

Your friend may behave in ways that are frustrating to you because of his/her fear of loneliness.

Fearful of being rejected, abandoned or humiliated - thereby being left alone and falling into the dreaded abyss of loneliness - your friend may develop these habits in order to avoid facing loneliness.

In his/her mind, loneliness may be so abhorrent s/he feels willing to do anything to avoid it.

Copyright 2002 Enchanté Emotional Literacy Series

When I was very young, my father would sit me on his lap and hold a set of antique constellation cards to the heavens and explain to me, in that burnished murmur I still hear in dreams, each star’s myth and meaning.

With an inclination of his head and an extended steady hand, he introduced to me the Lynx and Telescopium Herschilii, Boötes Canes Venatici, Coma Berenices and Quadrans Muralis, Hercules and the Corona Borealis, Lacerta, Cygnus, Lyra, Vulpecula, Anser and Pegasus - the winged horse I made mine in fantasy.

On his muzzle, the star Enir; on his wing, the Saddle Star, Markab; on his forelimb, Scheat; below his breast, Andromeda, known to the superstitious Ancients as Sirrah vel Alpheratz. My Pegasus, son of Poseidon and Medusa, activator of the Muses’ fount of inspiration, bearer of Divine lightning.

"Lo vedi li, il cavallone?" my father would ask, one index finger to the crowing and ecstatic sky, and I would gaze up and up and up, my eyes absorbent, learning to listen, learning to see.

The sensibility he taught me was that of the eternal. And in that sky he loved, a beauty there long before me and long after me - a beauty belonging not to man, but to the universe: impossible to alter or own. So many years had passed and there I was, still gazing up and up and up, still learning to listen, still learning to see, still abiding by the memory of my rare father. How human could he seem to me?

I had never had the opportunity to align the reality of him to my ideal; he both lived and died between the notes of those hymns I composed for him: substanceless man, the suggestion of him in the line of all my features. The hollow wind had turned and was now blowing towards me great black sheets of water - those high cracking ice-capped waves: hoarfrost in between my lashes, cold crystal honeycomb melting on my lips.

If souls were hued, then mine was pale.

Like illness, sadness was something I had always borne in solitude. Certain natures accomodate too easily to mourning - natures accustomed to unequivocal emotional expenditure with no returns; it then only becomes a matter of focal adjustment to squander the sum of one’s consciousness on another’s absence.

Self-abnegation, self-defeat. A permanent hunger. I was tired of grief. No longer fixated by the unresolved, I wanted to let it go, let it all go. Would the world end if I left the past behind? The difficulty most had with perceiving higher dimensions had never been mine; the division between linear thinking and geometric visualization of forms was not an obstacle to me. I closed my eyes and considered the water, I considered the wind.

Visible above me, the bright lunar crater Aristarchus - famous for its mists and hazes suggestive of volcanic activity: phenomenal transience.

- from The Pure Weight of the Heart, by Antonella Gambotto-Burke

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