If feeling connected is one of the highest of human experiences, loneliness is one of the lowest. Deliberate isolation is one of the worst forms of torture and can cause people to become mentally unhinged. Loneliness is not what we are designed for and yet it is becoming an increasingly common experience.
What is loneliness?
It is not the same as being alone. You can be surrounded by a crowd of familiar faces and still feel lonely. Conversely, you can be by yourself and be OK.
Loneliness is not primarily about how many people are around you. At its core it is a sense of feeling disconnected from others, of being unseen or unknown – sometimes both. It is a heart cry for a meaningful connection with someone with whom you can share your current experience.
The intensity of this experience can be an indication of how disconnected you feel.
When does loneliness show up?
As I reflect on my own experience, there are three main situations where loneliness has tended to show up in my life. Perhaps these are true for you as well.
- Physical or emotional pain: Loneliness can show up because no one can get inside your body and mind to realise what the pain is like for you. Disconnection can occur because you have no way to make your experience of pain fully understood by others.
- Life-changing decisions: These can include things like leaving a job or changing career direction, relocating to another city or country, beginning or ending relationships. All of these decisions bring with them levels of disconnection with people who have been significant in your life. The space in-between the end of one thing and the beginning of another can be a breeding ground for loneliness linked to grief for what has been left behind and the challenge of forming new connections.
- Life-changing experiences: These can be positive as well as negative. I have travelled on my own overseas and locally and had some awesome experiences. Loneliness has showed up with the realisation that no one I valued had been there with me to share these experiences.
Working with loneliness
Loneliness is an individual experience and as such there is no single way to handle it.
Sometimes the answer to loneliness is to get busy and find something to do. Activity can be an avenue to create the sense of connection that you crave. Be careful, though. Activity can equally perpetuate loneliness by creating obstacles to forming connections.
Sometimes the answer to loneliness is to enhance your awareness of your broader connections to the world, the universe, life, through engaging with spirituality.
And sometimes the answer to loneliness is to sit with it until its season comes to an end.
Not sure what to do with your experience of loneliness? Contact Cynosure Support Services to explore your options.