"The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence." - Thomas Wolfe
It comes up a lot in my work with clients. So many people, even those with loving families and lots of friends, feel so alone. Why?
I can honestly say that I no longer feel lonely when I'm alone, but sometimes I still feel lonely in a crowd. I think it has something to do with the need for connection. Solitude allows me the freedom to just "be" -- I can connect to the Divine nature within and around me. Intimate conversations with others allow me the same kind of freedom and sense of connectedness. But superficial conversations can leave me feeling empty and alone.
When you are not fully received or accepted for who you are it can be painfully lonely. That can be especially true if you cannot accept yourself. Those disconnecting internal messages of shoulds and oughts, rights and wrongs, musts and have-tos can really do a number on you and leave you feeling frustrated, ashamed or unworthy of love.
So what's the answer? I don't know for sure... but here are a few suggestions that might help:
- Take some time to connect with yourself. What are you telling yourself to create those lonely feelings? Are you telling yourself the truth?
- Quit "shoulding" yourself.
- Allow yourself to grieve. Your loneliness may be the result of losing a dear one, or a beloved community, or even your own sense of self. It is okay to mourn the loss. You will not drown.
- Connect to what you really need. If you need community or companionship, reach out to those who can truly hear and see you. Even one such person can make a big difference.
- Be a friend to others. The more you are willing to hear and accept them, "flaws" and all, the more they will do that for you. Listen with an open heart.
- If you don't know what you need, and many of us don't, get a copy of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. It just might change your life. (Be warned: the concepts seem simple, but it is very difficult to put into practice. The key is practice!)
So why this need for connection? I suppose it could be human nature, or a survival thing. We need each other. But I suspect it is even deeper than that. My guess is that the mystics are right -- we are all one, longing for deep union with the Divine.
- "How does one seek union with God?"
- "The harder you seek, the more distance you create between Him and you."
- "So what does one do about the distance?"
- "Understand that it isn't there."
- "Does that mean that God and I are one?"
- "Not one. Not two."
- "How is that possible?"
- "The sun and its light, the ocean and the wave, the singer and his song -- not one. Not two."
--Anthony deMello on Mysticism