One of the saddest and most dysfunctional aspects of our current culture is that it fosters loneliness. It’s not hard to imagine that when most people lived in tribes or small villages, loneliness was not the epidemic that it currently is.
Loneliness is the feeling we have when we want to connect with someone and there is no one around to connect with, or the person or people who are there are closed and unavailable for connection. We can feel lonely when alone, and we can also feel lonely with others who are shut down and closed to connection.
We are social beings and we are hard-wired to long for connection and the sharing of love. Hopefully, understanding that loneliness is a natural core painful feeling coming from a primal need, will help you to remove any judgment from feeling lonely. Judging yourself for feeling lonely is the opposite of loving yourself. Judging yourself only serves to make you feel alone inside, and the combination of loneliness and aloneness leads to depression and despair. Loneliness is hard enough to manage without making it harder by judging yourself for it.
As an only child with disconnected parents, I was often very lonely. The loneliness was so big that I learned seemingly positive ways of avoiding feeling this feeling – reading, doing arts and crafts, being immersed in school and spending as much time as I could at friends’ houses and share Feeling Alone Quotes on social media. In fact, I did such a good job of avoiding this feeling that I was completely unaware that I was often very lonely.
It came as a shock to me when, one day, I felt a searing pain throughout my body. I asked my spiritual Guidance what this feeling was and she said, “This is loneliness.” “Wow!” I answered. “No wonder I’ve avoided it all this time!”
My Guidance suggested that I hang out with the feeling, welcome it, embrace it and stay open to learning about what it had to teach me. I hung out with it for two months and it taught me volumes. One of the things it taught me was how to love myself through the loneliness.
The first thing I learned to do was to become aware of the feeling, then name it and embrace it with compassion. My inner child feels seen, heard and loved when I name the feeling and compassionately embrace it. It’s easy to use various addictions and other forms of self-abandonment to avoid feeling lonely, but this isn’t loving to ourselves.
The next thing I learned to do is to open to learning from the feeling. If I feel lonely when I’m alone, it’s telling me that I need to reach out for connection. Sometimes being alone doesn’t feel lonely and other times it does. If it does, then loving myself means taking loving action for myself – such as calling a friend or family member. Loving yourself might mean that you need to make friends. Loving action might be looking into meetup.com, or taking a class with like-minded people, or joining a spiritual or religious organization or a 12-Step group, or some other activity where you might meet like-minded people. What is not loving is to judge yourself or avoid the feeling with some other form of self-abandonment.
If I feel lonely when I’m with another person, first I need to check in to make sure I’m open. If I’m not, then I need to do my Inner Bonding work to explore what I’m protecting again – what I’m trying to control or avoid. If I am open, then my loneliness is likely telling me that the person I’m with is closed to connection with me. Then I have the choice to love myself by opening to learning with them, or to lovingly disengage. If you are often lonely with your partner, loving yourself might mean seeking help with your relationship, even if your partner isn’t open to counseling or facilitation.
If I’m with a group, the feeling might be telling me that this group isn’t my tribe, or it might be telling me that I need to move around within the group to find the one or two people with whom I can connect.
There may be a lot of information you can gain from compassionately attending to your loneliness. Loving yourself through loneliness means embracing it, learning from it, and taking loving action on your own behalf.