As a child I met someone lonely. Although he claimed otherwise, I could tell he didn’t enjoy his solitude. He later admitted why. He’d tried to mix with other people many times but had always ended up being disappointed by others.
I considered this paradox with fascination – the fact that the loneliest people are often also the kindest. It’s in the same way that the saddest people have the warmest smiles, and the most damaged people are the most helpful. And this is all because they don’t want anyone else to go through what they’ve had to suffer.
Today, I’ll focus on loneliness. Let’s consider that term again.
Solitude and loneliness are two different things. Solitude is the physical state of being alone, but certainly doesn’t imply a feeling of being “in bad company”. We can, of course, be HAPPY being alone.
Loneliness isn’t physical. Rather, it’s a state of mind. We can feel alone even if we have someone by our side. We don’t like feeling lonely. WE DON’T CHOOSE loneliness.
Humans need to bond. They need a place in which they belong. They need to be important to someone. They need to trust someone. They need someone to support, and someone to be supported by. If we voluntarily choose solitude, we can start to fill these roles for ourselves. This is known as ‘rediscovering’ oneself, or ‘starting to feel like oneself again’. It’s like discovering a treasure in ourselves when we’d previously been devoting all of our time to others.
In my book I explain how anyone can achieve this. However, in order for us to find ourselves, we must first realise that we are lost.
As always, we should follow our emotions – unhappiness, disappointment, emptiness, chaos, lack of focus. Humans do, however, have more than feelings. They also have reason, enabling them to objectively evaluate their feelings.
Some forms of solitude are natural. And the feelings of loneliness that accompany them are both necessary and short-lived. These feelings exist to encourage us to build relationships with others. I explain why we get these feelings in my new book, and I look right back into our history. However, I delve into that now.
Loneliness is definitely not just about wanting a romantic partner. Loneliness also comes when we miss specific types of relationships. Allow me, then, to present the seven shades of loneliness. The specific type of loneliness you’re suffering is very important.
1st shade: A new environment
This is the natural loneliness we feel after moving to a new town where we don’t know anyone, or after starting a new job or at a new school. We see no familiar faces around us. We feel alone, even though we’re in an environment full of people.
2nd shade: Otherness
It’s a long time since our environment was unfamiliar. However, the longer we spend there, the more we realise how different we are to the others around us. We feel isolated. We might have values that no one else shares, or perhaps we don’t share the values of others. A wall has been built between us and those around us. This could happen within our families, too. As such, we feel even more alone.
3rd shade: The passing of a soul mate
We may be part of a loving family, but even families work like a set of gears. When one wheel rusts or falls off, the entire machine grinds to a halt. The same thing happens in our bodies and our hearts. This doesn’t just happen with the loss of a person, either. It can happen when we lose an animal – a dog, a cat, a horse. Even though our loved ones may hug us and be there for us, we still feel really empty and as though we’ll never love another animal as much again.
4th shade: The loss of a friend
In this moment, we realise that while we may have trusted and been kind to someone, they’d been cheating us all along. That simple loss of trust can bring about a feeling of immeasurable loneliness. We feel painfully empty and alone, even though we’re surrounded by dozens of our other friends. The pain of one betrayal, just one lie, overwhelms everything else.
5th shade: No time for us
Our contacts list may be full of friends, but when we try to properly connect with someone, no one has time. We find that we have acquaintances rather than friends. We know people who only get in touch when they feel like it or when they need something. At first, we make excuses for them. They have their own lives, after all. But then we discover that they have other friends. Real friends. Friends they have time for. For us, however, they have nothing but empty words. The same applies to so-called parents. And so-called partners.
6th shade: Someone’s presence
This one isn’t about physicality. It’s a quiet longing for the presence of another person. For anyone. It’s the desire for someone to be by our side. Sometimes, we might feel like this at work, when no one stands up for us. It’s a horrible feeling of isolation, which we didn’t choose, and do not want. It’s the feeling that we’re drinking our coffee alone, and that the lonely coffee suddenly tastes extremely bitter. It’s the feeling that we’re alone watching our favourite comedy, and that we’re not laughing. Perhaps we’re even crying. This isn’t happening in our brain though, it’s our soul that’s weeping. It has no one to support it. Most of us will experience this feeling at some stage.
7th shade: No partner for our heart
I’ve described companionship for the mind, body, and soul. The greatest pain, however, comes from the heart. Although we may have lots of friends, colleagues, neighbours, family members, and perhaps even animals, our heart may still be missing someone. This someone is a real partner, as defined in my book. Sometimes, we can feel like this even when we do have a physical companion. Sometimes our heart can lose its connection with our significant other.
The first six shades can be revived, and we can replace the person or animal we’re missing. It doesn’t happen overnight, though. It takes time for us to commit our sadness to memory and to ensure we never forget and will always appreciate any new support we find over time. For the seventh shade, and matters of the heart, it’s never a quick process. And this is a very good thing.
Why do you feel so lonely?
In private meetings, this is the question that interests me the most. It’s only when we know the shade of our solitude, and hence of our loneliness, that we can find the antidote. It’s only when we know what we’re lacking, that we can start our search for it. It’s in this way that team projects, for example, are useful for those who feel lonely in their new workplace.
Loneliness is the main source of unhappiness, because both loneliness and unhappiness are subjective feelings. This is why it’s important to work to rid ourselves of feelings of loneliness. By doing so, we also improve our own happiness.
So, what tools can we use to cure loneliness?
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