The cost of the fear of being lonely can be greater than loneliness itself.
We associate loneliness with pain and isolation. No one misses it; no one wants it. This phenomenon is widespread. In the UK as many as 60 percent of people aged 18-34 feel lonely often or sometimes, according to the Mental Health Foundation 2010 report.
You can experience periodic states of loneliness, even if you are in satisfactory relationships with other people. For example, a woman who is on maternity leave can occasionally feel isolated and lonely, while being happily married at the same time. Every time we leave an important role in our life, even for a short period of time, it can trigger a temporary feeling of loneliness.
Loneliness is primarily associated with the lack of positive relationships. In our fast-paced life, it is possible to experience loneliness while maintaining numerous superficial relationships. Even those we have thousands of Facebook friends may often get the impression that they are alone.
Do not run away from pain
Remedies such as an increase in social activities can not only reduce the quality of individual relationships but also feel more like an escape rather than a way to fix the loneliness issue.
Such a state can create a tremendous amount of tension, but distancing yourself from the longing and need for intimacy can actually increase that tension. It’s a bit like pain; we naturally want to protect ourselves from it.
There are people who run away from the pain of longing or loneliness into sports or work activities. Although some people lead an active, interesting life because that is their natural inclination, others do it in order not to feel. The psychological cost of running away from deep desires can be such that we “forget” what we really care about. And sometimes the fear of pain is worse than the pain itself.
A cure for loneliness? Gratitude!
Fear of loneliness can push us to suppress our dreams, expectations, and fear of rejection. But the distance which results from the fear of experiencing difficult feelings will ultimately raise our levels of fear and anxiety.
See what hurts you
Facing the pain of loneliness can lead us to be aware of our true needs. Such awareness of deep longings, in turn, gives us a chance to better understand ourselves. Self-awareness, even the painful kind, gives us a choice: either we seek the answers to our needs or we push such needs away. Pain that is genuinely expressed decreases in time.
Pain associated with a feeling of loneliness is worth sharing in a safe conversation with a trusted person. It’s good to look for support among friends and family in moments of loneliness.
A sober alcoholic copes with the disease by using a “one day at a time” method. Why not look at loneliness in a similar way? The prospect of “here and now,” focusing on everyday life, is a big challenge but also an inspiration. As Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “There is only one most important time, and that is now.” Here and now there is no fear. Only attentive being in the now offers the chance of full contact with oneself.
Loneliness, as a passing feeling, is quite natural and it can be a good opportunity to get in touch with yourself. When you’re going through a period of loneliness, don’t try to bury the feeling in a busy schedule or loads of superficial encounters. Rather, accept it and walk through it, remaining open to what it may reveal about your heart and your life. And above all, be confident that there is a better life on the other side.
This article was originally published in the Polish Edition of Aleteia.