Loneliness is a pandemic in itself. Isolation from the community you live in, isolation from family or isolation of any kind, sometimes self-inflicted as well, causes deep troubles to human beings. ‘Human’ being is a synonym for a ‘social’ being and we like to be around people. Most interactions that give us some kind of emotion, good or bad come from our interactions with others. Emotion is the basis of the human experience (yes, even plants and animals feel but let’s talk humans here). So, why do humans experience loneliness? Is this a new phenomenon or has it been a part of existence always? Did we begin to get lonely at a certain age in our development and growth as humans or has it been a phenomenon that everyone experiences? We also have to discuss if loneliness is a problem for everyone or only a few humans. Some people like being lonely but they don’t express it. They are ok to have company and they are ok to be alone but they don’t really mind being alone.
To understand why we feel lonely, we need to understand the root cause of loneliness. Alone or all by yourself means you have no physical body (another human being) around you. You are alone with your mind and the scores of thoughts that are inside that brain. With the kind of information overload we experience on a daily basis, we have a lot of material in the brain to ponder and work with, even if left alone. So the question comes up- Are we really alone today?
Thinking about it another way- Does loneliness mean we don’t have anyone to share the core of our being with? Perhaps. Every human craves company in some or the other form. When we find a partner for life, we want to share our core with our partner. Sometimes, this is being referred to as finding our ‘soulmate’ or some such name, but, in fact, it is about finding a really close friend who can understand us without speaking much.
Some causes of loneliness:
1.Feeling of being an outsider: When one ‘feels’ that they do not belong somewhere, whether it is a cohort or a group or a community or even a family, they start thinking about how there is nobody that understand how they feel. When this feeling intensifies, they start isolating themselves and start working with the material objects they have. If this turns towards books (bibliotherapy) and they get interested, one becomes a voracious reader with an ever increasing appetite for more knowledge. Else, they become obsessed with their mind and start inviting unnecessary thoughts that don’t stop unless you put conscious effort. Wait! That doesn’t work either.
Solution: Develop an attitude of gratitude for the people in your life, your parents, siblings, friends, acquaintances, books etc. Each book is a new friend. When you feel grateful for what you already have, you are bound to appreciate the people and engage with them in a genuine way. You may also begin to lower your expectations of other people and start appreciating them for who they are. This is an exercise in self-development or personal growth and you begin to feel connected to others again. If you tried this and failed, read on.
2. Feeling that there’s something wrong with me: The anxiety that comes with having to meet other people can make you feel like you are not able to connect with others. When this feeling comes to your mind, it spirals into other thoughts of inadequacy and lacking feeling, feelings of emptiness and boredom with life. When this feeling intensifies, one begins to self-doubt and question every action leading to tremendous pressure on one’s mind. This can also lead to self-rejection of one’s own ideas and make them less confident in themselves.
Solution: When you notice yourself thinking about your social skills or have a feeling of self-doubt with regard to interacting with others, practice meeting yourself first. Look into your eyes in the mirror consciously and start observing your breath, your posture, your expressions and your eyes. Look deeply into them and try to find a connection with yourself first. As you gaze more into your own eyes, you may notice that you are getting to know yourself more intimately. Just a caution: initially, when you look into your own eyes, you may find it challenging to sustain it for a long time, but with continued practice, you will develop a positive perspective towards yourself and learn more about yourself (your feelings and your thoughts) in the present moment. If you want to take it a step further, write down your thoughts and feelings after you mirror gaze for a few minutes everyday. You will start acknowledging a new person- YOU, everyday.
3.Feeling that nobody understands me sincerely: Intimacy in connections develops over time and the feeling of intimacy can only develop when one is sincere. When you are sincere with yourself, your feelings, your thoughts and your actions, you begin to understand yourself more. But you also realize that you are not perfect and you have many vulnerabilities. As a social being, we want to show ourselves in a raw form to others and have others understand us. With the increasing ‘age of distraction’, nobody has the time to spend enough time to genuinely know you. You must start this exercise by understanding yourself sincerely. Are you lying to yourself about anything? Are you deceiving yourself of anything by writing off a feeling or a thought that originated? Are you able to live with yourself in a comfortable way or do you constantly feel like you are not truthful to yourself? When you have such feelings, you come to a place where your inside understand that the circuit is not rigged properly. Some of your neurons will fire the wrong way and send you signals that you are not a sincere person and you constantly look for shortcuts or ways to get out of stuff at the slightest taste of discomfort.
Solution: Recognizing our blindspots and learning to work with them and perhaps having a mirror that shows those internal blindspots is a tremendously useful exercise in resolving this feeling, if you want to. The mirror is our own conscience which knows if we are doing the right thing or not. When we feel capable of judgments, decisions and choices that we make everyday, we know what we like and dislike, to what extent we like and dislike and in what way we like or dislike something or someone. When we are true to our conscience that we have done the right thing, we become sincere in life. When someone points out our shortcomings, reflect if that is true by being sincere with yourself. You will then know who your true well-wishers and friends are, in life.
If you want to feel less lonely, watch out for someone in your family, friend circle or your community. Be the buddy who others want to be accountable to when they are on a journey of any kind. Be the support you wished you had as you were growing up. Exercise your talents in human communication and keep improving how to speak, how to speak with compassion, how to speak with persuasion every single day. Getting out of your home is the first step in combating loneliness. Get places and meet the new YOU.
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