Life Beyond Therapy
Embracing Your Loneliness
Published Thursday, 29-Jul-2010 in issue 1179
I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I have everything I really want or need, but I feel strongly, deeply lonely. I wake up most mornings glad to be alive, but then I end up crying sometime during my morning jog. What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel so lonely?
Lonely in La Jolla
Dear Mr. Lonely:
Your heart may be lonely even though your mind says, “everything’s okay, will you shut up down there! Loneliness can be existential, not specific. For example, you may feel loneliness for some lack of connection. You may feel lonely because some part of your heart feels empty.
Instead of fighting loneliness, why not try another tactic? Embrace it. As an experiment, keep a “Loneliness Diary” and pay attention to it. You will undoubtedly learn something about yourself, something private and important. Loneliness rarely shouts, it speaks with a small, childlike voice…we can easily overblast it or overwhelm it until it gives up trying to get our attention. But it’s still there, it doesn’t go away.
There is an old phrase “the heart is a lonely hunter”. I prefer to reframe this to “I can hunt for my lonely heart”. It’s much more constructive and worthwhile to look for our loneliness rather than curse it and try to drink/shop/screw it away (that doesn’t work anyway, but you know that already, don’t you?)
I invite you to make friends with your loneliness. While this may sound counter-intuitive, you’ve probably been fighting it for years, and has that really helped? That’s not the way to do it. Making friends with your loneliness has the extra benefit of bringing more kindness (for yourself and others) into your life. As you talk to your loneliness (yes, I mean that literally), you get to know yourself better…that gentle, soft, sad side of yourself that you may have been avoiding up until now. Most of us have been trained to avoid this stuff because it brings with it vulnerability. Let there be no doubt: in my experience, a REAL man/woman is strong enough to feel all his/her emotions, especially the difficult ones (sadness, weakness, vulnerability, grief, loneliness).
So, Mr. Lonely, while I empathize with your sadness, you are at a perfect place to get to know a side of yourself that you’ve probably been pushing away or condemning for years. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you…you’re on the journey to become a REAL man, who can feel all his feelings and know that he can hang in with the difficult ones. Make friends with your loneliness, try the “Loneliness Diary” and don’t be surprised when you begin to feel better. As we integrate the lonely side of ourselves into our “whole” self, often it’s intensity and duration fades. Try it and see.