Feeling lonely is different from being alone, we can be on our own and not feel lonely, or we can be in a crowd but feel so alone, so what’s it all about? Having gone through times when I could not seem to spend more than 20 minutes on my own, I understand what loneliness is and how it can feel. If we have good friends who we can invite to spend time with us or we can drop in on unexpected and chat over a tea, coffee or whatever, then we are able to mask our need and to some extent live a fairly OK existence.
What about the times when they are all at work or sleeping and we cannot sleep, what do we do then to fill the slow motion times when we are all alone. Few people will actually realise that they are lonely or that their need to be around others is an issue, we may say “I don’t like being alone” when we really mean we can’t be on our own for any significant time. I remember having a limit of around 20 Minutes of self time and then having to either have someone come around or go to see someone and be with others, thankfully I have learned to like my own company, but it took a lot of work on my self.
When I started my counselling training and became aware of my need to be with others, I started to analyse what was going on for me. I realised that I was a stranger to my self. No one can live with a stranger for very long, so it is no surprise I could not live with my self because I felt like a stranger to myself, how is that even possible after reaching 31 years old? But a stranger I was. not being able to bare more than 20 Minutes without the company of others was proof enough that I was really not aware of who I was, or didn’t like who I was.
So how do we get so lonely, how do we not know who we are and how can this be so?
The answer to this is complex and long but I will try to summarise it and give a sense of what I have learned over the past 16 years on this subject from a personal perspective. There are many reasons why people may feel that they are alone or lonely. A lot of it comes from who we are around and whether we were lonely as young children, whether our basic emotional needs were met in our formative years, did we feel loved and valued, if so there is less chance that we will suffer from loneliness, but even a great emotional start to life is no guarantee.
Whether as adults we formed lasting friendships or relationships is often linked to our formative years, but many people who had the right start to life can go onto be plagued by loneliness, so it is not only about the early years. I am thinking of a friend I have known for a number of years who was so loved by her Mother, and I am certain she felt that love, her Mother died a few years ago and it is as if her Mothers love died too, I don’t believe it does, people die, love does not. Since the death of her mother, all I see in my friend is loneliness and pain, there seems little left of the bright perky attractive young woman I used to know. Maybe she is stuck with her grief, or maybe she doesn’t like who she feels she is.
This demonstrates to me that loneliness can wash over us at any stage n life, we can have the right start and still have problems with who are and with our own company. Sometimes having others around us is only a temporary relief, deep down inside we may still feel alone, why? because if we feel alone, we are alone. The real answer is not surrounding ourselves with friends, as good as our friends are, no one can be there for us 24/7 we all have our own lives. What we have to do is make friends with ourselves.
There is no one with us when we are in our own thoughts, when we are trying to accept and live with who we are as a person. There is another important aspect of loneliness, who are we, if we try answering that, then no doubt it will be a short answer for most of us.
Who we are and how we feel about who we are is key to whether we feel lonely with only ourselves for company, if we can learn to live with our self then we will not feel so lonely. Working on ourselves is something most people never even consider, or have any awareness of. It is usually only when a crisis hits that we may start to question why we feel lonely when on our own.
Some of the wake up calls that often trigger self analysis and self awareness work are repeated relationship breakups, anxiety, depression, alcohol or drug use, gambling, problematic eating or domestic abuse and violence.
Some people go from crisis to crisis all their lives, for some, crisis is a way of being, a way of life. If life is like that for you as it was for me for a while, then maybe its time to invest some time and energy on your self, the result will be a happier existence and an end to loneliness and the feeling of being all on your own.
Paul Parkin – Online Counsellor and Life Coach.
‘A journey of a thousand Miles begins with a single step’
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Paul Parkin Dip. Coun. I am a counsellor, therapist and life coach. I am passionate about helping people who are hurting or in crisis. My goal is to help people reach their full potential by providing affordable counselling online to people everywhere via my counselling website – Counsellors Online. I have worked as a counsellor for the past 11 years, I have worked in several counselling settings, including – The National Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) the NHS. North East Council on Addictions (NECA) and Several telephone helplines including The Samaritans. See other posts by Paul Parkin or subscribe to his posts.
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