It was a chilly day, the wind whipping across the water as we stood out on the deck of a ferry crossing Milford Sound in the south island of New Zealand. She, a stranger, held out her camera to me and asked that I take her photo. I was careful to capture the crisp mountains and rainbow waterfalls framing her perfectly. She, then asked,” You traveling alone?” “Yes.” I replied. “Me too!” She laughed, “Guaranteed good company! When you’re by yourself, you’re guaranteed good company!”
Guaranteed good company…
I hadn’t thought of it that way, but she was right.
One thing I always liked about traveling and venturing out on my own was all the impromptu adventures and friends I made along the way.
But, there are a great number of people who fear being alone. Many of us find it frightening to travel alone, to take a class alone or find there’s no one to ask for help.
To avoid this fear of being alone, we will socialize endlessly, from jumping from one relationship to another, emailing constantly, or becoming absorbed in social media. Often times, to avoid being alone, we’ll end up in a relationship with someone who isn’t really good for us.
There’s a difference between being alone and feeling lonely.
Alone means there aren’t people with you.
Lonely is a feeling of disconnect, or longing despite having a great deal of social contact with others, or being in a relationship.
As mentioned in an earlier post Understanding Loneliness, people who struggle with feelings of loneliness of find their struggles have deeper roots.
Being alone is what you make of it.
To truly understand what makes being alone so painful, you must recognize that it probably comes from a deeper situation that may be uncomfortable to address.
- Sometimes can be traced back to an unpleasant experience or past memory.
- Some simply are bored when they are alone.
- When in solitude, unpleasant thoughts and feelings can arise that you must then reflect on and process.
- Sometimes, as an adult you keep trying to bring people into your world to soothe the lack of nurturing from childhood.
- Social anxiety and fear of the thoughts of others.
So how can we learn to enjoy being by ourselves if it seems intimidating?
The secret to being alone you’ll find, is that it’s empowering. You make all the decisions and can be completely focused on and present in every experience.
You will be learning self-sufficiency and emotional independence, which is an act of strength. Time alone is an opportunity for growth and to get to known yourself.
Becoming acquainted with time alone may start small and simple.
Try spending small amounts of time alone, without your phone, laptop, TV, or radio. This quiet will allow you to become aware of yourself and surroundings. Ask yourself things like: What is my body telling me today? How do I feel today?
Eventually if you keep at this, you’ll grow used to setting time aside for yourself to be by yourself. You may spend your time going on hikes, reading books, creating artwork, or even writing that novel you’ve been thinking about.
I encourage you to go off on an adventure of your own, my friends, and know you’re guaranteed good company!
If you feel I may be of help, please call me at 206-428-1975
or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
As adults, it seems the older we get, we find we have few friends or we find it’s difficult to meet new people and expand our network. Life changes, career changes, moves, relationships, and different life phases also bring shifts in our friends and social circles.
Maybe you find that you’re shy, or that our modern busy lifestyle and lack of social context to meet new people isn’t there like college or high school, but sometimes it can leave you feeling isolated.
Truly, there is no single reason why it may be difficult to make new friends and meet people as an adult.
Then I came across this cartoon and it seemed to resonate with many of the stories I hear:
Artwork copyright © Brian Gordon
Why did it seem easier when we were kids?
Although many people find it hard to create a deep and meaningful friendship in adulthood, it’s not so hard if you know what to do.
Consistency – When we were kids, there was school, band practice or sports. There was a consistent schedule where we would have the opportunity to meet others. As adults, there isn’t much life consistency outside of the work place. One way to expand your network to is take advantage of the social situations you’re current in. Invite co-workers or gym buddies to spend time outside of the work or gym environment. Happy hour or lunch is a great way to expand and build a friendship.
Be Vulnerable – Vulnerability is the key to emotional bonding, without which relationships tend to feel superficial. Children are put in situations where they naturally feel vulnerable, like after school dance classes or even school itself. Being in vulnerable situations make people feel needy and provide the opportunity for others to provide comfort or support and build bonds.
Make Yourself Available – Smile and say hello to everyone you meet. Everyone. Just this simple act will help you move away from any social shyness you may have and actually make you approachable. It may seem a little uncomfortable at first, but this will help you build confidence in yourself. The fact is everyone likes to be acknowledged. So, why not be the first to say hello?
Meetup.com – This is a great platform to meet others with similar interests. Attending a meetup event requires little effort except to show up!
Take classes or workshops – much like meetup you’ll meet others with similar interests but you’ll also expand your mind and skills. A pottery, yoga, or painting class can be fun and relaxing. It’s a win-win option.
Remember to have patience.
It takes time to become familiar with networking, talking to strangers, and breaking out of your routine to make room for new people in your life.
It especially takes time for new people to transition into buddies then friends. If someone isn’t ready to meet or hangout, don’t take it personally – just let it go. You don’t know what’s happening in someone’s world, especially when you don’t know him or her very well. Don’t let it discourage you.
Be brave, be yourself, and remember: there are lots of new and awesome people out there waiting for you to join them!
“In order to be able to truly love another person, a person needs first to love oneself, in the way of respecting oneself, and knowing oneself (e.g. being realistic and honest about one’s strengths and weaknesses).” – Eric Fromm
For anyone who’s ever been on a commercial flight, I’m sure you recall listening to the airplane safety presentation before take off. It includes elements such as these:
Exits are in the front of the plane, back, and over the wings; be aware the nearest exit may be behind you – look around.
Flotation devices are under the seats in the event of a water landing
If air pressure drops in the cabin, oxygen masks drop down from the overhead. Be sure to put your oxygen mask on before children or helping others.
Be sure to put your oxygen mask on before children or helping others.
It may seem selfish to take care of yourself first in a dangerous or potentially dire situation, but it really is an astute safety measure. The point is to make sure you can breath and are stable before assisting others; otherwise you will become a liability causing resources and time to be used to help you whereas otherwise it would have been unnecessary.
When you take care of yourself first, you can be more productive and then help others. And just like taking care of yourself first on an airplane, if you practice self- love and take care of yourself, you too will be more helpful, productive and overall happier in life.
It’s important to point out that loving oneself is different from being conceited, or egocentric. It means you care about yourself and take responsibility for yourself.
“Regaining of a quiet sense of pleasure in being one’s own self.” – Carl Rogers
Being aware of yourself, your needs and recognizing your worth are the keystone of cultivating self-love.
This starts by gradually learning to accept your weaknesses along with your strengths. It builds out of the thoughts and actions that you choose.
A few tips to help cultivate self love:
Start by checking in with yourself – begin to recognize what you feel, think, and want. Your thoughts dictate your emotions and actions. Slow down and listen what you’re saying to yourself and the thoughts that you’re having. Ask yourself how these are impacting your mood and behavior.
It’s important to enroll in healthy physical activities and exercise, and make sure you’re getting adequate sleep and nutrition. Set time aside for play, social interaction or quiet contemplation. Loving yourself through an established practice to meet your basic needs sets a foundation for further personal growth and wellness.
Consider what you can tolerate and accept and what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed. This is a good way to set limits and recognize activities or interactions that aren’t good for you. Tune into your feelings to recognize what feels good and helpful or what stresses you and feels wrong. Be direct and clear with your wants and needs.
Loving ourselves isn’t a one-time thing.
It’s an ongoing process.
Inspiration is derived from the Latin word inspirare, which means, “to breathe into.”
To inspire achievement, action, a breath of infinite possibilities is passed from one individual to another. Inspiration hasn’t a singular effect, but raises the dreams of others as well.
When the active fire of inspiration ignites within us, it moves swiftly like a gust, a brief powerful breath of wind. And when it’s gone, we are left longing for its return.
Inspiration seems to be driven by the work itself and isn’t something you can control. The Greeks believed it to be the ethereal Muses and Christians may say it’s God, or the Holy Spirit moving them.
Is there a way to encourage it?
Producing new ideas is actually the hardest intellectual work.
While revelations are something you can’t really control, there are ways to encourage and enable them to arise by understanding how they work. (Unglamorous part)
There are three different parts of the brain that are used in creative thinking and inspiration.
The Attention Control Network, which helps use focus on a task and concentration on complex problems.
The Imagination Network, which is used to imagine the future AND remember past events.
The Attention Flexibility Network, monitors what’s’ happening around us as well as what’s inside our brain.
Your brain will change in structure or function in response to experience; it’s called cognitive plasticity. The more dynamic and varied the experiences are, the greater the plasticity is developed. This is because your memory sorts and connects information based on their relationship with each other, the more plastic your brain is, the more you’re able to form creative or inspirational thoughts.
Think of it as mental flexibility where your mind is able to make connections easier with sometimes seemingly random or unrelated items or topics, to reveal a clear pattern or answers to problems.
A few ways (there are many) to encourage Cognitive Plasticity:
Exercise – something dynamic and mentally challenging: martial arts, boxing, dance, or team sports i.e. Basketball.
Reading – directly activates the imagination and creativity.
Meditation – during meditation, your brainwaves literally change from Beta (awake & alert) to Alpha and Theta, which are slower and more receptive. Often inspiration comes during this quiet time.
So now you’re developing a flexible mind that will work dynamically and see new patterns and solutions where before there seemed naught.
The Next part to awaken the Spark:
Reduce your Attention to Control and allow the Imagination and Attention Flexibility to flow.
What does that mean?
Stop trying so hard!
This means releasing control of an outcome and allowing the answer to arise on it’s own. The word you don’t want to hear is: patience. It takes time to prepare your mind to be creative, motivated and SAFE enough to reveal ideas.
Setting time aside regularly sends a signal to your mind that there is time and space to safely work on creativity. Go back to your memories and recall when you felt most inspired even back to childhood.
Sometimes, just let your mind drop it and allow your subconscious do the work.
Dreams are an excellent way to allow your subconscious answer questions.
How do you come up with ideas? I’d love you hear your thoughts.
We’re going to talk about Loneliness.
I’m not going to give you a top 10 list of ways to meet people. You can find that all over the Internet and frankly, it won’t really help and will probably just piss you off because, I know that’s how I’d feel.
We’re going to go a little deeper.
This is especially poignant because I’m writing this while living in the Pacific Northwest, specifically Seattle, Washington, which is nationally known for the “Seattle Freeze”. A good way to describe this “freeze” is that most folks that move here find it immensely difficult to make meaningful friendships or truly experience anything beyond surface pleasantries. People here are nice enough, but emotionally and socially distant. Another way to phrase it is: “You’re welcome onto the porch, but never in the house.” Thus “lonely” is a word often heard and an experience often felt.
When I initially moved out here to the Pacific Northwest, I was a resident in a local Buddhist Monastery. While living there, I had a close confident in an 86-year-old nun whom also was originally from the East Coast. She told me the reason people move out here to Seattle is to heal. There’s something about all the water and remoteness that draws those who are suffering.
Her point of suffering is where we’re going to start addressing loneliness.
Being lonely can mean not feeling part of the world despite having a great deal of social contact with others, or being in a relationship.
This is Internal Loneliness, which is different than the sort of environmental loneliness brought on by something like a relationship suddenly ending or a recent move to a new location. It’s important to understand the difference because it goes so much deeper.
Internal loneliness is a deeper more prolonged sense of loneliness. The causes usually come from within ourselves.
This deep sense of loneliness can happen for a number of reasons:
• Low self-confidence
• Seeing yourself as less or unimportant
• But most importantly, a deep sense of loneliness may stem from childhood, and could be linked with feeling unloved or cared for as a child.
That’s a lot to take in, as this requires you to look back over your life and the length and breath of this loneliness and feelings of exclusion. This requires courage, so take a deep breath and give yourself a lot of patience.
If you’re looking back and seeing a long pattern of loneliness, it very well may be the result of childhood abandonment, and thus you abandoning yourself. (Remember to breathe)
Childhood abandonment results from:
• The loss of one or both parents to death or divorce
• Physical/sexual abuse
• Withheld nurturing, affecting or stimulation
• Or even a parent whom had an alcohol or drug addiction or mental health condition.
Children are totally dependent on caretakers to provide safety and basic needs. When this isn’t provided, the grow up believing the world is not a safe place, that people cannot be trusted, and that they do not deserve positive attention and proper care.
When we are children, we have no other experience of the world and this being the first experience, it becomes the baseline or standard for everything else.
As an adult this can manifest as:
• Feelings of insecurity & mistrust
• Anxiety & Isolation
• Inability to commit or follow through
A common adult symptom of abandonment issues, is finding yourself in unhealthy relationships that reinforce negative beliefs, even though you’re looking for love & acceptance.
Does this sound familiar?
What does one do?
First it’s important to understand that this isn’t your fault! It is by no way an indictment of your innate goodness or value.
But it does take time, hard work, and patience to separate fears from the past from the reality of the present.
These feelings of loneliness and abandonment can seem overwhelming, but they can be managed and overcome.
• Explore ways to care for yourself
• Develop a way to ground and center yourself when feeling fears arise
• Communicate needs
• Have appropriate boundaries
• Build a sense of trust
My friends, you all deserve love and happiness.