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: email@example.com
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.