Last week, I wrote about The loneliness of divorce, especially during the holidays. In it, I looked to an article (Happy Holidays? Maybe and Maybe Not) by Vickie Adams, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and Certified Financial Planner. Adams discussed a close friend who had seemed to be in a great marriage; but in reality, there was much loneliness and suffering underneath. I discussed lonely feelings that I had during my own divorce and how isolated I felt, as if I were the only one in the world going through a marital breakup; though of course many people were, and though as a divorce mediator and as a lawyer, I knew full well how common divorce actually is.
This morning I read a piece (The Dark Side of Loneliness) by Darlene Lancer, LMFT, Author, Speaker and Life Coach. She shares that:
- Twenty percent (60 million) of Americans report that loneliness is the source of their suffering.
And, as many of us know firsthand, we don’t have to be alone to feel alone:
- [Loneliness] can be felt while in a relationship or group. This is because it’s the quality, not the quantity, of social interactions that determines whether we feel connected.
She (and others) attribute loneliness in part to the use of digital devices, stating that “People spend more time on [them] than in face-to-face conversations.”
Lancer refers to her own experience:
- Years ago, I believed that more shared activities would create that missing connection, not realizing it was something less tangible–real intimacy, which was absent in my relationship. (See “Your Intimacy Index”). Instead, like most codependents, I experienced “pseudo-intimacy,” which can take the form of a romantic “fantasy bond,” shared activities, intense sexuality, or a relationship where only one partner is vulnerable, while the other acts as adviser, confidant, provider, or emotional caretaker.
She discusses the connection between loneliness and shame, and how these feelings can stem from childhood experiences.
- Meanwhile, children’s growing sense of separation from themselves and lack of authentic connection with a parent(s) can breed inner loneliness and feelings of unworthiness. “The awareness of human separation, without reunion by love–is a source of shame. It is at the same time the source of guilt and anxiety.” (Fromm, E., The Art of Loving, p. 9)
Feeling lonely, we may withdraw, which often results in greater feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Further, Lancer writes about health risks associated with loneliness, which I’ll leave you to read about, if you care to.
There are ways to cope with loneliness, though taking that first step may be difficult.
- We really have to fight our natural instinct to withdraw. Try admitting to a friend or neighbor that you’re lonely. To motivate socializing with other people, commit to a class, meet-up, CoDA or other 12-Step meeting. Exercise with a buddy. Volunteer or support a friend in need can to take your mind off of yourself and lift your spirits.
- As with all feelings, loneliness is worsened by resistance and self- judgment. We fear experiencing more pain if we allow our heart to open. Often, the reverse is true. Allowing feelings to flow can not only release them, but also the energy expended in suppressing them. Our emotional state shifts, so that we feel invigorated, peaceful, tired, or content in our aloneness.
It’s a fact – the holidays can be a time of loneliness; cold weather and less sunlight at this time of year don’t help. But perhaps knowing that many others feel similarly can provide some type of comfort. And maybe you can or will be able to follow Lancer’s advice, or other good advice that’s out there. Perhaps tomorrow. Maybe even today.
All blog posts are for information purposes, and should not be considered as legal advice.