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Loneliness (The Root Cause and Its Solution)


I decided to write about loneliness. Its become a hot topic right now. It was an issue for me for many years so its a topic close to my heart. I am pleased to say that I overcame it. I finally decided to tackle it and find out the root cause. In doing so I found the solution. I am writing this article in the hope that I can help others.


What is Loneliness?


For those who suffer from loneliness - you know full well what it is. For those who don't - they start to talk about being alone. Loneliness is a feeling. You can be alone but not have the emotion that equals loneliness. You know full well that you can feel lonely and it has nothing to do with whether you are with people or not. Being alone is a physical state whereas as loneliness is a feeling. Here we explore that feeling and how you can get past it. The History of Loneliness

Many will tell you that loneliness is a modern day affliction. That it isn't mentioned until the 1800. They say it is to do with the social changes. Novels - such as Jane Austen focus on love - and finding love - as making someone complete. However many are in marriages and relationships and feeling lonely.  And there is no doubt that some solitude doesn't necessarily harm us and can lead to creativity. I believe that solitude and being alone with the feeling of loneliness can be very harmful. Many many studies now show this to be true (as if those suffering didn't know that it is harming them!)  


What is the feeling?


It's a heart wrenching feeling. A desperate longing and void that you can't seem to fill. It touches you at your very core. Some people may only feel it temporarily, however for those who have endured it for years - it becomes deeper and deeper.


Where to start


I'll give you some advice. Things that I learnt and my root to solving this issue. My first advice is don't talk to people about it. This may be contrary to any other advice. In writing this piece I did some research. I put out posts on Facebook. Even though I have solved this issue for myself, I have to say that so many of the comments were so very triggering. I had imagined that I would find it hard to write this - I thought acknowledging that I had been lonely would be the hard bit. In fact it was other peoples comments that I found extremely hard. I now live with relief that I never told anyone about it. Their comments - when in the midst of feeling desperately lonely - would have frustrated me way more than they do now. People try to be helpful These people are trying to be helpful. They are trying to be kind and make suggestions to you. They mean well. It becomes quite clear that they have no idea what it's like. So that's the first thing. Don't talk to people about it who do not understand. There are those who say I'm on my own often and I enjoy it. These people do not understand the difference between being alone and loneliness. (This probably means they haven't experienced it and because the words are similar they think they mean the same thing). They say things like - learn to live with it; speak to your family; distract yourself; keep busy; go and find people; talk to yourself and you will never be lonely; read a book (I wonder how long they want you to read for - 5 years?) They mean well but its quite clear that they are giving you advice without having experienced it. It's just the same as when someone is depressed and people offer advice. Only those who have truly known it and felt it can really offer any assistance that isn't banal and trivial and without depth. So looking back on it - I had tried all of those. I wasn't openly addressing it at the time, I wasn't doing those things to solve it. I did them all as a distraction probably. The net result was that I was exhausted, I was giving left right and centre - volunteering, immersing myself in my family, keeping busy with projects and hobbies. In the end I became an exhausted lonely person! So I can tell you that those things alone are not the solution. They will serve to mask it quite well however. So by all means do them but don't expect the void to be filled. Steps to take 1. Only talk to those who have experienced this feeling. This will help you in that you will know that you aren't the only one. No that doesn't solve it but it may put you in a better frame of mind to start to take steps. You will feel validated in your feeling, that it is real and not something you should just get used to or get over. 2. Consider what is missing in your life. You may have friends and still feel lonely. You may have family but feel lonely . It was when I asked my self - what purpose are my friends serving and what purpose do I want them, and others in my life, to serve that I started to get to the root of the problem. Our needs as humans are: connection, variety, certainty, contribution, growth and significance. Once I knew this I could see that I wanted my friends to fulfil connection, growth and significance. Three of them - that's half! I was hoping to get three things from my friends and I wasn't getting any. Once I stopped trying to get these things that weren't there I moved onto step three. 3. Where and how to get significance, growth and connection.

a) Growth

What is growth? In order to feel in control of our lives we can control ourselves. This is the best starting point because we can't really control others or the outside world. So whenever I look to solving a problem I always ask what I can do myself on my own and from within. So I started with growth. My world was too static for me. In fact there is no such thing as static.  So I had spent my time trying to keep busy or distract myself. Those were my fake ways of moving forward. They weren't cutting it. Who was I kidding. Not myself because I still felt it. So growth is really moving forward. Why is growth important? If we aren't moving forward then we are moving backwards because there is no such thing as static  (even static water grows algae). So I asked my self in what direction did I want to grow. This can take you some time - to really find something you are passionate about. Passion and subsequent drive to move forward in life. How to get growth You need to know yourself - who you are and what excites you. It becomes an exploration process that takes many weeks. It's worth it when you get there though. I have clients who have been working through this. Start to work on what excites you in life. Then it is no longer just finding things to distract you - it has a meaning and purpose and you start to feel fulfilled. Through this you find you are giving back - but with purpose, not just for the sake of giving. I'd been doing volunteer work all my life and still didn't relieve the loneliness feeling.  This will lead you to connection - see below. Speaking to friends and family was never going to give me this. b) Connection - growth is important but you also need connection What is connection? This is the big one I believe. People talk about connection but the meaning varies. People will tell you to go and meet people, go and volunteer, speak to any stranger in the street. This is not connection. Connection is a deep intimacy (and not just of the romantic kind of course). This is why we can have people in our lives and still feel lonely. You can have a partner, a family, kids, friends, work colleagues - in fact you can be surrounded by myriad of people and still be lonely. It is about the depth of connection. So the question becomes how to find intimacy and depth with people. Why is connection important? Humans are pack animals. We like to belong. This is why there are so many people pleasers out there. We adapt ourselves in order to fit in. So that we belong. Then we wonder why we aren't happy - which is because we aren't being our true selves. So instead of trying to fit in with the 'wrong' pack/people, go and find the 'right' ones. Once you know yourself and your passion this is easier to do. How to get connection?

I did this through what I was passionate about. I then spent my time connecting with people who also wanted that depth and intimacy. I found these people through my passion. We have a common interest. they are my pack, my tribe. c) Significance

What is significance?  I believe I always knew this was missing. I tried to make myself significant. I would start things up for people to join or I would join in with things. At the end of the day though - I wasn't needed, I was surplus to requirements. Therefore in my eyes I was not significant. I was invisible. No one would message me to check on me. I could be missing for days from a social scene and it wouldn't be noticed. If you've ever played the game of testing this - message no one and see if anyone messages you - the stark realisation isn't one you really wanted to face. Some suggestions of tips were telling you to message people but that actually makes the hole bigger when you realise it is always you 'reaching out'.  It begins to highlight that you aren't significant.  I now believe significance is not only about being relevant but also about identity. Behind significance I believe is a sense of belonging. We are humans and we are pack animals and we want to belong. We will start to change our behaviours in order to fit in so that we remain part of the pack and we belong. This in itself damages us more - not being true to ourselves and having to live a life that doesn't fit us. So we seek significance. We have a longing to belong and be part of a community and this adds to our identity. Why is significance important When you feel significant you feel you are valued and needed. So you feel you have a purpose, identity and belonging. Where to get significance As mentioned above significance comes from being with like minded people. So once you have worked out who you are and whats important to you you can find these people. Then you have your identity and you belong. It's this belonging that brings about significance. Faith and Loneliness

Some people state faith as their solution. This adds to their identity, their sense of belonging and their purpose. So is it fair to say that people who have faith aren't lonely. Probably not. Its not enough to have it, its what you do with it and how you use it to interact. In Summary Loneliness is a deep feeling that should not be ignored. It is detrimental to us as humans. At the core of human is a need to belong, to be significant, to grow, connect and be valued. In order to have this feeling you need to find your identity. This identity comes from working out who you are and what you want to do in your life - what lights your fire. Through that, you give to others and that brings connection.

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