One of the emotions that all of us tend to experience more and more often these days is loneliness. Loneliness is what happens when we lack close, authentic connection with other people: do you have quality relationships in your life?
Otherwise, you might feel quite lonely. And if you had some challenging experiences growing up which affected how you feel about yourself, you stand a chance to feel even more lonely because you feel all alone in your personal struggles too. The irony here is that those of us with a history of abuse and neglect are more likely to isolate ourselves, leading to even more feelings of loneliness!
So how do we escape loneliness? The thing is, we don’t. First, we must admit that we feel lonely, that this is a feeling that is affecting us right now, that makes us also feel perhaps a little sad, ashamed, and hopeless. For some of us, we may even occasionally feel anger in addition to our loneliness because we are exhausted and overwhelmingly threatened by the disconnection that constantly reminds us that it’s just us– deserted on the island of life.
When we admit these feelings that accompany our loneliness, we start to understand that we’re just in need of that real connection, and perhaps not just to others, but to ourselves. In other words, our loneliness might just be a sign that we have long abandoned our true feelings about the things that have happened to us in our lives, or the things that are happening right now.
So maybe, just maybe, loneliness isn’t something we have to escape from, but something to look deeper into so that it can tell us something about what is missing (such is the function of emotions); that we desire to move closer towards…
More on loneliness:
- Loneliness is stressful: it affects not only mental health but physical health, and predicts a shorter lifespan 
- Having low self-esteem and feeling shame makes us more likely to feel lonely  (e.g. when we think it’s our fault that we are lonely, we feel ashamed AND even more lonely, retreating even more into our shells)
- You are not alone in your feelings of loneliness: more and more people are feeling lonely these days 
- You can’t necessarily prevent feeling lonely, but you can do things that will help you feel less lonely– use the EASE acronym created by psychologist John Cacioppo to start on your path towards less loneliness:
- E = Extend yourself to others a little bit at a time; reach out!
- A = have an Action plan in terms of how you are going to approach people e.g. ask them about themselves and their interests and use follow-up questions;
- S = ‘Seek collectives’, referring here to people who are most similar to you in terms of interests, values, and activities; and
- E = Expect the best instead of predicting the worst about people e.g. anticipating social threat
Additionally, not doing something to reduce any other psychological pain we have can also leave us feeling super lonely- so remember to reach out for appropriate help. Depending on the nature and severity of such pain, this may mean either a friend, a person in your community whom you trust, or a mental health professional who offers psychotherapy and counseling.
- Hawkley L.C., Cacioppo J.T. Loneliness matters: A theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Ann. Behav. Med. 2010;40:218–227. doi: 10.1007/s12160-010-9210-8. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]
- Çivitci N., Çivitci A. Self-esteem as mediator and moderator of the relationship between loneliness and life satisfaction in adolescents. Personal. Individ. Differ. 2009;47:954–958. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2009.07.022. [CrossRef] [Google Scholar] [Ref list]
- Hämmig O. Health risks associated with social isolation in general and in young, middle and old age. PLoS ONE. 2019;14:e0219663. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219663. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar] [Ref list]
Written by :
Lifelong Learner and Mental Health Counselor
Alumni of Boston University, USA, and University of Malaya, Malaysia