Or let me rephrase that- I don’t like the way society uses it. Lonely itself is a dignified word with its own poise and grace. But these days, people tend to inflict a ‘them and us’ energy into it. They are ‘lonely’ and that could never happen to us. They tend to associate loneliness with a slight air of failure, of having played your life out badly and having made the wrong decisions.
“She is a batty old lady, probably lonely since she never had children…”
To many, loneliness is seen as a sad or even pathetic state of being, one that must be avoided at all costs.
Now this is important, not just because it is not a very respectful way of seeing the life span of another person, but because it leads to an unrealistic view of Life- the life of those who are lonely, and our willingness to admit to our own loneliness in our own lives.
Most likely, however, loneliness comes to us in a much more subtle form, than a lifelong sentence. Some life events that bring about a period of loneliness in our lives are:
- Job loss
- Moving to a new place
- Health problems
One or more of these happen to all of us in our lives, often without causing great upheavals, but sometimes the effects are more pronounced, or they escalate over time.
The most lonely time in my life came as the result of several of these life events coming together.
I had moved to the Netherlands with my partner and spent all my time working in my job in an IT company. As a result, I did not have a solid circle of friends. A few years later, I lost my relationship which was my solid base. To bridge this loss, I worked all hours. This seemed to work for a couple of years until I had a massive burn-out and could do nothing. Eventually, I had to acknowledge that I could not go back to my job and I had to let that go.
Having to let all of this, left me feeling very lonely, not just for a couple of months, but for years to come . Looking back, my safe base had slowly been eroding under me. It didn’t happen all at once, but it happened slowly but surely over a period of a few years.
And this is often the way. Loneliness does not come as a result of one ‘bad’ life decision. It happens as you lose control of your plans and life takes over and leads you somewhere you may not have wanted to be. It can happen to all of us (and it does), for longer or shorter periods in our lives.
Step one of ‘Overcoming the Loneliness Trap’ is therefore to acknowledge that loneliness can happen to everyone and to take that seriously. Maybe it has already happened to you. Maybe you have not been willing to admit that you are lonely because you blamed yourself or found it embarrassing. Well, please let those feelings go, because only then can you move on and make your life into what you want it to be.
Step two is to identify the pillars of your life that you depend on to have a full life and feel loved and connected: your marriage, your children, your work, friends, hobbies, etc… Make a list of these.
In her books, Susan Jeffers talks about needing 9 pillars of stability in life, in order to stay in balance when something falls away.
Marriage Family Pets Work Painting class Gym
See how far you get, and notice which pillars you may be missing.
Pay particular attention to the base pillars, those that are often omitted in our Western way of life. These were discussed in my previous blog entry (‘The Loneliness Trap in Our World’) and are the ones that give you the following:
1) Feeling connected to God
2) Feeling connected to our Community
3) Feeling connected to our Family (once we have grown up)
Step three is to make it a habit in your life to monitor these, to notice when you are in a vulnerable position because you depend solely on a few elements in your life. To know your own balance and to keep yourself safe. No action you can take will ever give you a 100% guarantee against loneliness (or any other issue that may come up in your life), but you can actively protect your life balance and thereby ensure that you have more pillars to draw on, if something should happen.
This is a basic life approach. It take times to build and can sometimes be an effort to maintain.
Once you are in a situation of experiencing loneliness, you will need other tools to help you retrieve a comfortable balance.
I will discuss this further in a coming blog entry.
All the best,