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Fed Up with Feeling Alone?

By Alison Finch

Do you ever feel empty and alone, sometimes even when you're surrounded by people? If so, be sure to read on, because we have some really useful information and advice to help you understand and cope better with those dreadful feelings that seem to claw at you from within.

Most people feel alone at some points in their lives, but for some these feelings seem to be deeply ingrained to the point where it seems part of their identity - but it doesn't have to be this way!

Sometimes the feelings are there for reasons that seem obvious and real, for example:

  • The aftermath of a painful break-up of a romantic relationship

  • A chronic health problem that seems to sap our vitality and makes us feel less fun to be with

  • Having a guilty secret that seems to become a heavier and heavier emotional burden

  • Unrequited love or passion, or simply wanting an intimate and sexual relationship and failing to find one

  • "The morning after" meaningless sex that did not deliver the emotions you hoped for

  • The feeling of disillusionment after having shared too much with someone who doesn't understand

  • Simply having no-one to turn to when life gets tough

You could probably add quite a few more situations to this list yourself, because everyone's experience of feeling alone is slightly different. But - in some ways - this fact holds the key to understanding what causes us to feel alone. And, once we understand such a powerful emotion, it becomes so much easier to learn to fear it less and to recognise that you CAN do something to change your feelings.

I've said that there are many reasons for feeling alone, but perhaps there is really only one cause. Loneliness sets in when we cannot - for whatever reason - share our thoughts and feelings with someone whom we trust, and who we know will care... Care enough to listen to what we are saying, even if he or she is busy. Care enough to try to understand what we feel and why. Care enough to empathise rather than merely offer sympathy or condolence.

Being alone and feeling alone are not the same things; not by a long way. Being alone can, for most of us, be very invigorating, but only for some of the time. For how much of the time varies significantly between people - one woman may think it idyllic to spend two weeks alone on a small Greek island with only a few books for company, another may become bored if she finds herself alone at home for a few hours once the kids are safely dropped off at school.

Most of us can handle some time alone providing that it's our choice, or a part of our lives we consider "normal". But very few of us would ever want to feel alone.

Feeling alone is largely created by your own perception of not being "connected" to the people around you. The great thing about this is that you can influence this perception, and there are some techniques that help you to do so.

What are these techniques? Well, let me pause for a moment and tell you what NOT to do, because I've seen some pretty awful but widespread advice on this subject offered by well-intentioned people who usually make matters worse.

What NOT to do:

  • Do NOT slump in your chair and listen to soppy music and love-songs, or watch "girlie flicks" or "weepies", or try to lose yourself in a slushy romantic novel.

    Any of these activities will accentuate your pain and merely encourage you to wallow in self-pity, thereby eating away at your already weakened confidence to get out into the world and make something happen for yourself. Sinking deeper into a world of fantasy is not escapism, it's a trap. A trap that's easy to fall into, and increasingly hard to break away from. Real connections with real people require courage and resilience, and you CAN find these if you are willing to put the effort into reaching inside yourself even when you hurt.

  • Do NOT plan too many solitary activities to "keep yourself occupied", such as spring-cleaning, going for a long walk, or visiting a movie theatre - even if the movie is not slushy!

    Each event can compound your belief that you are alone in the world and reinforce your perception that you must always be prepared to do things independently from others.

  • Do NOT read horoscopes, get out the tarot cards, or visit fortune-tellers.

    In fact, don't use ANY methods to predict the future, because every one of them will simply reinforce the notion that things are outside your own control. Worse, they may even leave you waiting expectantly for events that will probably never occur.

  • Do NOT rely on a pet for comfort when you're feeling alone.

    I'm not for one moment suggesting that you should neglect your pet if you have one, nor am I suggesting that you stop enjoying the pleasure it can bring into your life. I'm saying that relying on your pet as a substitute for real intimacy with another person is a recipe for further, and longer, unhappiness. Many pets will be able to sense that you are upset and may even give you greater attention as a result, but there is no pet I've ever heard of that can understand what is going on in your mind or help you to do anything about it.

That's a lot of don'ts - so what COULD you do to begin to feel better?

The first step is to gain some clarity about WHEN you feel most alone. Is it when there is actually nobody else around you? Is it after you've had sex with someone you no longer feel is special in your life? Is it when you are at work?

Of course, the possibilities here are endless, so take out a piece of paper and a pen and give a few moments' thought to when YOU feel most alone. Write down those situations, because they'll give you a useful framework as you plan to do something to change things. Here are some great tips to get you started:

  • Tip one: If you're not good at striking up meaningful conversations with other people, then LEARN! Don't settle for superficial and meaningless chat about the weather or gossip about what so-and-so did last week. Superficial chat can leave you feeling worse, because you know that you've had a "conversation" but that everything that matters to you is still trapped deep inside.

  • Tip two: Surround yourself with the right sort of people - those who can give you energy rather than take it from you. Think about your current relationships: which people leave you with more energy than when they came, and which leave you feeling flat and drained?

  • Tip three: Move a little closer emotionally to people whom you already like and have no reason to distrust. Dare to share more of what's in your head than you do right now, but be VERY careful not to gush it all out and "dump" it on somebody else.

  • Tip four: Most important of all, never demand sympathy. Don't even look for sympathy, because others will see your neediness heading towards them and they will almost certainly want to move out of your path!

But there's absolutely no harm in looking to other people for solutions, so thank you for looking to us! I sincerely hope that this article has helped you to feel less alone.

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