Written by Barbara Davis-Thompson
May 15th, 2020
Loneliness has been defined as a personal, subjective feeling of being disconnected. You’ve probably heard the phrase‘alone in a crowd.’ Translated, this saying suggests you can be with a group of people but yet not feel meaningfully connected to anyone present. The short description of loneliness is it is a problem of relationship - between oneself and the world.
Although loneliness is described as a state of being alone, actually, loneliness is a state of mind. Your thoughts can pit you in a huge void - believing you are utterly alone, unwanted, and uncared for which throws you into a bottomless pit of emptiness that is hard to climb out of.
“I am lonely, yet not everybody will do. I don’t know why some people fill the gaps and others emphasize my loneliness.” ~ Anais Nin.
Did you know that loneliness is contagious? A 10-year study by researchers about loneliness and how it spreads socially indicates that people the closest to someone experiencing loneliness was 52% of the time also feeling lonely.
“The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.” ~Mark Twain.
Loneliness can be a symptom of a psychological disorder like dysthymia or depression.
It can also indicate low self-esteem if you are someone who lacks belief in self because of a felt sense of unworthiness.
These negative self-beliefs cause you to isolate which only creates a state of chronic loneliness.
Then, too, loneliness can be situational - the death of a loved one, a divorce, a move to a new location, and/or being diagnosed with a chronic illness that sidelines you from life as you know it.
“The eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness.” -Mark Twain.
On the positive side, to sit in loneliness may also reflect the longing of a soul that yearns for a different way of relating, seeking a more meaningful way of being with others. In this 2020 pandemic, loneliness could be a hunger for a different way of life than seems possible at this time.
In an existential, philosophical vein, loneliness can be looked at as a precursor to awakening - which is a desire to aspire toward an ideal of more conscious humanity where respect, care, and offering unconditional love toward each other whether a stranger or personally known is the new normal.
Spiritually-minded individuals see loneliness in this present time, when we are in the infancy stages of the new millennium, as a transition from one way of life to another, leaving behind the values and archetypes of the 19th century and seeking more consciously evolved archetypes for the 20th century that can unite all of humanity and set the stage for individual reunion with our God selves. It is suggested that loneliness, acceptance, and mastery of our thoughts, emotional regulation, and behaviors offer a quantum step toward anchoring humanity into the Age of Aquarius, the age of brotherhood, which will reign for the next two thousand years.
Yes, bearing loneliness as both a yearning of the soul and a searing pain within the heart can reap the reward of promoting a stronger desire toward a more utopian world built on unconditional positive regard toward all and thus contributing energy in uplifting world consciousness. As Above/Below LOA Life Coaching posted on FaceBook, "One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of illumination, bliss, and infinite peace will counterbalance the negativity of 10 million people who calibrate at the lower weakening levels.”
“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s yourself.” ~Aldous Huxley
Byron Katie states, “It’s not your job to like me - it’s mine.” Shoring up your self esteem is one way to deal with loneliness. “To thine own self be true and it must follow, as the night of the day, thou cannot be false to any man,” according to Polonius, a Shakespearean character in Hamlet. Think about it - you are the one person you sleep with all the days of your life - no one spends more time with you than you. How is your relationship with yourself?
“At the innermost core of all loneliness is a deep & powerful yearning for union with one’s lost self.” -Brendan Francis
You can learn to sit with loneliness and make friends with it. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of E at, Pray, Love writes, “When I get lonely these days, I think: So be lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”
“Time spent undistracted and alone, in self-examination, journaling, meditation, resolves the unresolved and takes us from mentally fat to fit.” ~Naval Ravikant
What else can support you to manage prolonged times of profound loneliness?Some suggestions are volunteering, fostering a pet until it finds its forever home, developing relationships with those who share like values, interests, and attitudes of mind, and keeping an open heart, becoming more risking by offering a greater level of loving acceptance than you would usually express. You can also seek help. Get counseling. Reach out to others. There are support groups, on-line chat rooms, and helplines available to support you when loneliness becomes unbearable or overwhelming. Take any one of these actions that will support you from relapsing into the negative, harmful, and damaging state of abject loneliness.
Take heart. Sitting with loneliness can be a time for meaningful personal growth. As Carlos Castaneda said, "We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of energy is the same." Just know that you can choose to use your alone time to know yourself, your values, how you define yourself, and what you want for your future. Should you undertake this task of self-knowledge, proceed with self-compassion. As much as possible be in grace which is allowing yourself to be in the process of change without judgment.
Where do we find the truth of who we really are and what really matters? Some say that to find inner wisdom and truth, turn to your heart. Yes, you can sit with your heart and let it speak its truth. Use meditation, Solfeggio sound frequencies, yoga, or journaling to access the heart. After putting yourself into the energy of your heart, let its wisdom dictate your life philosophy, help you identify the type of person you want to attract into your life (and know that if you embody the traits of what you want from others the law of attraction will bring you your equal or better), and determine what growth will make you a wiser and stronger version of yourself.
One way to access self-knowledge is to take self-assessment tests. Self Knowledge can start with identifying your Enneagram personality, taking the Myers Brigg personality test, discovering your unique sun sign gifts, and understanding your numerology numbers and what they mean to your life. There are also tests that can also help you identify your love language and learn about your attachment style (secure, avoidant, anxious, or disorganized). With the knowledge gained from taking the recommended tests (all of which are online and for free), you can write an updated self-narrative.
You can also reference Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way and undertake a three-month journey toward creative realization or research the 10 most effective self-help books and read them. There are other actions you can take like listening to Ted Talks and finding relevant self-awareness channels on YouTube. Remember that the subconscious mind obeys your every request and it is most influenced by suggestions and visual representations vs demands. Give your subconscious mind a new blueprint with images that depict your hopes, dreams, and wishes. One way to do this is to create a vision board showing in pictures what you want for your future.
“The more you see yourself as what you’d like to become, and act as if what you want is already there, the more you’ll activate those dormant forces that will collaborate to transform your dream into your reality.” -Wayne Dyer
Take solace in that loneliness is an opportunity to put your life on track. Up until now, you have manifested, consciously or not, your dominant thoughts into reality. Consider that times of loneliness can be an opportunity to manifest what you want rather than what you don’t want.
Remember, there is a gold mine in loneliness. As Dag Hammarskjold said, “Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.”
Barbara Davis-Thompson, LCSW is a New York, New York private practice psychotherapist. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.