Loneliness Vs Being Alone

Have you ever been happy to be by yourself? Has there been another time when you were by yourself, but wishing for the company of others?

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

Kitty O’Meara

This little prose appeared and went viral during the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic.

As an only child I have never experienced the joys of sibling rivalry nor the shared thought exchange to overthrow the parental dictatorship. That blood bond which only siblings share. Fighting one minute then the ceasefire as parental control takes over and that only solidifies the bond.

During these surreal times, with the world approaching a “new normal” I feel there needs to be a clear dissociation between being alone or being on your own and a feeling of loneliness. Many people seem to mix these states of mind are only too keen to lump them together and view them in a similar manner. I feel this is a very ill informed and all too common misconception. Being alone is the actuality of not having a physical and meaningful interaction with another individual. Being lonely is a psychological state of mind that is characterised by an often miserable feeling that happens when social relationships are (self-)perceived to be less in quantity and quality than what you crave. Thus, the social contact you have at a given time does not give you any fulfilment. Now, do you see the difference? Someone can be alone but not lonely and someone can feel lonely even when surrounded by people.

As we have been navigating the covid pandemic more and more people have been thrust into isolation and they at times have had no actual tangible human contact for weeks. It’s not good for the psyche not good for the soul. All of our lives are centred around a certain amount of social interactions and physical proximity. Even the most socially awkward and introverted of us would still enjoy even a limited amount of social contact and that was now denied.

Long-term feelings of loneliness can have similar detriment to your body in the same way smoking or obesity can. Furthermore, extended periods of social isolation can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiousness, addiction, fear, and more than a few more unpleasant things. That’s why I feel it is important not to associate being alone and being lonely. I do sometimes feel very alone in this world but very seldom lonely. I think being an only child you become adapt to finding ways to amuse yourself such as immersing myself in music or latterly my writing and thus enjoying your own company but this is getting used to being alone not being lonely.

“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company”

Jean-Paul Sartre

“People think being alone makes you lonely, but I don’t think that’s true. Being surrounded by the wrong people is the loneliest thing in the world.”

Kim Culbertson

Being lonely is not just an emotion reserved for those who are single or alone. But there are ways to work through it. 

It’s very common that people find themselves in long-term relationships feeling lonely.

There are some of the factors that can lead to feeling lonely in a marriage or relationship:

  • Intimacy fizzles: Some relationships just lose their spark and it will eventually die. If you feel a loss of connection and affection, you may be left simply going through the motions. Intimacy and that is so much more than just sexual aspect. This plays a big part in getting deeply connected. Without this feeling of connection to your partner then you may start to feel a sense of isolation and separation, which may lead to feelings of loneliness.
  • Incompatibility: Couples who get together and ultimately find they are not compatible may end up in a dead-end relationship. This causes resentment, intolerance, impatience, and unhappiness can replace what was once possibly a blissful existence. If you end up in a relationship like this, loneliness could be among the emotions and feelings that bubble up to the surface.
  • Emotional issues: Issues like substance use and depression can introduce loneliness into the relationship. Mental health for both you and your partner is important and if you feel it is being compromised talk to someone.
  • Physical or emotional abuse: Any kind of abuse in a relationship can certainly lead to loneliness, but it can also lead to depression, substance use, and injury, as well. If there is abuse occurring now or in the past, I urge anyone reading this to talk about it as you need to get help to deal with it.

My overwhelming advice here and I’m talking from personal experience is

It is much easier being on your own than feeling alone in a relationship. A partner that doesn’t give you what you need is not a partner. Learn to be your own best friend. You are stronger, more resilient and more confident from being alone.

If you are reading this and feel you need someone to reach out to. Please feel free to contact me. Contact details are on the about section. Links to social media too.

“To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen

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