Is Corona Making You Feel All Alone-ah? 3 Steps to Banish Loneliness
Loneliness is that horrible empty feeling. Nothing can fill it. Insatiable. No amount of chocolate cake, cookies, chips, beer, wine, coffee, cheese, or jelly beans can fill that empty feeling. Some of these tasty treats can make you forget about your loneliness for awhile. And throw in a good dose of Facebook strolling, online shopping, and binging on NetFlix, and you are as good as new!
But as soon as you are without these distractions, the loneliness creeps back in with vengeance. Right? We feel sad, isolated, bored. We might even start thinking that we have no friends, or that no one really cares about me. So the loneliness cycle continues. We try to distract our self. We start eating, drinking, busying our self. Texting. Getting lost in reading someone’s facebook page. Maybe we take up yoga, some new sport, hiking, dancing, gardening, cooking, or reading. Some people throw themselves more deeply into their work. Some learn a new language. Others pick fights, or start trying to “help” the people in their lives by giving them unwanted advice. Others have become so expert at denying their feelings that they will triumphantly respond, “Me? Lonely! No! Not me! I’m happy! I’m fine! I’m peaceful!” But our old friend loneliness won’t leave us. He is not fooled by our self-deception. He doesn’t care what our defense mechanism is to try to avoid him. It doesn’t really matter because he sticks to us no matter what we do. After all, he has been with us since the beginning of time. It is not as easy as we think to get rid of him.
So, now what? I will share with you some ways to deal with loneliness that I have learned, personally practiced, and have been teaching to my clients for the last decade. The key here is that you have to practice. It is not that you can just do it once and, voila! You are now no longer lonely and never will feel lonely again. That is what we all want! The magic pill. But it doesn’t work like that. Please read these steps and then practice, practice, practice. Make it a daily practice for 30 days. Your Anti-Loneliness Practice. We are all doing things to strengthen our immune system, so why not also do something to strengthen our mind?
Step 1: Catch Your Feelings. This is quite possibly the hardest step. It seems easy, but it is actually a very advanced skill. Most of the times our feelings drive us to act in ways that help us avoid them because they are too painful to feel. Consequently, it is often difficult to actually catch the feeling unless you have undergone therapy that makes you aware of your feelings and your associated behaviors. So, the easiest way to catch your feelings is to first catch your behavior. Notice when you are doing a behavior that is not serving you such as overeating, procrastinating, gossiping, binge watching shows, drinking too much, etc. Then stop doing that behavior. Just for a moment. Stop it. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” “What feeling is driving me to do this behavior?” “Is it a feeling of anxiety, boredom, emptiness, fear, isolation?” Try to identify the very specific feeling. Not the thought. Thoughts come from your head and take you away from your heart. This work is heart-based. Catching your feeling takes you into your heart. The feeling is just one word, like I have listed.
Step 2: Make the Connection. Ask yourself, what is the connection between the feeling you listed in step 1 and the feeling of loneliness? It could be obvious, if the feeling you listed in Step 1 is loneliness. But if it is some other feeling, try to identify it. It may take some digging, but It is there. Try to make the connection. That takes some flexing of the mind muscles. For example, if you are feeling anxious, then you could say something to yourself like, “I am feeling anxious because I am worried that I will get the coronavirus and I might get really sick. Nobody cares about me. There is no one who will take care of me. That makes me feel so lonely.”
Step 3: Nurture Your Feelings. This step is also related to inner child work, for any of you who have worked with a therapist and have done this sort of work before. If you have a picture of yourself when you were young, get it out and look at it. Look at the innocence and sweetness in that little child. This is actually where the loneliness feeling is coming from. From a little boy or a little girl who did not get his or her feelings validated. Maybe mom was too busy with all the other kids, to notice your subtle feelings of loneliness back then. Maybe dad was too self-absorbed to notice when you were scared and needing his protection to make you feel safe. Parents do their best in most cases. But still, we have these feelings that linger inside of our hearts from our childhood that plague us in adult life. So, now we have to do the only thing we can do. Those days are long gone in which our mother could nurture our feelings or our father could make us feel safe. Now we have to stand up and take care of our self. By this, I mean that we have to nurture our own feelings.
To do this, look at that sweet picture, and tell our little girl or little boy, “Sweetheart, I am so sorry you are feeling lonely right now. I know you are trying everything you can to not feel it. And nothing is really working. I can see how distressed you are becoming. Listen, my dear, of course, you are feeling lonely. You feel all alone in this world, like no one really cares about you. You feel scared, and unloved. Maybe even forgotten. You feel that nobody understands you. I am so sorry that you have to feel these very painful feelings. Come here and let me hold you. Please listen to me. Because what I have to tell you is very important. You may not believe it right now. But it is true. I hope you can consider taking it into your heart. You are precious. You are special and important. People do love you and will care for you. You are feeling lonely now because there is no one there to make you feel loved. And you have had this experience one too many times in your life. Feeling isolated, scared, and all alone. Both as an adult and as a child. It’s too much for any one person to take. The good news is that you don’t have to take it any longer. Because the truth is that people do love you. Whether you see it or not, you are an important part of this family, community, organization, state, country, and world. Hang in there, my dear. Your feelings matter. You matter. You are just as important as the next person. And please promise me one thing. Keep telling me about how you feel. I want to know. I care. I want to hear about all of your feelings. I am with you and I will never leave you alone. We will always be together.”
Believe it or not, what we actually have been missing all along is the connection to our inner most Self. The more lonely we have been feeling, the more we are disconnected from that part of our Self. So try this practice and discover the peace that resides within you.