Are you experiencing emotional loneliness?
Most of us will be familiar with the concept of loneliness and likely the popular phrase, "feeling alone in a crowded room". However, a new type of loneliness is starting to gain recognition - emotional loneliness. It's believed that when a person doesn’t experience enough emotional intimacy with others, emotional loneliness can start to creep in.
What is emotional loneliness?
Emotional loneliness is a very different experience for every individual, however, it can often be described as a profound feeling of emptiness and aloneness. It may feel as if there is a lack of real, deeper connections with others; you are alone with your thoughts and feelings without a source of comforting closeness. In other words, you rarely feel ‘seen’. It's important to point out that emotional loneliness isn’t something experienced only within a romantic relationship, but also amongst family and within friendships.
People may be physically present, for example, you may have a large family or a wide circle of friends, but when you are emotionally lonely, you somehow still find yourself withholding your emotions. Despite those around you, you may feel as though you have to deal with everything on your own. And it might not be unusual for you to feel drained and empty after spending time with others, even though you would consider those people close to you. It's likely you feel disconnected from others, with a feeling that no one is really there for you.
being socially connected remains essential for a human being’s survival
How does emotional loneliness start?
It's likely that emotional loneliness stems from childhood and the messages we were given from caregivers. For example, if as a child you were encouraged to suppress your feelings, you may have held on to the belief that expressing your emotions was wrong long into adulthood. This is likely to result in you rarely showing how you really feel, which in turn, creates an emotional distance between you and others. Or it may be that you had an incredibly emotional parent who took up the 'emotional space' within your household; for example, their problems and issues took centre stage which left little space for you. This may have resulted in you putting others (and their feelings) before yourself, rarely making your needs known, as this is the role you are used to.
Why is emotional loneliness so painful?
Genetically, human beings are wired to want to be around other human beings. Science has shown that we are built to seek social companionship - in prehistoric times, being around others meant safety, and it seems that this hasn’t really changed. In 2013, a UCLA neuroscientist, Matthew D Lieberman, found that being socially connected remains essential for a human being’s survival. Therefore, experiencing emotional loneliness is understandably very detrimental to our mental health.
How do I get over emotional loneliness?
There isn’t a magic wand or a replacement for a feeling of deep connection with others, however, sessions with a trained professional can be beneficial in many ways.
To start, a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist can give you the chance to truly feel heard and understood and help you navigate a way forward. It may be that they can help you identify your emotional needs, and support you in building the courage to speak out about your needs and wants.
If you feel you're experiencing emotional loneliness, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can contact me via my profile, or browse other qualified professionals working online and across the UK on the Counselling Directory.