Are you lonesome tonight?

What is being alone
Greta Garbo said I want to be alone. While most of us know that feeling of wanting to get away from everyday life, loneliness can be an emotional trying experience. At our heart we are social beings and to be separated from others for long periods of time can be overwhelming.

Of course there are degrees of loneliness. One person may literally see no one for weeks on end and another sees a few people but is emotionally isolated from them. However, in both cases they can feel abandoned, isolated and insecure. The feeling can attack our very self-worth and self-belief.

Who feels lonely
In the 1970s it was said that Alfred Worden (Command Module Pilot on Apollo 15) was the loneliest man in the Universe. Because of his position behind the moon for 32 hours he could communicate with no-one on earth or even his fellow astronauts on the moon’s surface.  He tried many activities to combat the loneliness yet nothing seems to take it away.

Yet Colonel Worden only had to endure his loneliness his isolation for 32 hours, he could see the end point.  Many people in today’s fast moving world have to face loneliness, without a finite end point.  Divorces, migration for jobs, or family moving away are all ways in which more of us are living alone. When this is combined with not having friends, or feeling unwelcome in social situations this can lead to and increase the sense of isolation.

We would all like to think that we are understood that others see us for the beautiful person that we are. Yet if we do not get that emotional feedback, if we are not valued, we begin to believe that somehow it is all our fault.  When describing loneliness often we draw a picture of an elderly person sitting alone in one room of their flat, never visited by anyone –abandoned. Yet increasingly people who have active social lives feel lonely not through a lack of people around them, but through a lack of feeling valued and in emotional contact with them. I have had many clients say to me I was surrounded by people but I have never felt so alone. Often we seem to link feeling lonely with being alone. Yet the evidence suggests that they may be quite different things. Someone who is alone may feel lonely but not all people who feel lonely are alone. It would seem that loneliness is actually about a lack of an emotional connection with others.

So what can you do?
Studies show that those who are lonely often have a poor self-image or self-worth.  One of the things that you can do is to start to accept yourself. Others have found relaxation or yoga helps. People seek the help of a counsellor to put things in perspective for them. This self- acceptance of how you feel and what is the real cause allows you to face yourself and perhaps begin to reach out to others.

When you have spent a lot of time alone it can be difficult to go back into company.  It might be difficult to decide who to trust or even to decide what to say. It’s important to start small, perhaps have a few topics that you are confident on or have open questions that you can ask others around you.

If you have a hobby perhaps there is a local group or a club you can join, or perhaps you could consider going along to a class to learn a new skill. Many of them are free and held in libraries and local halls. Helping out at a charity or volunteering can be another way of meeting people with whom you can have a shared passion.

Finally you may want to consider counselling. A counsellor should be able to help you take small steps to get away from the negative feelings surrounding loneliness. Many have successfully changed their lives and with effort and support you can change yours too.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Glasgow, G46
Written by Graeme Orr, MBACP(Accred) Counsellor
Glasgow, G46

I am an Accredited Member of BACP offering counselling in person (southside of Glasgow) and on-line (UK wide) for individuals. It can be a daunting prospect to choose a counsellor just when we are at our most vulnerable, I hope that what you read here resonates with you.  We all struggle with d...

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