Loneliness in a busy world
Wordsworth provides an interesting metaphor when he wrote, “I wandered lonely as a cloud…” as in the UK clouds are rarely found alone. Perhaps the loneliness of the cloud is more of a pervading existential loneliness. Loneliness has no specific group of people it affects, the feeling can affect anybody. You can be any age, at school, university, work, in the midst of a group of friends or a busy family, even next to your partner and still the disconnected empty feeling remains.
Existential loneliness can feel like:
- something is missing
- that every connection is a misconnection
- a huge hollow of emptiness
- alienation from the crowd
- there is no fit between you and the world
- that nobody out there understands you
- not belonging anywhere
- like an outsider looking in
- an inability to reach depth with others.
The feelings created by existential loneliness can lead to low self-esteem, feeling depressed, feeling anxious in social situations and that constant searching for the person/people or something that will alleviate that emptiness. Social situations can feel daunting and exhausting. It can feel frustrating when joining groups and increasing activities does not seem to lessen the feeling. Often there are thoughts of self blame; "What is wrong with me? Why do other people seem to make strong friendships easily" The feelings of not belonging can lead to friendships and relationships breaking down and this can reinforce feelings of not being good enough.
Every individual is different and has unique life experience so there will not be one cause of existential loneliness. Therapy provides a space where you can search for the missing piece and examine when that missing need began and what the initial feelings were. Therapy might also provide a reattachment and a building of a secure base. Sometimes you might reach an acceptance that the hollow will always be there but then go on to fill the space around it so the satisfied emotional needs one day become bigger than the missing ones.
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