Note: this is the first of a two-part series.
Loneliness is always a unique experience. The word means different things to different people, but for most, a description for loneliness would include words and phrases such as despair, emptiness, incompleteness, devoid of love, not being comfortable with yourself, feeling as if there’s nobody who cares about you, longing for human contact.
The following is a collection of ideas that are designed to help you understand and explore the experience of loneliness. It would be best for you to write your answers down.
- What does loneliness mean to you? Can you describe what it feels like?
- Can you describe what it would be like if you were not lonely?
- Are there any times when loneliness feels tolerable to you—or times when some loneliness is acceptable? If so, when?
- Is there a difference for you between loneliness and being alone? Describe that difference.
- What assets or special qualities do you bring to your relationships with others?
- Imagine yourself in a situation with others where you feel comfortable and supported—not lonely. Describe an ideal situation or set of circumstances where you do not feel lonely.
- Did your ideal situation include some people you already know? If so, who were they and what is it about them that makes you feel comforted?
- Describe a time when you were alone that you also enjoyed. What was it about that time that was special for you? How could you arrange to have more times like that in your life?
- Make a list: Things I could do when I’m alone to keep me from being lonely…
- Imagine a worst-case scenario. For instance, you are in a café sipping tea and reading the newspaper. A man comes up and says, “You are alone. That must mean that no one likes you.” What could you say in response? Describe another worst-case scenario related to being alone. How could you deal with it so it wouldn’t be all that bad?
- What do you enjoy about being alone?
- Write a paragraph that describes your negative feelings about yourself. Ask yourself the following questions: “How does it benefit me to think about myself this way? What does it cost me to think about myself this way? How would it benefit me if I did not think these negative thoughts about myself?” What have you learned from your answers?
- Perhaps you may be putting up roadblocks or barriers that can keep you from feeling well supported, such as being verbally abusive or offensive; complaining; being excessively angry; being isolated; failing to keep in touch with others; being judgmental, etc. List any other things about you that you think might turn others off.
- What do you do—or avoid doing—that gets in the way of deepening your friendships?
- Have you stayed in touch with people from your past? If not, how has this affected your loneliness? Do you feel that you need to increase your contact with some of your friends? If so, how could you do this?
Next week, I will offer recommendations on how to reduce loneliness.
Source: The Loneliness Workbook by Mary Ellen Copeland (New Harbinger) 2000.