There is a myth out there that people who check their Facebook status “In A Relationship” and/or people who have zillions of Facebook “friends” must not be lonely. Not so. The reality is, I believe, that many people surround themselves with friends and are in fact in a relationship, and yet they feel there is something “missing” from all of these friendships and relationships.
What Is Missing?
When I google the definition of “friendship” I find a variety of synonyms for the word “friendship”. Most significantly I see the words “affinity”, “rapport”, “closeness”, “understanding”, “unity”, “empathy with another”, and a “state of mutual trust and support”.
These synonyms make sense to me. I don’t have a boatload of true and lasting friendships, but the ones I do have embody most of the qualities of friendship I see in this definition. When a friendship doesn’t “work out” for me its usually because some of these qualities are “missing”. Usually I decide to release a friendship from my life when my trust has been violated. Or, even more commonly, I see a pattern in a relationship that shows me that someone is simply unable to “show up” for me. Promises are made, but they are not kept.
So, How Does This Relate To Loneliness?
I’ve come to believe through observations in my own life, and observations in my psychotherapy practice that profound loneliness occurs when we have no one who truly knows and accepts us and can listen to us and be with us at the deepest level. I’m not talking about superficial friendships here. Related to this idea, when we lose someone with whom we had a very deep connection, the loneliness can almost be our undoing. I have seen this happen in the grieving process, to the point where a person can become almost unmoored from the reality of everyday life when loss of a deep human connection occurs. I have also seen instances where the loss of a pet produces similar disorientation and despair
How Can Profound Loneliness Be Addressed?
I tell my clients that the answer to their loneliness is easy and yet sometimes incredibly difficult to do. You have to “reach out” to others in a way you may not have done before, or you may need to “reach in” within your own self and reveal yourself to someone you are in an unsatisfying relationship with. You can’t solve relationship problems by hiding away. The only way is to come “out of hiding”.
There is no way to even describe the rewards of coming “out of hiding” and sharing yourself with another person. When you do so, you are giving the other person the opportunity and permission to do the same. You are no longer lonely, because you are no longer alone. Its as simple and yet profound as that.