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Loneliness – How do you handle being alone?

Valentine’s Day, whether spent with a partner or by ourselves, often evokes feelings of loneliness. Additionally, we may have been disappointed by unmet expectations from our partner. 

Loneliness typically comes from a sense of discontent with our social relationships. This social loneliness is often relieved when we reconnect with others, greet people on a walk, call a friend or head to the gym, church or golf club.
Nevertheless, it is often when we are surrounded by many people or in an intimate relationship that feelings of loneliness profoundly emerge, suggesting that there is another type of loneliness. 

Despite our external connectedness, we often still feel alone. Psychologically, there exists an inner loneliness resulting from a sense of disconnect not with others but with our selves.

Jung suggested, “Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”  

Whether we are by ourselves or with others, there is a need to feel that our true self is being respected, voiced and lived – that we are connected with our inner self and thus, feel a sense of ‘all one,’ versus feeling ‘a lone.’ 

In these often agonizing moments, we realize that we are truly alone, and again are reminded that our validation must come from within and not from others. In our quest for individuation, we are asked in these times of suffering to endure a psychic shift or loss. 

In myths and fairy tales, the hero must venture alone into the world, perform tasks, learn new attributes, relinquish overused and mislearned beliefs, and truly stand by him or herself. We are summoned to drop our ego resistances and let go of a part of our personas, in order to gain a greater sense of who we truly are. 

Psychoanalyst Aldo Carotenuto reminds us, “If we succeed in bearing the anxiety of solitude, new horizons will open up to us and we will learn finally to exist independently of others.”  

If aloneness brings such suffering then it is understandably avoided. We fill any likelihood of solitude with perpetual background noise, with the overuse of social media, and by excessively calling friends. When feelings of aloneness do arise, we may try to cover them with busyness, alcohol, food, shopping, screen time, or other addictive or distracting measures.

We often try to solve our aloneness by searching outwardly for a “magical Other” whom as author James Hollis suggests “will rescue us from [our] existential isolation.”  

As you explore your relationship with being alone, recall times when you truly felt the anguish of being alone. What psychically shifted or was lost during this time? In what ways do you avoid being alone? What part of you may still hope that something or someone will ‘rescue’ you? 

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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.