Many of the clients I work with talk about experiencing loneliness. Some say that the therapeutic space is the only place they feel safe enough to admit that they feel lonely.
Mother Teresa once said that loneliness is the biggest poverty in the Western world. She was commenting on the reality that people died in their homes in New York and it may be months before they are discovered. These are people who have no one in their lives to notice that they are missing.
I have suffered times of feeling intensely lonely and have struggled with feeling ashamed of such feelings. Others have told me that they feel a similar shame. Why is it so shameful for many of us to speak about loneliness and to admit to feeling lonely. I know for me it is something to do with feeling as though I couldn’t speak about my emotions with my family growing up. I also saw the loneliness that existed between my father and mother in their middle-class marriage, a common scenario. There was silence around the loneliness and longing for connection.
I am now a lot better at admitting to feeling lonely to some close friends and family, yet it is still a work in progress. I am trying to learn not to feel ashamed at such feelings.
Author Johann Hari says this when he talks about the real drivers behind drug addiction. He claims that addiction is a symptom of disconnected, lonely lives rather than our brains just getting hooked on the drug itself. He says “Human beings are bonding animals. We need to connect and love, but we have created an environment and a culture that cuts us off from connection or offers only the parody through the internet. We need now to talk about social recovery, how we all recover, together, from the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us like a thick fog. The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is a human connection.”
I find that for myself, making an authentic and real connection with another is what eases the pain of loneliness. I wonder, how it is for you?