Loneliness – are you faking it?
Loneliness affects a whopping one third of all people, with young people and girls in particular suffering disproportionately. The majority of people are ashamed of feeling lonely so may not acknowledge their feelings.
It’s not about being with people, but connecting with them
Loneliness is not about simply being with people but about connection with them. Its common to be in a relationship and/or have a family and still feel lonely when you don’t feel a connection with those people. We feel connected when our vulnerability as individuals is acknowledged and accepted by a group with whom we share values.
Loneliness is an evolutionary response
It is essential to our survival as social beings — but creates a conflict between acknowledging the vulnerability that helps connect us while risking us feeling ashamed of our loneliness. Shame is the ingrained sensation of feeling flawed, not good enough, or not OK.
Social media increases loneliness, because online is a safe place to create a connection without taking the risk of vulnerability making the connection feel false and lack the authenticity of person to person contact.
Social media inadvertently breeds comparisons. When we compare ourselves to others, we compare our ‘insides’ to other people’s ‘outsides’ which usually leads to feelings of inadequacy.
So how do we create authentic connections?
We have to take risks and be willing to be vulnerable, while recognising that not everyone will be able to connect the same way back.
We tend to avoid conflict and friction which can lead to inauthentic connections. But it is impossible to have healthy relationships without friction. We are all different from one another – so when there’s no friction its because one of us is suppressing our needs.
Christmas (and holidays in general) can be challenging due to (often unachievable) levels of expectation to have a good time, coupled with the temptation to overindulge, leading to feelings of guilt and shame. If you have inauthentic relationships with your family and friends but are forced to socialise with them over the holiday period, you may feel empty or dissatisfied.
How can therapy help?
A genuine relationship improves the efficacy of the therapy. As a relational therapist, I create safe space for you to experiment with different ways of being, such as taking risks.
What can you do about your loneliness?
1. Try to be authentic in your relationships by being aware that a healthy relationship should have friction which depends on both parties being willing to work through it.
2. Try to avoid triggers that might lead to comparisons, such as using social media or general media images of ‘happy families’.
3. Develop a more compassionate approach to yourself. If a friend expressed their loneliness or vulnerability to you, what would you say to them? Say to yourself what you would say to a loved one that was expressing these feelings.
If you would like to know more about this topic, we offer a half hour free consultation with our psychotherapists to identify whether therapy can help.
Written by Tiagro Brandao