How to Overcome Loneliness
Any psychologist will tell you that loneliness is a state of mind. I think that’s a bit simplistic. Loneliness happens when there are certain skills lacking, certain perspectives that we believe, and certain behaviours followed.
Not Knowing How to Connect With Others
Lonely people seldom know how to connect with others. They don’t understand what goes on inside others, because what goes on inside them is different to what goes on inside most other people.
In order to understand others, one must know where they are coming from — not the faux part, but the real part. If people have never lived in the same way that others have lived, it means they do not know how to interpret the various social clues that are being given.
They do not know how to pick up on an interest, avoid something that someone doesn’t want to speak about, or read the signals as to whether someone wants to stop a conversation or carry on.
A lack of social skills is a very definite part of being lonely. However, the deeper part of this is that lonely people do not understand other people. So let me give some clues here.
Most people have a combination of self-interest and other-interest. They often live vicariously through the lives of others, because their own lives are boring. This is why so many people watch soap operas or read exciting books.
They do not want to be drained by other people’s problems. People tend to avoid lonely people because lonely people are not cheerful and are seldom interesting (they can be self-absorbed).
The trick to connecting with someone else is finding a true common denominator. They love shopping? So do you. It’s pointless pretending that you when you don’t. It won’t gain you any real connection. You’re both interested in saving the Monarch butterfly? Great, you can spend hours discussing that. Bonds will form. You’re both saving up to go to Greece. Days and months can be spent looking at all the different places you can visit.
Solid connections happen when two people speak about real interests. That said, lonely people often mistake politeness for real interest. So they say to someone, “I really liked that yellow lorry that just drove past.”
The polite person then says, “Yes, it is rather pretty, isn’t it?”
The lonely person then mistakes that comment for interest in yellow lorries when it was just a polite rejoinder.
The way to resolve this inability to find connection with others is to read psychology books until there is an understanding of how people function. There are well-adjusted people, and there are the kind of people that are best avoided. There are some classic books out there on the topic. Begin by reading them (or other books of your choice), and learn what goes on deep inside other people.
Games People Play by Eric Berne *
I’m Okay, You’re Okay by Thomas Harris *
The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene *
Being in a Very Different Situation to Others
It can be difficult to connect with others when one’s entire focus is on something very different to that of other people. For the first 45 years of my life, my attention was solely focused on why my late mother was physically, mentally, and emotionally abusing me 24/7. I couldn’t think of anything else. Imagine being called at five in the morning, when you are in your early forties, and your mother then spends two hours calling you a fucking whore. And you’re celebite because you don’t dare have a relationship in case you’re a whore. Believe me, it’s very difficult to relate to someone who is excited about some football game or other.
Lonely people tend to have other things on their minds. It’s impossible to hear what other people are saying, or even to relate to their lives, when one is so focused on something that is happening in one’s own life.
In order to begin truly hearing what other people are saying (and to relate to them), two things are necessary. The first is that one either resolves the issues in one’s own life or one makes peace with them. This way they will not take up so much attention. The second is to begin to truly hear what others are saying. That is the only way one can give an authentic response.
Not Doing Something Worthwhile for Humanity or the Community
The way out of one’s own misery is to be sincerely interested in something outside of oneself. This can be as simple as writing articles that will be of assistance to others — even if it’s a piece of fiction that lightens the mood of the reader. It can be about joining a voluntary group in something that interests one.
As soon as I’m out of quarantine in Dusseldorf, I’m going to find an animal sanctuary where I can bond with other animal lovers. It’s important to do something with one’s time that contributes to those around you. This is what gives us worth. It’s difficult to be happy when one is empty inside, and the only thing I know of that fills one up is one’s connection to the community at large and to one’s family and friends. If there are no family and friends, then the next best thing is to find a community of people who serve others in some way.
Sometimes lonely people have been so isolated for so long that they have no interest in these kind of endeavours. That is sad, and I guess it’s difficult as well.
There is only one way out of this — putting one foot in front of the other. One has to pick up the phone and start making enquiries about different communities. One can scan the web and find different help-organisations. One may have to try out different organisations to find something where one relates to it both emotionally and intellectually.
Very often lonely people have no idea as to what will give them pleasure. They have been out of circulation so long that this appetite has never developed. Been there — done that.
Self-absorption and Lack of Interest in Others
This is a really difficult one, as in some modern societies, the emphasis is very much on self-fulfilment and individualism. This can, sometimes, result in narcissicism, but lonely people are not really narcissistic. Self-absorption and a lack of interest in others can result from having been on their own for so long that they never developed any interest in others. All they know is their own thoughts.
The only way out of this is awareness that when one is self-absorbed to this extent, other people pick up very quickly that one isn’t interested in them. For a long time, after moving away from my abusive situation (and after reading several books about communicating with others), I had to pretend an interest.
The most amazing thing was that as I learnt to listen to others, I genuinely became interested. I recall, one day, listening to someone telling me how she tried to ride an ostrich. I was absolutely fascinated. Crazy as this sounds, the very next week I had an opportunity to ride a camel, and so I took it. Prior to this lady’s tale of attempting to ride an ostrich, I would never have attempted riding a camel. I think something in me changed after that.
I had clicked on to the fact that in communicating with others, my own situation changed, and not only did I have more interesting experiences, but I became more interesting to others.
Connecting with others isn’t rocket science. It’s about understanding the hidden interests and values between us, and forming relationships through them.
When we do that, we eradicate loneliness.