ABOUT LONELINESS

Loneliness is a painful emotional response to the state of being alone and not liking it. It is sometimes influenced by our perceptions of how we are doing in the world. We might spend a great deal of time alone and feel perfectly content. Or we can find ourselves in a situation where being alone causes us a great deal of pain. Perhaps we are also grieving a loss (See also the Grief and Loss page) such as ties to an old place or maybe we perceive ourselves as being “at odds” with the social norm around us.

“Loneliness doesn’t necessarily require physical solitude, but rather an absence or paucity of connection, closeness, kinship: an inability, for one reason or another, to find as much intimacy as is desired.” (Laing, 2017:3-4)

Being lonely does not mean that there is anything wrong with us. Loneliness is a common phenomenon. We all have a basic human need to connect with others in ways that are meaningful to us. Meaningful ways to connect might be things like shared interests, values, beliefs, sense of humour, life stage or even a particular outlook on life. In order to not feel lonely we need to feel that we have enough people around us who really “get” us.

“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” (Jung, C.G., 1962:356)

It is possible to get into a downward spiral of loneliness when a particular event or situation lands us in circumstances where we end up spending less time with others. Over time, the decreased social activity can reinforce any negative thoughts we might have about ourself. This can erode self-confidence, impact how we behave around others and lead to further withdrawal and increased negative feelings. A “lonely mindset” can develop where we become overly sensitised to negative cues in our interactions with other people which leads us to evaluate events more negatively.

Signs that we are lonely may include raised anxiety, becoming stressed more easily, getting annoyed over small things, feeling more lethargic than usual, pushing people away or leaning into addictive distractions.

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CAUSES OF LONELINESS

The following factors can have an impact on loneliness

  • a history of social anxiety
  • attribution issues: believing our loneliness is due to something about us as people instead of being about the situation we are in
  • being an immigrant (see also the Culture Change page)
  • bereavement or loss
  • fixed vs changeable: seeing our loneliness as fixed and beyond hope, as opposed to something fleeting that can be changed
  • having a disability
  • having low self-esteem / self-confidence
  • having no social contacts
  • having poor coping ability
  • seeing ourselves as having a certain social identity
  • a difficult childhood where there may have been circumstances that made it harder to feel connected with others

THERAPEUTIC APPROACH TO LONELINESS

In therapy we have the opportunity to get to the bottom of how our life history has brought us to where we are now. Developing an appreciation of the impact that challenges and struggles we have had to deal have had on us can help us to understand what has led to our current state of loneliness.

Therapy offers us a space in which to explore:

  • our general sense of connectedness and relatedness
  • how we see ourselves socially
  • how we feel inside when we are with others
  • what happens in our bodies when we interact with others
  • what happens when we are around particular individuals
  • past relationship dynamics that are still affecting our behavior

Understanding our story can lead to personal insight, greater self-knowledge and the development of greater compassion towards ourselves. The work then is about building up confidence, increasing personal resilience and promoting participation in society with a view to arriving at a place where we feel satisfied that we have some meaningful connection in our lives.

POSITIVE EXPERIENCES

"She is a very calming, understanding and nonjudgmental person and it is so nice to have the space she creates each week to go to where I can feel"
accepted and supported

Client J

"Jane helped me learn more about myself and to find a self-compassion that helped me in my relationship with myself and others"

Client C

"Jane helped me to understand my own feelings and how I could deal with them"

Client N

"I've been attending sessions with Jane on and off for a few years now and I have found her to be really supportive and helpful during this time"

Client J

"She always makes me feel comfortable enough to speak openly in our sessions"

Client N

"Jane helped me through some very tough times and her compassionate and nonjudgmental attitude has allowed me to feel more comfortable in myself when I'm out in the world"

Client J

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