I’ve been getting a lot of requests to write about loneliness and it comes up a lot during sessions as well. To me, this means that this is a very rampant problem in our society and needs to be discussed.
To start, a certain amount of loneliness is a completely normal part of life. The most constant part of human experience is that we always have our individual experiences. People will come and go in our lives, but we, as individuals, will always remain even after they’re gone. Therefore, expect to cope with some alone time in your life; it’s inevitable and it’s also okay.
My go-to method for coping with loneliness is to use cognitive reframing. Cognitive reframing is exactly how it sounds. Cognition refers to our thoughts and reframing refers to relating to our thoughts differently. Imagine a picture in a frame. The picture itself is neither good nor bad in this analogy. It just is. Our thoughts are the exact same way as thoughts are automatic. We really can’t control them. They just happen. However, the way we process or relate to our thoughts is entirely within our control.
So back to the picture. The picture is neither good nor bad but maybe the frame doesn’t work anymore. The frame is how you hold the picture and many times, when we no longer like the frame a picture is within, we need to reframe the picture.
Our thoughts are the same way. And if we put loneliness into this example, loneliness is the picture, and the way we think about loneliness is the frame.
Most of us put too much emotional value into loneliness. For example, if we are alone, most of us think we are bad in some way.
Instead, we need to remember that being alone is merely a temporary, numeric state of one. When we are with someone else, that number increases to two or however many people we are with. Being alone is neither good nor bad, it just is. Same as with being with one person or many people. Whoever we are with, be it just ourselves or someone else, it is only a numeric state that will eventually change.
When we find being alone unpleasant, remember that it’s only temporary. Then, think of a time when you enjoyed being alone and try to capitalize on whatever made that time by yourself enjoyable.
But keep in mind that being alone is not a reflection of your personal worth! It just means people are unavailable at that time and will be available later.
Alone time is necessary.
In fact, I would argue that most of us could use a little more alone time being in the busy culture of American hustle and bustle. Being alone is a great opportunity to do some self-care activity because you don’t have to accommodate for anyone else’s emotional state or worry about what they want to do.
In addition to personal worth and value being placed on how much company we keep, I also believe we are afraid to be alone because it’s a chance for us to actually hear our thoughts very clearly. It’s easy to distract ourselves from our worries and existential anxieties when we’re with other people. However, these concerns that we try to block out deserve our time and attention. Also, they ultimately can’t harm us. We need to take the time to answer the scary questions of life like “why am I here?” or “what’s the meaning of life?” Sometimes, the best way to do this is just to take some time to yourself to ponder and confront these things instead of continuing to remain in fear of them.
Regardless about whether or not you agree with my opinion, if you dread being alone, try utilizing cognitive reframing to step away from self-depreciation. Otherwise, we are placing our worth in the presence of others which is a naturally fluctuating phenomenon instead of something more constant and stable.
More importantly, if you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide over how lonely you feel, please remember that this is only a temporary part of your life and there are people in this world that will want to be with you. You may just not know them yet and you might be happy you kept looking for them someday. Take the times that you are alone to care for and show compassion and love for yourself. You are valuable and no amount of company or social hierarchy or people in your lives can ever decide your innate worth.