I Feel So Lonely
SUMMER, SUNSHINE & LONELINESS
Have you thought to yourself “I feel so lonely“? Have you anticipated summer as the opportunity to kick back, relax and reconnect to a healthier, more balanced place in life? Have you imagined sitting in the sun, while catching up with friends, or taking a much needed vacation only to find that there is still a nagging void deep inside of you? Have you and your partner or spouse escaped for a time to nourish your relationship only to have returned to the emptiness and strained communication that cast a shadow on your relationship?
Loneliness is epidemic in the United States and has more than doubled since the l970’s. It impacts on the lives of more than 42 million people over the age of 45! Did you know that you can be lonely in the middle of a crowd? Have you been at a party only to feel isolated and disconnected? It makes no difference if you are with friends, family or colleagues; you can still feel abysmally alone. This lonely feeling has to do with the gap between what you want and what you actually have in your social relations. It indicates your experience of social isolation, not that of anyone else.
Whether you are married, in a committed relationship or single, when your dealings with others are superficial and characterized by conflict the size of your social network is irrelevant. We know that one can feel totally at peace even when alone. This state, known as solitude, is very different from loneliness. It is an outgrowth of having people around you who make you feel understood and whom you trust. It is the fabric of healthy relationships with others.
Although loneliness increases your risk for an early death by over 20%, there is an antidote to this! Relationships that nurture the partners’ feelings of satisfaction, meaning and purpose in life are generally reflected in each person taking better care of himself. Close bonds make you more resilient to stress and less vulnerable to depression. Where does your relationship fall in the continuum of connectedness to isolation?
You may be wondering how you got to this place in your life and what interactions or situations precipitated these feelings. Have you and your partner found yourselves far from family, friends and one another? Have you experienced medical challenges that have been overwhelming and have made it difficult to socialize? Research shows that loneliness powerfully affects all age groups, even college students who are surrounded by many peers. It is not restricted to a particular demographic, age or level of education. It has to do with human connections within the context of understanding and trust.
Have your feelings of loneliness been so deep that they have made you feel desperate to connect to others? Have you become hypersensitive to your partner’s words and reactive to their deeds? While your relationship was a safe haven, has it become an echo chamber of pain and discontent?
A level of hypersensitivity can result and cause you to misinterpret casual remarks and behaviors. Anxiety, awkwardness, withdrawal from social interactions and ruminating about perceived insults are often the ramifications of a deeply felt loneliness. It is easy for this to become a vicious cycle.
While this loneliness may feel hopeless and interminable, it does not have to be. Although this feeling is your perceived reality today, it is not etched forever into your future. Your pattern of repetition has brought you to this emotionally desolate place. However, through the process of emotional relearning you can learn to identify your emotional and behavioral contributions to this mix and to develop healthier, more effective ways to connect with your spouse and your friends. Growth is possible, despite feelings to the contrary.
Summer is an excellent time to address this area of discontent. Generally schedules are lighter, deadlines are in the more distant future and the overall tone of the season is conducive to reflection and the subtle adjustments that make change possible. Your world can expand, but only if you take the first step.
If you would like to explore the above questions or related ones, call Dr. Maryann Schaefer at 516-627-1145 to schedule a complimentary consultation.