December 21, 2011

Loneliness - Part 2

Did you know that being lonely can actually provide us an opportunity for growth? Our ability to sit and remain grounded in the lonely times is no small thing. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis is telling the story of a man who has lost his son and is experiencing a deep sense of loss and emptiness – loneliness. Lewis writes that, in this void, “in the loneliness, in the silence, something else might begin to grow.” When I read this, it immediately jumped out at me. Lewis doesn’t go on to explain what that “something else” is, but I think it is independence.

The experience of abuse often leaves us clamoring for love, affection, and attention. We bounce from relationship to relationship, job to job, activity to activity – refusing to ever stop long enough to deal with who we are when we are on our own. Now, this is in no way related to the popular idea that we must “love ourselves before we can love others.” I think, quite frankly, that’s a ridiculous statement. I’ve actually come to love myself much more deeply through the relationships and reflections of my partners than when I was on my own. What I did gain by developing the capacity to be in the loneliness was a sense that I could stand on my own two feet. I understood that the love and experiences that come with being with others is amazing and to be appreciated, but I also learned that my existence wasn’t dependent on “belonging.” As a result, one very important thing changed. I stopped saying “yes” to things just because I was afraid of being alone or it proving that I didn’t belong. Instead, I began to powerfully choose for myself who I wanted to spend time with and what experiences I wanted to have.

- What things are you saying “yes” to out of the fear of being alone or not belonging?
- What are the payoffs & costs of the story “I don’t belong”?

I want to encourage you to practice challenging the stories that cause you to feel lonely and disconnected, while also noticing how your time alone changes when you use it as an opportunity to develop independence rather than as a sign that you are all alone.

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  1. Interesting article. I had not thought of there being a link between fear of being alone and abuse.

    I have a friend who may fit this pattern. I've drafted three emails to send the article to her and have deleted all of them for fear of hurting or angering her.

    Perhaps I'll find a way to work the idea from your article into a conversation with her.

  2. @Bruce: thanks so much for taking the time to comment. If I may, I'd like to suggest that you just forward the link to your friend with a simple note like, "I read this the other day and really liked it so wanted to share it with you." This way, you don't make it directly about something your friend needs but instead just something you found to be valuable that you wanted to share with her. Take care!


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