“I’m 55 years old, and I’ve been single my whole life. How do I deal with the loneliness and the sinking feeling that I’ll never find someone?” —Carla
When Carla asked me how to “deal with” her loneliness, I immediately identified with her problem. I’m guessing you might too.
Because we’re all human, we can empathize with Carla’s feeling of loneliness, perhaps because we all understand that when you’re in the deepest depths of our reaction to aloneness, life can feel pretty empty.
I often felt consumed by loneliness over more than 30 years of my marriage. Here I was, living in a house full of people, with the resources to do almost anything I wanted, but I still felt lonely most of the time. I couldn’t see a way around the belief that I was destined to a lifetime of loneliness. Thankfully, I was wrong.
I never did find any easy answer to my loneliness because I don’t think there are easy answers. But over time I did learn some crucial things about the cause of my loneliness that made it possible for me to move beyond it.
1. I was making decisions based on my reactions and fears.
I had determined that living in a broken marriage was far better than living life alone. In order to survive in that reality, though, I couldn’t allow myself to face the unvarnished truth of my situation. Instead of recognizing my loneliness as a reaction to my circumstances, I was treating my past and my present as though they were destined to be my future. I became locked in perpetual cycles of distorted thinking, and this made it impossible to see beyond my perceptions. I had become a prisoner in my own mind.
2. I refused to slow down.
Keeping my life full and chaotic meant that I never had to stop long enough to think about my genuine desires for peace of mind and what it would take to restore it. When life got hard, I got busier and busier, hoping that a full schedule would medicate my sadness and fear. It wasn’t until I finally allowed myself to slow down that I was able to see my life for what it really was—versus what I was desperately hoping it would become. In this moment of clarity, I could begin to see exactly what I needed to do if I was truly going to overcome my loneliness.
3. I was seeing loneliness as my adversary.
But really, it was one of the greatest friends I had. I didn’t know it then, but loneliness was my signal that the illusionary world I had spent years upholding just wasn’t working. I knew that I had to start being honest—first with myself—and then with others around me. That began with the difficult task of letting go of others’ expectations so that I could trade inauthentic, reactive pain (e.g., shame, pity, blame, guilt, etc.) with authentic pain (e.g.., anger, sadness, confusion, and fear of uncertainty).
In this space, I was able to lose the narrative associated with my inauthentic pain. I knew people would talk. I knew there would be resistance and fear, but when I recognized that all of those behaviors only fed into reactive pain, I was able to walk away from the debilitating narrative that I had no choice but to keep things the way they were. And without this narrative of regret and anxiety constantly looping in my mind, I finally discovered true, worthwhile solutions to my pain and loneliness.
4. I never waited out my emotional wave.
Loneliness is great at keeping those emotional waves rolling. Thoughts like, “This is my fault,” or “I’ll be alone for the rest of my life,” and “There must be something wrong with me,” or “What if this is as good as it gets?” were on constant replay. I rarely took time to just be. I couldn’t let go of my tension, and I wasn’t equipped to search for the safe harbor deep within me. I had made the common mistake of identifying “alone” as “feeling lonely,” but really, my loneliness was rooted in my projections, not in the facts or the truth.Create enough space between your emotional reaction (loneliness) and your reality (being alone). Here, you can start to build a reality that fosters freedom, self-awareness, and peace. Click To Tweet
Because I know just how easy it can be to talk about loneliness and wind up trivializing everything about it, let me be clear: dealing with the emotional reaction of loneliness requires a challenging and honest effort, and rarely does a “quick and easy fix” arrive. In Carla’s case (and for the rest of us dealing with the same reaction), the goal is to create enough space between our emotional reaction (loneliness) and our reality (being alone). It’s here, in this space, we can expose the impact of the lies we’ve been telling ourselves and start to build a reality that fosters freedom, self-awareness, and peace.
How do you even get started?
I’ve put together a question worksheet that you can download for free here. At the end of the worksheet, I walk you through a simple awareness exercise that you can come back to again and again as you’re working to overcome your loneliness.
Watch my Video:
Take good care : )