Together these actions do not much to help us overcome feelings of loneliness. Of course, we can find ourselves surrounded by others, but we are likely to feel even more alone - emotional distance is often far more damaging than physical separation..
If we are to our experiences of loneliness, we must question our beliefs about loneliness itself, including the narrative that being alone necessarily means feeling lonely and that authenticity and vulnerability are overestimated or unimportant. Perhaps the most powerful approach is to just talk about it - with each other. Just like the belief that loneliness is pervasive, the (extremely inaccurate) idea that we are alone in our feelings of loneliness is also present.
There is however encouraging news. Lately people seem more willing to talk about our widespread loneliness. Dr. Vivek Murthy, American Surgeon General, highlighted the consequences of loneliness and the need for social bonding in his book Set . The United Kingdomappointed a Minister of loneliness . Actor Jamie Lee Curtis recently launched a podcast, Good Friend , dedicated to the topic of friendship challenges. In my own practice, I am increasingly asked to provide friendship therapy as many of us are starting to prioritize our need for close friendships in new ways.
As much as it makes us feel alone, loneliness is a shared experience. The more we can normalize and humanize, or even befriend, these feelings, the better we can meaningfully connect. Instead of reacting to loneliness with shame or judgment, approachs us each other with compassion. Let 's work to see the inherent value of loneliness: it ' s not something to be judged, ignored or found to be ashamed of; it exists to remind us of our universal need for connection. Finally, let's recognize that the responsibility for tackling loneliness cannot and should not be placed solely on the person in difficulty.
We need to improve on both nuances ( "How are you, really? " Is not the same as a "How are you? ") And the franchise ( "What did you have trouble with or celebrating lately? ", " I feel lonely. Is this something you can relate to? ", " How can I help you feel more connected? "). And, when someone asks us these same questions (and if that feels safe - vulnerability is only useful if it's voluntary), let's practice responding beyond our reflective responses.
If we are to work through our feelings of loneliness, we must learn to ask and listen, both to others and to ourselves. This is what will help us differentiate between being alone and feeling alone.