By Stacey Rose, LCSW, PhD
More and more in my practice, I hear people talk about how very afraid they are of being alone. What does this mean? For some it means not having enough friends or family around, and for others it means being single, divorced, or widowed. But some people can feel alone while in a relationship and having friends and family around, so what is being lone truly about? For some it means not having enough friends or family around, and for others it means being single, divorced, or widowed. But some people can feel alone while in a relationship and having friends and family around, so what is being alone truly about? Have you ever had the experience of feeling alone in a crowded room?? So, what does alone really mean to you?? And, have you ever really been alone??
“Anne” was married most of her adult life and when her husband died suddenly of a heart attack, she found herself ‘alone’ and lost. While she had a great support system of friends and family, and even sought out the help of a therapist, she struggled mostly with the idea of being alone. Grief-stricken, Anne decided to join a group for widows and found that the feeling of being alone subsided significantly. For her, it was being with other people in similar circumstances that brought comfort. This is true for many people. Think of the times you have been in the company of people who have a shared experience; chances are you have felt a part of something and thus, less alone.
Making any decision in life based on fear is often a path toward further unhappiness. When the fear of being alone sets in, we can choose to respond in a variety of ways. Part of the human experience is the continued attempts to avoid pain, or to numb it with food, substances, sex, work, gambling, or shopping; just to name a few. Typically, people choose to stay in unhealthy relationships because they don’t want to be ‘alone’. I often ask them, but aren’t you alone in that relationship anyway?
Being alone and being lonely are two different feelings. Some people I know, and maybe you are one of them, enjoy their own company and get depressed when they do not get enough alone time. How can you begin to savor the time you have by yourself? Consider the following points to get started today…
- Do whatever you can by yourself that you wouldn’t do with others. (whatever that is!)
- Remind yourself that you don’t have to be concerned with other’s agendas, it’s all about you!
- Sit quietly; no t.v., ipods, ipads, texting, or internet. Listen. What do you hear around you? What is your internal conversation with yourself?
- Write. See what pours out of you. This is an opportunity to get to know yourself better and more deeply.
- Hike, drive, exercise, cook, sing, paint, walk, do yoga, pray…In other words, do something that is fulfilling to you. And if you don’t know what is fulfilling, begin to experiment; this is all part of getting to know yourself better.
You will be with you for your whole life! You might as well have a clear sense of what you like, don’t like, what brings you pleasure, and most importantly how to enjoy your own company. Maybe, being alone is not something we have to avoid but instead can relish in.