“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” Mother Teresa”
I know I do. Lately I have come to realize that I have felt alone my entire life. I felt alone as a child. I felt alone in my relationships. I felt alone when I was alone and I felt alone even when I was with people.
Do you feel alone all the time? Do you wonder why or if it will ever change? As I was pondering this issue of feeling alone I was struck by two separate concepts. The first is that to find peace you must look inward and feel whole and complete within yourself and the second is that we all crave social connections to some extent in order to feel that we are not totally and completely alone.
So, how do you reconcile these two concepts? The Buddha has a number of quotes that speak to the issue of finding peace within the self:
- “Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.”
- “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”
- “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”
Sometimes being alone is a good thing, especially if you are an introvert. We all need alone time to some extent.
But, I’m not talking about those times when you want to be alone or need to recharge. I’m talking about a fundamental feeling of emptiness inside. The feeling that you are always alone no matter what you do or who you are around.
How do you fill this emptiness? How do you find peace within the self if you feel apart from the rest of humanity? How do you stop feeling so alone when in fact you are truly all alone? Where does this loneliness stem from?
So, what I think Buddha is trying to say is that you have to love yourself first and if you have a lack of self-love and if you continue to seek to fill your emptiness through others you will never find fulfillment. Is this true?
My Alone Story
I contemplate the question of loneliness quite often. Maybe I shouldn’t. Here’s what I know. I know that from a very early age I would play in my room alone or I would go next door to the neighbor’s house to play because my mother had things to do around the house. She didn’t really have time for me. I was alone.
That neighbor was 60. I was around five or six when it started and around eight or nine or ten when it ended. He said he was my friend. He took advantage of me and my naiveté. He wasn’t my friend. I was alone.
At fifteen I stole a check from my parents, bought a greyhound bus ticket going from Oakland to Los Angeles and ran away from home. I didn’t know what else to do. I was angry. I was lost. I was alone.
When I returned back home my parents were at a loss as to what to do with me so they sent me to live with my Aunt and Uncle in Southern California. I did not really know these people. I had no friends. I was alone.
Throughout my life I have had men who loved me. But, because I chose emotionally and/or physically unavailable men or selfish men who were never really there for me I was alone.
Perhaps the feeling was more than just being physically alone. Perhaps the problem was that I was left alone, both physically and emotionally at a very young age which led me to feeling alone as an adult.
As an adult I didn’t know how to fill the emptiness because I didn’t understand what it’s supposed to look like or feel like. I don’t recount my childhood issues to blame anyone. I recount them so I can understand how I got here and how I move forward. I know that I have been trying to figure out this sense of loneliness for a very long time.
Once I started to accept the fact that I felt alone despite my friends, despite my relationships and despite my accomplishments I began my journey. If you feel alone, maybe you can relate and begin yours.
Finding Yourself-The Conscious v. Subconscious
The question then becomes how do you stop feeling so alone? How do you get up every day regardless of how many friends you have or don’t have and feel fulfilled inside? What is it that is keeping you feeling so alone and separated from everyone else? Or, is it that you are mostly separated from yourself and until you can connect your body and mind and learn to truly accept yourself you will always feel alone?
In my opinion (and according to many psychological studies) the mind works in very mysterious ways. When you have experienced trauma it can repress pain so you cannot access it by conscious, normal every day thought. So, no matter how many times you try to intellectualize your pain away, it won’t work.
You can tell yourself one million times, “I’m smart” or “I’m pretty” or “It wasn’t my fault” or “I want to be rich” or “I can succeed” or “People are naturally drawn to me”. But, if your subconscious mind holds on to the negative belief that you aren’t or you can’t or you won’t then you end up going nowhere.
Your mind literally keeps you stuck. It keeps you stuck because it believes it is protecting you. It doesn’t want you to remember or release. It is totally natural. The problem is that being stuck in negative, self-effacing thoughts sucks beyond belief and makes your life a living hell.
So, what does all of this have to do with feeling alone? If the subconscious mind is telling you that you aren’t good enough or that no one likes you are that no one cares, then you believe this and you feel this and you still have not found a way to love yourself.
In order to stop feeling so alone and in order to love yourself you have to get rid of all of your negative beliefs about yourself. You have to sit and be alone and feel alone. You have to find out who you are, what drives you and accept all of those parts of you that you think no one can love.
When I started this mission to stop feeling so alone I began to focus on myself. I began to focus on my passions and my needs and my desires. I stopped worrying about my ex or the relationship and whether we would get back together or not. I stopped seeking external validation from the world or others telling me everything would be okay and that I was good enough. I finally realized that I kept trying to get it from the wrong places.
I began to meditate a lot. I wrote. I created my blog and I wrote some more. I wrote about twenty-five articles. I would think and I would read and I would meditate. I turned off the television and I sat alone with my thoughts. I stopped going to happy hour. I was alone.
What happened was an amazing thing. I was alone way more than I had been before, but I stopped feeling alone. I came to realize that there wasn’t anything external to my feeling alone. I couldn’t fill this feeling with people or activities or things. I could only fill it by feeling full in my heart. I could only fill it by focusing on myself and how I could do something that would make a difference in the world, or even with just one person in the world.
Think about who you are and what you want and need. What are your strengths and your weaknesses? What do you have to offer?
Who are you deep down at the core of your being? Try and quash all those nasty messages telling you that you can’t do something or that you aren’t enough or that no one will love you. Accept yourself for everything you are and everything you want to be. Accept your flaws. Accept your strengths. Accept yourself.
What Does it All Mean?
So, in the end what does all of this have to do with feeling alone? It means that when and if you find your center and when and if you learn to love yourself and when and if you let go of all the negative beliefs you’ve been carrying around you will be full.
It means when and if you can sit with yourself long enough to find out who you are and what drives you and what brings you joy then you will be full.
No longer will you feel alone. The core feeling of separation from the universe and from everyone else will cease to exist to the extent that it has in the past.
The key is to stay centered. So, I guess most of those experts were right. The more you seek externally the more you will feel alone. The more you look inside the more you will feel the emptiness drifting away. Staying centered isn’t easy. Sometimes I find myself feeing lonely again and then I stop and realize why. I have gone off my path.
Stay on your path. If you waver, it’s okay. Brush yourself off, pick yourself up and get back on your path again. As long as you do this I guarantee that when you go to bed at night you will have just a little more peace and a little more hope and you won’t feel so alone in a world of 7 billion people.