Did you know there is a difference between being alone and loneliness? Lots of people enjoy being alone and even need alone time to recharge their batteries. They don’t feel alone when they are by themselves engaged in an activity, from simply ‘being’ to being deeply engrossed in a hobby or pastime. They likely get into a kind of pleasant flow that makes the passage of time seem impossibly fast. The difference is that loneliness is a feeling, one of perception. You can feel lonely inside of a marriage or partnership, and you can feel lonely when surrounded by friends and acquaintances.
And this perception of loneliness persists in our society, affecting more than 25% of us in America. What contributes to this terrible statistic?
Researcher and loneliness guru John Cacioppo reports three factors that impact our loneliness status. The first is that loneliness is heritable. This means we all inherit a certain position on a spectrum of loneliness tolerance, or perhaps we might call it ‘connection neediness.’ It is different for each individual and varies widely among us.
The second factor is your ability self-regulate your moods and the emotions you may feel when isolated. This is about how you maintain an even keel when you face challenges. Some people are more reactive than others.
And the third is how you perceive your interactions with others. Do you over-interpret what others are saying? Are you acutely aware of how they might be reacting to what you do, say, or wear? Do you frequently apply negative self-labels? If this is how you make sense of your interactions with others, your social cognition may be out of balance. But take heart, because unlike the previous two factors, your social cognition can be positively impacted. It can be changed. Therapy can help accelerate this kind of change more quickly than rumination!
Life will always be filled with challenges. And I simply see no point in struggling with them alone. A little self reflection can go a long way, and considerably shorten the time you spend struggling. You don’t have to take my word for it; many research meta studies verify that talk therapy works. We are, after all, the only species with the ability of complex speech bolstered by the very real need to connect with others.
Shoot me an email if this is the case. Or go to my contact page; there are several ways to reach me. Let’s figure out how to get you connected together.
Resource: Check out this TED Talk by John Cacioppo if you want more on the topic of loneliness.