Loneliness is a condition of human life. It is neither good nor bad but as Clark Moustakas described in his book Loneliness it is “a point of intense and timeless awareness of the Self…” Thomas Wolf believed that loneliness is an essential condition of creativity.
Loneliness, or feeling alone is not the same thing as loneliness anxiety. Loneliness anxiety is experienced as a separation from self and others. Loneliness like meditation can offer an opportunity to better know the real self apart from the diversions of modern life that continually tempt us away from ourselves.
At CEO Effectiveness we have long recognized the relationship between self-knowledge and creativity as well as interpersonal influence. One of the frequent points we share with top leaders is simple but so true: The quality of your relationship with yourself is the upper limit of the quality of the relationship you can achieve with anyone else. You cannot give others what you don’t give yourself and you cannot joyfully receive from others what you deprive yourself from. In other words, loneliness anxiety is a breakdown of being able to know, value and love your true self enough.
Often at the core of loneliness anxiety are feelings of powerlessness and unworthiness. These can be experienced consciously and unconsciously. These feelings are not uncommon but in general persons who experience loneliness anxiety tend to be overly self-critical and look for validation of their worth outside of themselves. Feelings of fear, evasion, and denial result when they attempt to avoid the experience of loneliness which is an essential part of being separate and alive. They look outside for what can only be offered from the inside. Although false notions about themselves are at the core, relationship habits built around them are difficult to change because they lead to predictable outcomes, even as they seem to validate false conclusions about the self. It seems there is a part of us that rather be “right” than happy. Sure, we can be cheered up from the outside for a short time but for many the force of early limiting beliefs and related habits pulls us back to lonely anxiety as the “at home” feeling we have become used to and have come to accept.
Again it appears that the best antidote for loneliness anxiety is to gain self-knowledge through the acceptance of loneliness as part of the human condition. The part that creates the right amount of stillness in our lives to ignite curiosity about our truer self. My favorite definition of self-knowledge is simply “knowing yourself as you truly are.” This almost always involves changing our mental models and questioning everything, especially those things that go unchallenged in our lives. Self-knowledge and self-love are closely related and each energizes the other to liberate happiness.
So if you want to cheer up the lonely on a longer term basis listen to what they say about themselves and compassionately guide them away from their unchallenged beliefs.
Here is a tip from Business Success through Self Knowledge: Early perceptions and beliefs tend to solidify and strengthen as we grow older because we contribute to what we see.