Dealing with Loneliness
Posted by Rev. Jeff Dixon, Senior Equipping Minister at Covenant Community Church on Jan 2, 2002, 20:32
Question: Counselor, don't you think that almost every person sometime in their life has felt lonely?
Counselor: Oh, sure. Loneliness is an experience shared by almost everyone. Do you think there is anything wrong with a person who feels lonely? There is a difference between being lonely and being alone. Being alone doesn't mean that you are necessarily lonely.
Question: Well, that makes sense. There are a lot of times when I am by myself alone, but I am not really lonely. I kind of enjoy that time by myself. There are times when I just want to get away from people and get off by myself to do something like reading a good book.
Counselor: That's good. Others may feel the need to escape, to get off by themselves and do some reflecting and relaxing.
Question: But what about the person who feels terribly lonely?
Counselor: It really is a different situation. There are two thoughts I would like to look at as we consider the topic of loneliness. The first is that loneliness is a state of mind. Now if a person thinks they are happy, they will probably act happy. If they think they are sad, they will probably be sad. You can take any other emotion and follow this same line of reasoning. Your mind is the steering wheel so to speak in what you decide to be or do. A lonely person thinks that life is filled with burdens and obstacles and traumatic situations. They think that they are inadequate, unworthy, undesirable, and worthless. In addition, they are frustrated because they think that their troubles will continue. Loneliness affects their thinking about themselves, their world and the future. So when they are feeling stressed, they also feel self-blame and pessimism. This molds their thoughts and leads to the depressive feelings of guilt and sadness.
Now, the second thought is that loneliness for most persons is a temporary experience.
That should be good news for anybody who feels lonely.
Most persons experience what may be called a tunnel vision.
You can see right in front of you, but if you look way down the tunnel you may not see the end or you may just see a small opening of light. In other words, persons typically can see today, maybe tomorrow, but not really down the road too well. You may feel that what you are experiencing today will be experienced tomorrow or even forever. It's like having a pimple on your face today and feeling that it is going to be there all through college and then throughout your career. . .then the rest of your life.
Question: So just because I may be lonely today doesn't mean I'll always be lonely. And since loneliness a state of mind, it can be a temporary state as well.
Counselor: That's right. Now, remember those two ideas as we talk further. Loneliness is a state of your mind and if you do something positive about it, loneliness will not last forever.
Question: It seems to me that persons who are lonely don't have many friends. Are they lonely because they have no friends, or do they have no friends because they are lonely?
Counselor: Well, it could probably go both ways. First of all, non-lonely people don't like to be around lonely people. Why would you think this to be true?
Question: Because they can bring you down, too.
Counselor: That's right. Loneliness can be contagious. You don't want to hang around lonely people because you don't want to be lonely yourself. Also, it is difficult for a lonely person to develop friendships.
Question: Why is that?
Counselor: Well, surprisingly, there are numerous studies showing that adolescence can be one of the loneliness periods of life. This makes sense when you think about what a person is beginning to experience. Peer relationships and social acceptance are major concerns during adolescence. It's a time of developing intimacy with friends and with both sexes. Now, remember, when you were a child, the need for intimacy was not a major need. You and your friends simply shared in various activities together. As you grew older you began to demand more and more from your friends in terms of intimacy and mutual support. Your friends may let you down at one time or another, and this may lead to misunderstandings and disappointments.
Question: So, we can feel lonely when our expectations are not being met by our friends.
Counselor: That's right.
Question: You know, I have felt lonely the most on weekends, on Friday or Saturday nights when I am sitting home alone.
Counselor: It's during those times when you are more aware of being alone and more worried about whether you are left out of any good times you think others are having.
Question: So every person could expect to feel a little lonely simply because of what they are going through as a person at any given time?
Counselor: That's right. And some persons will feel much lonelier than others.
Question: Counselor, what are some of the things that could happen for a lonely person?
Counselor: Well, some of the feelings we identified earlier may be felt by a lonely person.
Question: You mean what you said about feeling isolated and worthless?
Counselor: That's right as well as rejection, pain, being scared, and alone. In addition, a lot of lonely people feel hopeless and desperate. A great number of lonely people also feel physically unattractive, unlikable and unhappy.
Question: Do some persons try to drown their problems of loneliness in alcohol?
Counselor: Oh, exactly. And then other drugs as well. In addition, acceptance may also be sought in various rebellious behaviors and sexual promiscuity.
Question: You know another example that I have noticed about lonely people is that some may try to be overly outgoing around others. This can be obnoxious.
Counselor: Yeah, I agree. The life of the party may actually be a very hurting, lonely person.
Question: What words of advice or encouragement can we offer them?
Counselor: Well, first, examine the expectations you have about your friends. Are you expecting too much from them and even from yourself? Along with this, be careful not to blame someone else for your loneliness. You are responsible for yourself. The only person you can change is yourself. You can't change anyone else. So with God's help, do what you know to be right and don't try to live according to other people's expectations.
Question: We have talked about taking risks. What specific risks can a lonely person take?
Counselor: Well, you start by developing a plan when you are by yourself. Read a good book or keep a diary. Writing your thoughts down on paper releases emotions and will help you think through challenging times. Also, get out of your room and do something with your life. Your room is your room and it does represent an important part of your life, but your room is not your prison. Volunteer yourself at the hospital or for a ministry at your church. Take up a hobby or join a meaningful club. Be willing to risk being rejected and you will stand a greater chance of being accepted. You have heard the golden rule. Well, here is a variation. If you show interest in others, then others will show interest in you.
The next time you feel lonely, work through this simple mental activity. Ask yourself these five questions and take the time to think through your responses.
- What was going on when I felt lonely?
- Who was involved in this situation?
- What did I do in this situation?
- How did I feel?
- What did I learn?
Question: Are there some things that we can't change?
Counselor: There are. In fact, we need to work at changing the things we can change and accept those things we cannot change.
Question: That is important.
Counselor: It really is.
Question: Counselor, another thing I have noticed about lonely persons is that they don't talk a great deal. Some tend to be shy.
Counselor: Lonely persons can appear to be reserved. That's why it's important for lonely persons to talk to someone about their feelings. Good advice would be to seek out a trusted friend and talk to them about your feelings of loneliness. In addition, deep-seated loneliness is a cry for help. It may be that a friend does have good listening ears and that is important. But more may be needed. I would strongly suggest that professional help be found. Loneliness is the result of various issues and situations. Talking with a professional counselor may help bring these concerns to the surface so that real help and encouragement can be experienced.
I would also encourage a lonely person to evaluate their relationship with God. You may feel lonely and isolated from God. If so, I hope you will commit your life to God. You can do this by inviting Him, through His Son, Jesus Christ, to come into your life and forgive you of your sins.
Please note this is offered as some helpful information. It is strongly suggested that you follow up with a counselor in the days ahead.
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