Feeling lonely on days of love

Umbrella, rain, alone, solitary, lonely, Romania

Loneliness is a feeling of isolation and disconnection that is cold and miserable, wherever you are. It can be worse at a noisy party than alone in the rain.

In these days running up to Valentine’s Day and its Romanian version Dragobete and Martisor, we are fed images of romance and love, and the whole world seems wrapped in a rosy haze of togetherness. But what about those who don’t feel the love? Who feel disconnected, isolated, and invisible?

Loneliness feels so much worse on these days when you’re supposed to be happy – especially in Romania, where the culture is so family-orientated and open-hearted. The upcoming love-fests can be agonising for those who feel …. Read more…

 

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Blog for mental health – no more stigma

mental health, blog for mental health, mental illness, depression, loneliness, isolation, alientation, lonely feelings, full of life, dying of loneliness, bored and lonely, stuck, friendship, connection, well, ill, suicide, suicidal, feelings, emotionsI pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project.  I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others.  By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health.  I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

After five family bereavements in 14 months, I had a melt-down in 2008 which had a serious impact on my business, on friendships and work relationships, on my finances and my whole way of life. It resulted in a huge change – leaving the country and starting a very different life in Europe. The peace and clarity of the mountains gave me back the ability to think, but it took years to reach the point of being able to go back into the ‘real’ world. For many reasons, I wouldn’t turn the clock back as, despite the bad bits, I have learned so much and found so much good in the process. I would only wish to undo the damage I unwillingly caused to others.

This blog is a major route to putting something back, to sharing what I’ve learned and, maybe, giving people some new options to getting out of deep ruts.

Two good ones to read:

Knocked over by a feather

A canvas of the minds

Attention and intention

Full of life, banish loneliness, be a good listener

Is this the face of a good listener? Would you like to have her as a friend to talk to?

One crucial thing to understand is the way we connect with others. It’s not enough to be in the same place as other people. You can be in a crowded room, a busy station, a park full of people, even in bed with your spouse… and still feel lonely. In fact, it can feel much worse – to be close to others but be shut out, shut off from them, invisible. Sometimes you feel that even if you yelled and screamed, no-one would hear you.

Sometimes even if you’re in the middle of a conversation, you can feel that your companion has drifted off, distracted by something else or just daydreaming. They’re not listening to you any more, and when you prod them, they are startled as they pull their attention back to you.

“Sorry, I was miles away…”

Not very flattering, is it? Is what you were saying so boring?

Who knows what was going on in their head. Maybe they were terribly worried and couldn’t concentrate. Maybe they saw something fascinating over your shoulder. Maybe they’re exhausted after a hellish day. Maybe they’re shallow and selfish and need a slap…

Ignore that last bit – it’s how it makes us feel but it’s almost certainly not fair.

We’ve all had it happen to us… but have you ever been guilty of it? Not listening, not keeping your attention focused on what someone is telling you?

Being a good listener is a great way to connect: here are seven points of a listener.

banish loneliness, be full of life

Are they listening? Are they people you’d want as friends for their kindness and empathy?

1. Keep eye contact as much as possible; keep your eyes on the speaker’s face, at least.

2. Listen with all your senses – more is said with body language and tone of voice than with words.

3. Don’t interrupt. Don’t argue. Ask questions to get clarity, not to interrogate.

4. Stay close but not too close – don’t invade the speaker’s personal space unless invited.

5. Let your body show your interest; lean forward just a little, don’t fidget, but nod your head to indicate you hear them and understand.

6. Listen with empathy. Don’t criticise, and don’t judge – not even in your head.

7. Be kind. The speaker will feel your kind intention.

Do you know how it feels to have a good listener to talk to? 

Are you a good listener?

 

Keep in touch, make contact, only connect

A proper hug, with a simple, kind, loving intention, is the best prevention for loneliness

The best medicine

We use these words as metaphor. We don’t actually mean touch each other when we say ‘keep in touch’; we don’t mean touching someone when we make contact with them… EM Forster’s epigram “only connect” was his suggesting nothing more than a cerebral connection: no actual touching, thanks.

And that’s where we’ve gone wrong.

Cats have no hang-ups about being in touch

Cats need no excuse to cuddle up together

This is the first of a series of posts about touch, connection, contact, being hands-on. Touch is one of the three keys to curing loneliness – and for that matter, solving many of our human ills and failings.

Gerry Pyves, who trained me in bodywork techniques (aka massage), told us on our first session that he strongly believed that if everyone had one hour of massage every week, the NHS would be redundant. It sounded pretty outrageous at the time, but as I learned and observed and listened and read and experienced, I became convinced that he was right.

Massage – expert, intuitive, safe bodywork – does far more than make you feel relaxed, or smoothing out knots in muscles. It affects your mind as much as your body, and long-term can bring about radical changes that would amaze anyone who isn’t in the know.

More than massage, touch is the most neglected and misunderstood of our five senses, but one of the most important. Touch is critical in the very early stages of life, and probably the last sense we relinquish when we die.

But the matter of touch, or the lack of it, never comes up in discussions about loneliness. I’ve been monitoring this for 18 months – I have a Google alert for the word ‘loneliness’ and must have read hundreds of articles, blog posts, papers and studies about the subject. The only time the importance of touch has been implied was in short articles about someone inventing gadgets to hug you – most recently a vest which will ‘hug’ you when your beloved is away. But these are mechanical solutions, which don’t provide the living energy we need.

There is more than enough evidence – despite the lack of research into the sense of touch in mammals, let alone humans – to show that a key cause of loneliness is the lack of touch, and not just the lack of social activity. The sad irony is that the simplest of touches  – putting your hand on someone else’s shoulder, arm, hand – is the most effective way of dismissing loneliness. It needs no words, no explanation, no expertise – only a kindly intention. It’s not dangerous or expensive; it’s free, simple, and universal.

City ghost – survival of the invisible

Feeling like a ghost in a crowded London park

Sitting invisible, a ghost in plain sight

The times I can feel loneliness are when I’m in a crowd, in a busy street, at a station, in a shop, at a party. Twice in the last year I’ve felt completely invisible in the midst of people busy about their lives: once at Oxford train station, and once in a park in London. And I finally realised why.

It’s a survival mechanism. Without it, we’d probably go nuts. Some of us go nuts anyway, of course.

Earlier this month I was in London for two days, staying with friends and enjoying the change from the peaceful bubble of paradise in the mountains. On Sunday morning, while my friends were at church, I went for a stroll in the park near their house. It was a glorious day – warm and sunny, a rare thing for London this summer. People were out enjoying the late summer weather, walking dogs, sitting on the grass talking, playing tennis, strolling through the trees.

I’d wandered over to the tennis courts to watch people playing reassuringly bad tennis, soaking up the sunshine and getting a bit of exercise chasing missed shots and fuzzy yellow balls soaring over the chain link fences to bounce away over the dry grass. A London Sunday. I heard two English voices – mother and son, by the look of it. All other voices were speaking foreign languages, few of which I could even identify. London: world city. It was relaxing, pleasant to watch people for a while, sitting on a bench by the path, in the dappled shade of a lime tree.

Invisible in the crowded street, feeling lonely in a crowd, no more loneliness, full of lifeAs figures passed me by, I realised how we all cope in cities where there are too many humans in the crowded space. We have learned the skill of ignorance. Literally, being able to ignore what we don’t have to notice.

It’s self-protection, being able to pull our awareness in to avoid bumping up against other presences, other energies we don’t know and we don’t want. We can live in our own little bubbles, protected from strangers, pretending (subconsciously) that we have all the space in the world when in fact we are crammed into pens like veal calves and battery hens.

You must have noticed… we can survive the city commute every day, rammed together in busy trains, on the bus, on the rush-hour pavements. Nose to armpit, wedged between three other hot bodies, managing to avoid eye contact and retreat into our own worlds. You don’t glance at anyone, don’t smile, don’t talk, never connect. Not enough space.

In a small village, on a mountain path, walking by a river, you’re more like to catch the eye of a passing stranger and say hello or compliment their dog. Plenty of space. No threat. Time and peace to connect with another human being. Every animal needs its territory.

I found it quite pleasant sitting there, invisible. No responsibility, no accountability if you’re not really there. But on a bleak day I might feel the chill of disconnection and alienation.

The presence of other people is far from enough if you’re feeling lonely. Accidental contact is not enough either. You need to make eye contact, swap a smile, maybe a friendly and deliberate touch on the arm. Awareness, intent, interest exchanged. It only takes half a second, the connection, but it counts, where an hour in a crowded park may not.

 

More people, less loneliness? Nonsense…

Crowds - melbourne show 2005

Crowded cities don’t help loneliness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The debate in Canada today is over a proposed increase in immigration to 100 million, and one journalist is quoted as claiming :”… it would end the “greatest price of under-population, (which) is loneliness: We are often unable to talk intelligently to each other, not to mention the world, because we just don’t have enough people to support the institutions of dialogue and culture…”

Population numbers have little to do with the degree of loneliness in that population. In cities, the more people squished into a small area, the greater the degree of social isolation, disaffection and disconnection, and the greater the risk of loneliness.

Loneliness is an emotion felt by individuals due primarily to their psychological and spiritual state, which depends largely on their personal history; there is a difference between chronic loneliness, which could have begun as a small child, and post-traumatic loneliness, which happens as a result of bereavement, separation, migration, unemployment, disability due to sudden illness or accident, and so on. But the answer to both is not found in the outside world, let alone in a high density of humanity. The only long term, profound answer is to be found inside oneself. Unless you are at peace with yourself, you understand that we are never truly alone if we learn to see the world and our place in it without blinkers (I’m not referring to any kind of religion) and you are in touch with your own source of life and energy, you will always be at risk of feeling lonely when your support group (family, partner, friends) are not around.

Canada has a difficult debate ahead, but it should take loneliness out of the equation. Even 100,000,000 people won’t solve the emotional misery of one lonely individual.

Have you ever been lonely in a crowd?