As someone who used to suffer much more from the feeling of loneliness in the past compared to now, I can share what I learned. When we feel a deep sense of loneliness, a core issue is that we are seeking external validation. We want to know that there are others who think like us, who behave like us, who have similar interests, who have similar opinions and perceptions because then we feel much more validated and confident that it’s ok to be ourselves and to exist in this world as we are.
We’re all looking for external mirrors to reflect back to us what we possess inside, as if seeing these things outside ourselves makes them more valid and real. By looking for someone who can understand and appreciate us, we are subconsciously seeking permission to be ourselves and to continue carrying what we have inside. Somehow we don’t trust our own experience and perceptions and won’t fully give ourselves permission to be authentic and love ourselves as we are, until we feel like someone else approves. We can be especially susceptible to seeking some form of external validation if we have spent our whole life struggling to fit in within the mainstream culture.
Feeling like someone else understands us, likes us, and wants to spend time with us makes us feel more alive, more connected, more real. What is the most satisfying feeling behind all that? I think it’s the feeling that we’re seen for who we are and that there is appreciation, love, and acceptance of it all rather than ridicule, criticism, judgment, and rejection. And how many people can fully love and accept themselves when there is the voice of the inner critic that’s guilty of ridiculing, judging, and rejecting what they perceive to be the ugly and unpleasant parts within themselves? Is it any wonder why people get caught up in the desperate drama of searching for a partner and friends?
In truth, you don’t need anything external to feel fully alive and real. And you really don’t need anything to feel more connected if you understand that everything is connected within this reality. The search outside ourselves, or what we perceive as existing outside ourselves, is all the proof needed to see how deep we have fallen into illusions.
It is wise to question our perceptions and the ways of thinking and behaving that we have been conditioned to do due to cultural programming. Part of that programming is to search outside ourselves for happiness, wholeness, and fulfillment. You are programmed to chase after the lucrative job, the new car, the oversized house, the next vacation, the designer label clothing, the latest trends and newest gadgets, the perfect partner, the circle of friends, etc. When the feeling of dissatisfaction, boredom, emptiness, loneliness, frustration, or insecurity arises, we have the choice to go within and allow space for the uncomfortable feelings to exist until a deeper realization and transformation occurs, or we can forever remain a prisoner to pain and addictions by going on a hungry pursuit for something outside ourselves, which will only continue to serve as a temporary, quick fix for pain and discomfort.
What is your perception of being alone? Do you perceive it as a negative, painful experience or a fulfilling, pleasurable one that brings as much satisfaction as spending time with others? Do you consider it loneliness or solitude? Maintaining the belief that loneliness is unbearable and unhealthy and that it needs to be resolved and eliminated as soon as possible by building connections with others, rather than looking deeper within ourselves, keeps everyone sucked into the old strategy of looking out towards the external world for thrills and distractions. Very few people want to slow down, get quiet, and go within to really face themselves.
The burden of loneliness is no longer heavy once it is seen that it was never necessary to spend so much time searching externally. The love, appreciation, and acceptance that we seek from others can just as easily be found within, if we are willing to stop and look. People will continue to feel that it is necessary to keep up the search outside as long as they fail to see what is available within.
Once I surrendered to loneliness and stopped trying to run to others to validate my thoughts and experiences, I noticed that the loneliness naturally transitioned into a peaceful acceptance of the situation as it is along with a deeper love of myself and my own company. The desire to run after someone or something external weakened to the point where I could say I was no longer suffering. I noticed that I lost the desire to put expectations on others and no longer participated in the drama of being hurt and disappointed by others’ actions. I still welcome meaningful connections, but these connections are far from a necessity to experience joy and happiness. It is possible to enjoy something, to appreciate it, and even to desire it without needing it or attaching your happiness and well-being to any particular thing.
It is not the denial of loneliness that makes it go away. It is the complete surrender to it, when we allow ourselves to feel as deeply lonely as we can without trying in any kind of way to escape it. During moments of loneliness, we do not need to search for connection with another person, since this keeps us stuck in neediness and dependence on others. When we sit alone with ourselves without any attempt to run away, it is possible to discover the treasures we possess within and to fall in love with ourselves, and then it no longer matters who does or doesn’t see us, understand us, or appreciate us. We finally recognize our own brilliance and divinity, and I believe that is what we were really searching for all along. And an added bonus is that we can finally let others off the hook of trying to make us happy since we have taken ownership and responsibility of our own happiness and fulfillment. Your joy does not have to depend on what someone else does or does not do, and that is so freeing for both you and those who know you.
When you feel lonely, ask yourself, “What is so terrible about this sensation called loneliness? Can I feel the loneliness without pushing it away? Where is the source of this loneliness, and what triggers it? What if I don’t ever find the amazing relationship or friendship that I have always longed for? Would that have to be a terrible reality? Would my happiness and enjoyment of life have to depend on finding someone or something? What are the feelings I am really longing to feel that I imagine could be experienced once I had the right partner and/or friends? Is a relationship with another person absolutely necessary in order to tap into those feelings right now? Can I offer to myself what I wish others would provide for me?” By inquiring honestly and deeply about your feelings, your desires, and the underlying motives of your behaviors, hopefully you will reach greater clarity about what you need vs. what you want and how to find the fulfillment you seek.