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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Emotional Loneliness

Monday, September 26, 2011

Emotional Loneliness

It's that feeling that you are all alone in the world. Like you are in a vast vacant place, all alone, even in a room full of people. Sometimes it comes with a pang in your chest, a heaviness in your heart, a deep sinking feeling in your stomach. The feeling is sitting on top of the belief or thought - firm conviction even - especially in moments of severe emotional pain and longing - that no one understands, no one gets it, and no one ever could. Not exactly anyway. Sometimes, it melds into self pity, anger, sadness, grief, depression and hopelessness.

What follows is often a feeling of giving up, or rebellion. We think, "forget it, why even bother?" Or "that's it, I'm out of here." Maybe we mean actually, physically, or maybe it means mentally, emotionally, or that we will stop giving or trying or showing up. We may go to the idea that we are worthless then, undeserving of love. Or that the person who has hurt us is unworthy, either incapable or unwilling to give us what we need. Either way, it hurts.

Sometimes the feeling lasts for a few minutes, sometimes a few hours, and sometimes it gets chronic and lasts for a long while. Sometimes it comes and goes. It's not unusual to feel some emotional loneliness even in the best of relationships. Though we may wish it, we cannot be connected all the time. And when we are hurting this way, it often eclipses all of the good things that may exist in our lives or in our relationships.

In our primary relationships emotional loneliness can be especially painful, as we expect and long for emotional connection there first, and when it lapses or does not happen the way we need it to, we can lose control, lash out, or turn to self destructive behaviors to cope, giving us, perhaps, temporary relief, but ultimately adding more difficulty or bad feelings on top of the pain.

There are options, of course. We do not have to suffer, though sometimes this can seem like our mantra, that we are meant to suffer. We can decide to take good care of ourselves, not just when the loneliness spikes, but in general. We can talk things out with someone, write, walk, sit quietly. We can decide that though it hurts, most likely, we are not the only ones who feel this way, and that it is possible to study what causes it, when and how it happens, and if it is new to us, or in fact a feeling we know well, from years ago. And we can make use of it to get ourselves better and direct our energies toward progress.

And when it comes to loneliness in marriages, I have worked with many couples who are able to sort through the confusion and come closer. Yes, it takes work to untangle the feelings, the history and the needs, but it can be done. And when we are willing to do the work, we do get closer to those we love; we go easier on ourselves and others and we get much more of what we need.

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