No “battlefield” is free of land mines and the landscape upon which we’re waging our campaign to root out and destroy loneliness is certainly no exception. So I thought I’d take a minute to touch on what I consider to be several obstacles that all of us have encountered (or are likely to encounter) in our ongoing struggle to feel more connected and less alone – and share my thoughts on some strategies for overcoming them. First, it’s important to understand that none of the things we’ve “talked” about thus far are going to happen overnight. It is terribly unrealistic to expect that we are going to go to bed one night with a distorted or broken view of “me” and wake up the next morning to find our new “best friend” smiling back at us in the mirror. Make no mistake: I believe we are all capable of making the transition to a healthier, more gentle, life-affirming acceptance of ourselves. I also am convinced that it is essential that we do so if we are to achieve victory over this enemy called loneliness. But, it is very much a process that takes time, effort, desire and commitment on our part – all of which, in turn, require PATIENCE. Don’t abandon the mission over this one. Trust me, it will be well worth it in the end.
If you’re like most, the second obstacle you’re likely to encounter, which is closely tied to the first, is one borne of impatience. It typically arises when our real or imagined sense that we are (albeit temporarily) alone and our corresponding desire/need for companionship combine to create a sense of desperation. The result: We convince ourselves that we simply “can’t wait” any longer for the proverbial “knock on the door,” for the phone to ring or our text messages to be answered. We have to have company and we have to have it NOW! And so we set out “in search of” or, worse yet, reach out to someone who already (likely time and time again) has demonstrated that they don’t have our best interests at heart. Sometimes, if we’re not careful, we find ourselves clinging to them, fearful that without them we will once again be alone. Inevitably, however, these “forays” leave us feeling wholly unsatisfied. They add to, rather than satiate, our (very human) need for real/true companionship. In time, our increasing love of self should diminish this sense of restlessness. In the meantime, simply be sensitive to and try to fight the urge – or, better yet, refer to “The List” and send someone on it a note telling them how much you value them.
This next “land mine” is hard for me to write about objectively, because it is one that strikes very close to home. Some (mistakenly I believe) attribute it to pride and ego. Others to stubbornness. But, in my mind, it’s much more complicated than that – its roots much more deep seated. Simply put, it is a “willingness” to “choose” being alone, rather than once again be the one who always has to be the relationship-initiator. It is the voice inside that says: “Why am I always the one reaching out? Why doesn’t ______________ pick up the phone and call me to suggest we get together? They must not care, so why should I?” I get it and there is merit in those sentiments. But there are also lots of potentially mistaken assumptions built into them. What if . . . that someone is sitting next to their phone harboring the same thoughts? What if . . . that someone is hurting and alone and simply can’t muster the “strength” to reach out? What if . . . that someone is simply absent-minded or preoccupied and, while they might love to “hang out” if asked, simply hasn’t thought to call? Bottom line: There is a time (and you likely will know when it is), when you have reached out to someone “often enough” to warrant not taking the initiative any more. When that time comes, listen to your heart. Until then, go ahead and take the initiative.
Finally, at least for today, beware of this tripwire: While the person who dies with the most “Facebook Friends” may win some award, quantity does not equal quality when it comes to the winning the war on loneliness. Simply put, one really good friend is far more valuable than dozens of “not so good” friends or acquaintances. More on this later!