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Let’s Talk About Loneliness


Relationship problems are a common reason people seek out therapy.  Some suffer from isolation and want help dealing with relationship concerns.  They want to prevent further relationship breakdown and isolation.  Loneliness is very painful.  Unfortunately, loneliness is also something most people feel reluctant to talk about.  It is like a dirty word, rarely discussed as the core reason for coming in.  Yet it is highly related to feeling depressed, anxious, having low self esteem or poor motivation for self-care and lack of self improvement.  It is important to identify and express a core emotion so it can be addressed and alleviated.

Humans need to belong.  We are social creatures, wired for survival by living in and belonging to social groups.  A lot of our behaviours are still instinctively tied to this need.  Most of our time is indeed spent with others, and most report this as more rewarding then time alone.  Isolation hurts.  Loneliness is not uncommon.  It is an emotion designed to motivate us to seek out the social connection we need. Most people feel it at one time or another but they don’t talk about it.

Loneliness is complicated.  It’s not entirely about how much time you spend with others, but more about your perception of being isolated.  Some people with a lot of social support can suffer from loneliness and some isolated people don’t feel lonely at all.  What is clear is that when someone feels lonely, they are vulnerable to emotional, mental and even physical illness.  When lonely, a person has a tough time regulating emotions and self care is poor.  Self esteem diminishes.  A person who already has low self esteem might mistakenly believe they are not worthy of love or belonging and so isolate themselves.  What ever the cause, loneliness is painful and costly.

The ability to identify, label and express a core emotion is not only tied to well being, but also leads to social effectiveness according to research.  Talking about feelings motivates people to seek solutions.  Knowing you feel lonely can lead to reaching out, connecting and making positive life enhancing changes.  Why do people hesitate to talk about it?

What sometimes stops people is the fear that talking about loneliness is shameful and reduces a person’s social value.  The mistaken belief is that loneliness makes a person look “needy” and reduces chances of being loved and belonging to a social group.  If a person feeling lonely is ashamed about it and worries about being judged, they won’t reach out but instead withdraw more.  Without this added shame, a person could express loneliness and be motivated to seek out social connection, and enhance their well being.

A therapist understands the power of social connection and the value of expressing true emotions.  They can help a person look more positively at the social connections they have. They can help people manage relationships towards greater satisfaction with improved communication skills, boundary setting, or assertiveness, changing painful patterns.  With shame removed, the origins of loneliness can be discussed, beliefs about the self explored and self-worth improved.  Loneliness can be just one of a range of healthy emotions that tell us about what we need to do, in order to live and love well.  Let’s talk about loneliness.

We’re Here to Help

Dalton Associates offers psychological & counselling services to support individuals who are dealing with the effects of loneliness. Our Registered Psychologists, Registered Psychological Associates and our team of mental health professionals are qualified to assist you. Contact our office at 1.888.245.5516 to connect with one of our therapists in your community.

References:

Goleman, D. Intelligence, E. (1995). Why it can matter more than IQ. Bantam Books.

Hawkley, Louise C & Cacioppo, John T (2010). Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 2010.

Kahneman, D., Krueger, A. B., Schkade, D. A., Schwarz, N., & Stone, A. A. (2004). A survey method for characterizing daily life experience: The day reconstruction method. Science306(5702), 1776-1780.

Muris, P., & Meesters, C. (2014). Small or big in the eyes of the other: on the developmental psychopathology of self-conscious emotions as shame, guilt, and pride. Clinical child and family psychology review17(1), 19-40.

Pinsker, H, Nepps, P Redfield, J. & Winston, A (1985) Applications for short-term dynamic psychotherapy. In A. Winon (Ed.) Clinical and research issues in short-term dynamic psychotherapy (pp 104-116). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Wilson DS. Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives. New York: Delacorte; 2007.

 


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