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On Loneliness and Being Lonely

This is a rough guide of common issues for NLP practitioners to consider when working with issues around loneliness. It is not inclusive.

Loneliness is different from being alone. Not everyone on their own will feel lonely. Many chronically lonely people will continue to feel lonely, even in a crowd.

Loneliness is often the underlying background emotion to obesity (“comfort eating”), depression and alcoholism (“drink is the only friend”).

Of all the negative emotions, people seem most reluctant to admit to loneliness. It is often viewed by self as a character weakness and with a sense of shame.

Fact: people really do avoid the lonely guy. The lonely person can find themselves in a vicious circle whereby some behaviours aimed at achieving human contact actually have the opposite effect and scare other people away. People do not respond well to the following approaches: “I am lonely, will you be my friend?”, “I’m so alone right now, please don’t ever leave me.”

Lonely men commonly make (or have already made) a classic mistake whereby they hope that a partner will provide for them a meaning, a social life, fun and all the things that make a “life”. This is an unfair expectation on any partner and often sets things up for a problematic, and all-too-often brief, relationship. Lonely guys need to develop a friendship group with other men before embarking on any romantic relationship.

Being lonely for a partner (more common in lonely women) is not the same as being lonely in life (most common in lonely men).

As loneliness becomes chronic, the person will engage in compensatory (often solitary) behaviours – such as keeping reptiles, visiting prostitutes, becoming the drunk bar-fly, spending evenings in chat rooms on the internet, watching endless amounts of television etc. For some, work may become the main focus of their life.

Paradoxically, lonely people can feel intimidated by social invitations and may shun them. This fulfils a feedback loop whereby, as time passes, the social invites stop coming in.

A lonely person may have a pet that becomes the focus of their emotional life. For example, one colleague whose husband had left her 2 years previously had suddenly found herself alone. For example, all her friends were actually friends of her husband and all her social activities also revolved around the husband. When he left her, so did all her social outlets. Her loneliness was profound and she came across to everyone as clingy, insecure and desperate, which of course meant that people stayed away from her. She bought a pet, which then became what appeared to be the sole focus of her life and soon her colleagues were being driven mad by the daily updates in the dramas of this pet’s life.

Many people (especially in cities) depend on their place of work to also provide their social life. Whilst this can be successful and functional, it is also problematic when emotional relationships fail and the people still have to work together or share the same work/social group.

Some lonely people in their desperation at finding company fail to discriminate between suitable social partners. This can lead to a series of poor choices at friends and lovers whereby they find their desperation being exploited and taken advantage of.

Lonely men tend to try and impress others in order to win their approval. Seeking reassurance and seeking approval rarely finds positive favour with other people.

Check List for Overcoming Loneliness

Take Action.  You must take action and stop waiting for something/someone to come along and rescue you.  Taking action initiates your own rescue.

Go to the library – pick up every adult education brochure.  Enrol in courses, even if they are not starting for a few more months – enrol NOW!
Academic courses can be good, but the level of interaction can be low.  Yoga and art classes are good, but again, tend not to be conducive to conversation and socialisation.  Cooking, dance, pottery, drama or any outdoor and sports type courses are tried and tested.  Chances are that about half the people on the course are doing it to gain social contact.  This is good.

Do something about your job.  Some jobs are just not conducive to socialisation.  Sometimes the job is fine, it is just the layout of the office that isn’t conducive for you, whilst everyone else might be positioned just great.  This happens a lot.  So, do something about it and tell your manager.

Volunteer.  Hospices, hospitals, youth clubs, scouts etc are often looking for volunteers – often to help out on day trips out, visits etc.  These environments (especially care environments) by nature create a very high level of social interaction which means you meet a lot of people.  Volunteer.  Even one morning a week can add a new dimension and experience to your average week.  The local church (mosque, temple etc) is also worth exploring – churches tend to involve a very large amount of social activity, only a small part of it is actually about singing and praying.

Don’t expect to meet new people in pubs and clubs.  Very few people actually do, it just looks like they do.

Join a public speaking group or NLP/Hypnosis group etc.  Meet people who are attracted to success and fun.  Whilst slightly intimidating at first, it’ll get infectious.

If you have a hobby then find a club for it.   If there isn’t one, start your own by placing an ad in the free papers and on local events websites.

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