Counselling for Loneliness & Isolation
We are surrounded by ways to communicate, our mobiles are just centimetres away, with social media services aplenty, online forums, and instant messaging at the touch of an app or even an emoji 😊
Despite all these possibilities to send messages, feelings of loneliness and isolation are reportedly on the rise, and not just among the expected elderly and infirm, but across all sectors of society from pre-teens through to fully grown and occupied adults.
Are you experiencing loneliness
There are situations in life where against your wish, and despite your best efforts, feelings of loneliness, depression and sadness seem to be impossible to overcome.
Are any of the situations below relevant to you?
- Loneliness after your children leave home – so called Empty nest syndrome
- Loneliness in older age
- Loneliness after a divorce or breakup
- Loneliness after the death of your partner / parents / close friends – (bereavement & loss)
- Loneliness as a result of ill health (self-worth, existential therapy)
- Loneliness following the birth of a baby perhaps suffering from the ‘baby blues’
- Loneliness as a result of mental health issues / social phobias / withdrawal symptoms
Counselling for loneliness with a therapist can help, as in each of the above scenarios, feelings of loneliness and isolation have their specific roots and their own ‘texture’, and require slightly different approaches.
Why do we feel Lonely and Depressed?
Some feel lonely and depressed whether sitting at home alone or in the middle of a party, office or busy shopping centre.
On the other hand, there are people who do not have a lot of contact with others, that is they spend a considerable amount of time alone, and yet do not report feeling lonely or abandoned.
Loneliness must then be about something more than just the physical presence of another living being, otherwise a simple walk down the street in a busy town would cure the problem.
1. Roots of Loneliness in survival anxiety
Being a part of the pack is essential for survival, so any behaviour that ensures that result is rewarded by release of dopamine (happiness drug) – just like food and sex, and that pleasant feeling encourages us to repeat it. On the other hand, our nervous system sends signals of distress if our behaviour takes us away from survival patterns. Hence feeling of hunger if we don’t eat, sexual frustration if we don’t attempt to procreate, and feelings of sadness, insecurity, despair – packaged as loneliness – if we are in danger of losing our pack or tribe.
In our society we seem to have all the conditions for happiness and survival – plenty of food, safety and comfort to procreate and raise offspring and masses of people around us. How come we are not happy? Because we invented a way of cheating those instincts by junk food, porn industry and social media. Each of those give a quick surge of reward but doesn’t do what it was designed for. Junk food doesn’t provide all the necessary nutrients (and indeed can have some negative nutritional impact), the ‘sex & pornography’ industry doesn’t provide strong emotionally rewarding intimate relationships.
On the same note being connected to a plethora of superficial, remote social connections instead of a few intimate and close friends can actually trigger a sense of fear of ‘being left behind and not cared for’.
The close intimate friends can create a feeling of safety ‘my tribe cares about me and won’t leave me behind’.
Loneliness is another way of saying
“I am not feeling connected in a significant emotional way with myself or others”
“I don’t feel that I am significant enough to others”
“I am worried that if I am sick and weak nobody will care”
Lacking such sense of connection is not just a fleeting discomfort, it is a sensation that triggers deeper feelings of fear and anxiety on the survival level and as such, feeling of loneliness may have further impact on our sense of safety and well-being. In consequence, and in the longer run, it may trigger survival responses and lead to increased anxiety and anxiety disorders and depression.
2. Loneliness of human existence – existential loneliness
This type of loneliness is explored in Existential Therapy. Feelings of anxiety and loneliness are acknowledgment of the nature of our existence and create foundation for further work around meaning of life and ability to shape one’s happiness.
How to ward off loneliness and regain the sense of connection? – Loneliness Therapy with Anna
1. Not being alone:
The first step in addressing the survival fears of ‘not being a part of the pack’ is changing the physical situation of ‘being alone’ such as signing up to social groups, participating in group activities, joining online forums and dating sites, and they are a good start at creating a tangible change in the rhythm of life, which may improve the mood and instigate hope.
2. Creating meaningful connections:
We now know that to serve their original purpose your connections need to be meaningful – create a sense of belonging and caring amongst individuals. Therapy will help you understand what is important to you, what are your passions and values. Connecting with people who share the same values, views, and interests is likely to create a real bond and feeling of belonging.
3. Nurturing and sustaining connections:
It is often easier to find new connections than it is to know how to make them thrive. There may be skills that need developing that you may not have needed before (e.g. You always had your spouse around for a chat when you needed it, now it takes courage and effort to reach out for a chat or a meeting).
4. Nurturing your sense of self:
Without understanding the roots of your loneliness, the above steps may only amplify the sense of disconnection with others and with your sense of self. In loneliness counselling sessions we will also focus on:
- Finding or recreating a sense of purpose and meaning for your life, both in general and each day in particular
- Practicing interconnection with all living beings (people, animals, even plants) – both on a biological / ecological ‘David Attenborough’ level or on a more spiritual level – to understand that you are not alone, and your presence can make a difference
- Developing a connection with your inner sense of purpose and self-worth.
If you would like some support then talk to Anna about Counselling for Loneliness and feeling islotaed
Some helpful articles and advice on how to cope with your feelings of loneliness and isolation
Mind.org have some very helpful advice on coping with loneliness in life
The Empty Nest Syndrome affects many people, men as well as women, the Promises site offer an insight into why we suffer the Empty Nest Syndrome when our children leave home