A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.
Loneliness has been defined as the dark abyss, the void of nothingness, the overwhelming feeling of being lost or not wanted. Whatever the experience, the thought of being alone can be terrifying.
We were designed to live in community, not in isolation. When community is unavailable, the feelings of rejection, hopelessness and despair opportunistically inhabit the space where the lie whispers, “Loneliness is too monumental to overcome.”
Loneliness is real, but it is important to realize that loneliness may be wrapped in a history of experiences. Alone is definitely strong enough to replay the many hurtful experiences that were thought forgotten; but loneliness does not forget. Once the onslaught of pain hits, the lid is lifted and every rejection, every time you were not seen, heard or understood, the times you were not included, not invited to the party, not chosen on a team drifts to the surface like vapor escaping a sewer. These hidden phantoms can quickly pull you into a cavern where you will believe that you are worthless and unlovable. The lies speak again, “You cannot escape . . . things will never change.”
Now that I’ve created this incredibly dark but very real image of loneliness, I offer the ladder of escape.
The Six Rungs of Escape
To escape requires a partnership with Hope and Truth and a Desire to Rise above the lies that have moved in. When loneliness strikes, I can assure you that the last thing you will feel like doing is to counter-attack, but it is the first rung on the ladder of escape.
- Define what is true and what is not true. Make a list to see for yourself what is true in the moment; what you may be assuming to be true may be a lie.
The second rung is to ask questions, “Where did this loneliness come from? When did it start? Have I felt this loneliness before?” Form a clearer picture of how your reactions to your current circumstances may be drawing you into loneliness.
- Clarity offers you the ability to choose a way out where you may have seen no way of escape.
The third rung is this: Consider what loneliness is revealing to you about yourself. Is this an opportunity to process a memory that still haunts you? Is this memory offering you the chance to face it, overcome it and lay it to rest once and for all?
- Any wound you carry from your past will piggyback on what hurts today.
Seize the fourth rung by asking, “What do I need right now?” If it is the sound of a voice, call someone or see someone. If it is a need for sleep, exercise or a good meal, do it. If a comedy, a movie or music would be helpful, turn it on. If you need a professional to walk with you through this phase in your life, seek out a psychotherapist, clergy or other professional who can guide you.
- Life was never meant for you to figure out alone. Be courageous and ask for help.
The fifth rung: Do not buy into a false identity. If you feel that you don’t know who you really are, set out on the journey of discovery. Too often people live their lives believing that their thoughts, behaviors and feelings define them. Very few see the true image of who they were designed to be. Be one of the few.
- Loneliness retreats and dissipates as you come to know and love the person you are.
The Sixth and final rung is this: look up! There is light above you. There is more to life as the light draws you up out of the darkness. Look beyond what you are feeling right now. See beyond your current situation. Look up and out! There is a place for you, a purpose for you in this life. A new day is saying, “An adventure awaits you!”
- The loneliness that you feel today will change. It may be tomorrow, the next day, a week from now or it may be longer, but it will change and you do not want to miss out on what’s waiting for you.
There is More to Life!
For more discussion on the topic of loneliness please listen to podcast #23: What Do I Do When I’m Feeling Lonely?