Socially Connected & Feeling Lonely
By: Brian M Murray, MS, IMH
“It sometimes takes a state of solitude to bring to mind the real power of companionship.”
― Stephen Richards…
― Stephen Richards…
A woman is married for 18 years has 3 children, active at her church and involved with a women’s small group two times a month. She goes home, sits in front of the computer and logs onto a social network. Looking around she notices all of the things that other people are doing in their lives and starts to think about her own. Everyone looks happy, enjoying time with their families and friends and yet, deep down inside of her she knows the truth about her loneliness. Even though she is socially involved with others she has a lost empty feeling inside like something is missing. She realizes one day that in spite of all of her efforts to stay busy she realizes that she is really a very lonely person.
This story is too often a common scenario. So how can a person be socially plugged in and still feel lonely? Feeling lonely is not about how many friends or contacts a person has but it’s about the quality of those connections. With 3 children and a husband how can anyone have time to be lonely? It is possible and it happens. For starters getting plugged into a social network may be a good way to stay in contact with friends and family but is hardly a source of real connection. Furthermore, social networks offer a lonely and bored person an avenue to compare and contrast their lives to others. When a person begins to look at their life and feels like there must be something more, feeling empty and alone then it sets up the perception that they are all alone.
Social connections involve being with people we can connect with in a deep authentic way. This allows us to be ourselves when we are around those people and we are able to share ourselves with them and them with us. While the married woman in this story presents a woman who is socially active, she lacks the deeper friendship who is a close confidant. There is a quality connection that is not found in other relationships, even her husband and kids who are busy doing their own stuff in other rooms of the house. Without this deep connection a person can begin to feel left out leading to depression and other health problems.
So what can a person do about it?
Loneliness can be used as a signal that emotionally we are becoming or already have become isolated. It is an emotion, a feeling that true companionship is absent. Adding more people and connections doesn’t very often fulfill this void. Often a person will add to their list of people hoping that one of them will provide the long desired deep connection that is missing in their lives. It becomes like a game of salesmanship, if numbers are increased then sooner or later a connection will occur. Sometimes utilizing the “miracle question” can be a great way to explore what is making a person feel lonely. Asking, “If I woke up tomorrow and I was not lonely, what would that look like.” While this can be a great abstract question, it may not provide relief for the feelings; however the answer to that question is designed to bring awareness to what needs are not being met. This can help someone find what is being sought after in a relationship.
Begin the process to problem solve and develop an action plan. Find a person you really like and begin to cultivate a friendship with that person. To have a good friend requires being a friend. Sometimes waiting on someone becomes an endeavor that never reaches fulfillment. Invite someone to the movies, or to a museum. Something along the lines of “hey, I am going to the art museum and thought of you and that you might be interested, do you want to go?” If the person says no then go anyway and tell them later about the experience. Sometimes the tendency is to isolate and withdraw when others do not want to go. Think of being self worthy of the endeavor and go anyway, or call another person that may be of interest. Practice small acts of kindness. This can go a long way in showing another person how much you care about them by saying thank you for something they did or paying a compliment. What these solutions can offer is moving yourself away from being a victim of feeling lonely to being proactive. If you don’t like feeling lonely, take steps to change it. Being socially active is good, it provides the opportunity for authentic friendships, but remember, it’s not the numbers of people known, but the quality of intimacy with one or few that makes the difference.
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