What does loneliness teach you and how can you overcome it?
It was only after my father died that the fear of loneliness first struck me in a tangible way. My sense of invincibility had left me, even though my youthfulness had not. My circle of loved ones was shrinking with every birthday. I no longer had a hundred people to turn to.
It's not a fear I am familiar with. I'm a free spirit. I love my independence. But there it was, whispering to me. It was not so much an emotional need as it was about what would I happen if I got into trouble.
What if I ended up old and alone and in trouble?
This is not an unfounded fear. The human being is meant for community. We thrive with love, belonging and support. Our brains are wired to seek relationships.
When I work with clients on a pain in their relationships, over and over, what often comes out underneath - is the fear of ending up alone.
It's NOT the fear of being single. Single, people can do.
But the idea of growing alone without people, creates a quiet (or not so quiet desperation). This loneliness can also sound like: 'No-one is ever there for me'. It is the belief people are unreliable and cannot be trusted. This is the kind of loneliness that keeps people in bad relationships.
But there is a different kind of loneliness. One that can be felt in a crowd.
It's the loneliness of believing we're a burden. That we are wrong. It is the loneliness of a deep shame. It is a loneliness that causes people to take their own life.
People who experience this type of loneliness tend to isolate. They tend to keep people at a distance. They believe they are unwanted yet they push people away.
It is a loneliness that thinks: "I cannot be me and still be loved.'
This kind of loneliness can create a terrible inner darkness. A heaviness that feels never ending. A despair that hangs in the air.
There is also a loneliness that comes from being too busy. Constantly surrounded by people and things to do, we become empty. We try fill this emptiness with more things to do, with food, with booze, with drugs... it is an emptiness that can feel like terror at 3am on a restless night.
Then there is the loneliness of not feeling like we quite belong. The sense of being too different.
It feels like homesickness. A deep longing or a nostalgia for something lost.
There is a song by one of my favourite singers, Cesária Évora, called Sodade. (I'll post the song at the end of this for you to listen to.) It makes you feel both lonely and love all at the same time. It's like a beautiful heartache.
When I looked up the translation of the song. Évora is singing about people who left their country (some by force, others by choice) - even generations later. And their longing for their homeland. A homeland for many that doesn't exist.
One write up of the song describes the 'land' symbolising our spiritual birthplace. The longing of our soul.
Perhaps the older soul now ready to return home - the only true home, a place not of this Earth - may feel the acuteness of loneliness more than others.
There is something about loneliness that reminds us of our tenderness. Of our true nature as spiritual beings. Of our compassion.
It's not about NOT feeling lonely. Rather, it's healing the fear of it. For as we heal our fear of loneliness we heal all the underlying layers that go with it.
Loneliness ask us to face our humanity. Our frailty.
And to become self sufficient in ways we think we are not. Loneliness asks us to be present with ourselves (and others) in our flaws. To not run away. It asks of us to let others in.
Loneliness if we allow it to be, can be a wondrous, expansive experience. It reminds us to take the solitude required to fill the emptiness. And in solitude we can commune with nature, with God, with our highest selves. We can connect with our deepest creative essence.
Loneliness asks us to explore our magnificence and our place amongst the stars. It asks us to explore the core of who we believe we are.
There is something so healing about loneliness if we are no longer afraid of it.
And it is here that we can know yes, we are alone but indeed we always connected.
Here is the song. A MUST listen to.
Jo Ntsebeza is a qualified professional coach, facilitator, trainer and lay counsellor.
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