Most of us have experienced painful loneliness, or being alone in a frightening way, so our mirror cells get triggered when we think of someone else going through it. And maybe that someone is you, right now. Are you OK, or are you struggling? Below are tips for helping yourself or others with loneliness.
In Wales we have just started a 17 day lockdown (a Firebreak) as I write. Many people are worried about their, or others’, mental health. Mental health is one of those things we tend not to think about when we (and others) have it….until it affects us in some way.
If you have noticed that someone in your family or community is lonely or alone, is part of you is longing to help them during the social isolation to know they are OK, so you can relax again?
If you want to help someone else, firstly it helps to have a full emotional tank yourself. (That old oxygen-mask-in-an-aeroplane-crash analogy, that I find sooo true – put yours on first, and then you can help more effectively.)
So let’s start with you, some You Time. It’s all about you whichever way we look at it (and that is Okay!) If you want to skip the “you” part, scroll down.
What do you do when you feel lonely or isolated? (I invite you to pause right now, and ask yourself.)
When your partner, sister, friend isn’t available for you? Do you squash the pain, or embrace the chance to be present for yourself? Do you lose sight of your passions and land up with insecurity, fear, & inadequacy for companions (I don’t enjoy their company!)? Do you practice self-care? If it’s only temporary, you probably wait. If it is a recurring theme, you may want more options. Read on if so.
You might provide your own support by going out into the countryside, being creative, or a hobby. If it’s a particularly sticky or triggering topic, maybe you look for support from someone else.
And if your mate, brother, dog… the ‘someone else’, isn’t “meeting” you in that deep place when you need someone, what do you do? Is that even more lonely?
I look for professional support where I can feel touched and deeply “got”. My number one place is someone who practices Nonviolent Communication (NVC). To learn more about NVC, have a look around our website or the resources / links on there.
I am someone who offers empathic listening & guidance to support others to get more of what they want in life (predominantly using NVC). So it helps me be empathic by understanding from my own experience. If you don’t know anyone you are comfortable to ask, you are welcome to contact EYC, to see if we are a good fit.
About feeling alone.
During this time of isolation are you fine but worried about a loved one’s mental health and suffering? Or are you someone who’s getting less closeness & contact than you need? Sometimes we may not be aware we need support until it is offered in some form. We soldier on, stoic!
Would you like to be “met”, heard for how it is for you, how it is inside you, with no judgement or pressure?
At Escape Your Chains (EYC), we believe feeling alone regularly can be exacerbated by an illusion or state, an attitude born from surviving our upbringing. By that I mean that when a friend, neighbour, cyclist says something that floors me, someone else may not be floored by the same statement. It is not what the person says, thinks or means. It is how I interpret it. My interpretation may be based on my longings. For example, I may long for closeness or to be “got”, and what they said doesn’t fill me with confidence that they have understood me.
Humans have known this a long time: “Nothing is either good or bad, only thinking makes it so,” wrote Shakespeare. In the NVC paradigm, there is no good or bad. I recommend learning more about NVC if you are interested in how this might work, you could start with on-line resources on Escape Your Chains’ links page.
I have recently started to listen to interviews with Peter Crone. Here are some thoughts from him.
He seems to believe that our loneliness is from a sense of inadequacy, and it’s that which creates the isolation and separateness. About the “illusion” he suggests “Ask: is it true that who I am is somehow not enough? It may feel that way…” you may have plenty of evidence and experience (I certainly have), but “it’s not a truth”, Peter says. He sees the problem as our perception: our narrative plus our adaptive behaviour to that narrative. Adopting the mindset that our essence is beautiful, and a gift to the world, with some tools to find that belief for real, gives us resp-ability rather than feeling powerless. Empowerment can lead to inner freedom. I find this exciting, and this is where my clients often want help getting to.
Peter Crone talks about Survival Mindset vs. Relational Mindset. It is hard to be present to another when I am in Survival Mindset. Survival Mindset may be an empty emotional tank, (e.g. I’ve not put my oxygen mask on first) or some confusion about our contribution to the world . Many of my clients berate themselves for being selfish, when actually they don’t have a full tank.
With an empty tank, or in a Survival Mindset, I am reacting, not listening: “what can they/I do to change things?” If I’m not listening, I am kind of on my own – separate. I maybe pondering how their view affects me, rather than how their view affects them. I am not suggesting you ponder how their view affects them, until you have topped up your tank.
Relational Mindset, according to Peter Crone, is when we get someone’s reality. We listen without trying to change it or them. We have curiosity rather than defensiveness – Those of us who facilitate NVC mediation see in action that curiosity leads to creativity. When we find a way to be with their viewpoint, they can soften and open. We are present. We’re both more creative. Neither of us is alone in it.
Do you want some tips? Here is a few. Please ask in the comments below if you want different help, or share suggestions so that everyone can benefit from what works for you. It would be great if you could repsond encouragingly to others’ comments, as at this time, most of us need extra encouragement and enthusiam for who we are. If you feel shy, it’s private, or you want support, contact us. To see if we are a good fit for a set of personal sessions, let’s arrange a free chat.
We need touch, emotional nourishment, closeness, comfort, connection and other needs, to feel happy. What can we do when these are not met? What can we do when someone is locked down, lonely and fearful of being alone?
One of our articles, about a client becoming Newly Single, may be of use for you or to send to someone you want to support.
To support someone who’s lonely
- It may help them, and you, if you decide how often and how much time you can afford to give to them long term, and make a commitment. How special will they feel then! Or be clear that you will chat/visit/write when it fits for you. Being clear helps people to manage themself more. I use Whatsapp voice clips, so I can speak and listen to my loved ones at my convenience – they love it.
- You can listen in a different way to the norm. Counsellors and empathic listeners use these tips to be present to someone else. This type of listening really helps someone feel met. Marshall Rosenberg, who developed NVC, said “Don’t just do something, be there.”
- Aim not to judge or back seat drive their life – you probably want to empower them to find their own solutions, rather than get dependent upon you (unless your self-value comes from being depended upon.)
- Summarise what they are saying, rather than say “I hear you…. I get you”.
- Don’t think you have to fix their problems – sit back and listen. It’s so much easier to listen if you trust that they can find their own resources, if you don’t do anything to help. There may be some silences – you can fill these if they are long with a summary of what stands out for you. eg “I am really hearing your pain.” Or you can say “How are you feeling now?”
- Awareness may be the only place to start! If you are feeling lonely, can you be more present to yourself – tune in? You might see it as an exploration.
- Can you ask someone to listen to you? Check, before they say “yes”, they agree not to try to fix or solve your problems until you want that. I use Whatsapp voice clips, so I can speak without interruption, and send it to my trusted friends.
- Be your own listener, “see” yourself. As with listening to someone else, not looking for solutions until you have full awareness of your internal world, can really help. Try one of these, if you are drawn to any.
- Write down how you feel, and write the kindest response you can as though from someone else – no judgement or pressure.
- Or make a Mark. Get a bunch of coloured things (pens, pictures, paints, tea bags etc) to make a mark. If you use your right brain, you don’t need to think about the mark, and it doesn’t need to be meaningful.
- Ask a question first, then forget the question, make the mark, and afterwards pause. You may be as surprised as me, when I have done this: all 5 times I have got something useful, not always straight away mind.
One thing you can be sure of: you are not alone in being lonely or worrying about someone else – so reaching out at this time in history is very likely to be met with something understanding.
Sarah Sims Williams BSc (Hons) Psychology, Level II Counselling & Communication, IIT CNVC.
Escape Your Chains guides clients to getting more of what they want, to be freer. We predominantly use a tool called Nonviolent Communication (NVC).
Many words are violent, and people don’t realise how much freedom they lose, by the language we all use. Take “should” – it is one of the most violent words in the dictionary according to Marshall Rosenberg who developed NVC. Those who know why may not notice they are thinking in shoulds, or may not know how to translate them – feel free to ask us in the comments.