Achieving the goal of learning to be OK with oneself leads to greater richness in our relationships with others – including the ability to leave behind ‘toxic’ people in our lives, and the ability to seek out truly satisfying inter-connectedness. Molly Allen, PsyD
By Gerti Schoen, MA, LP
Many of us have trouble being by ourselves. We are overcome by fear. What if something happens and no one is there to help? What if someone breaks into my house, robs me, hurts me? What if no one pays attention to me, and I am left alone with my thoughts and doubts?
Anxiety of being lonely is often deeply rooted in the experience of having been abandoned, either factually or emotionally. When a beloved parent dies early in life or becomes seriously ill or leaves the family, it is experienced as a traumatic loss that is never made up for.
But it’s not just about losing someone. When we are unable to be alone, often it is because of a perception that we are lacking. We lack the ability to take care of ourselves. Or to connect with others.
We don’t feel confident that who we are is good and whole and worthy. We need to be reassured that someone else wants to hang around us, and the other person’s attention makes us feel safe and and valued.
It’s when we can’t value ourselves that the need for attention from the outside world becomes paramount.
The good news is that we can learn to be by ourselves. What we need when we are in the grip of loneliness is connection. And when connection with people is hard to achieve, we can get it from other beings in our world.
Turn off all electronic devices. Sit for a few minutes out in nature or by the window. Pay attention to the silence.
Take in what you see. Really look at your surroundings. Maybe there is an old withered tree in the yard. Or a bird flying in the sky. Maybe it’s the scene of an urban street with shops, and hurried people passing by.
Feel how you are grounded by the weight of your own body, by the chair you sit on, the soil or concrete under your feet. When we focus on our bodies, the flightiness of our minds disappears and we can be just be present whereever we are. We connect with ourselves.
When we can feel our own presence, we are able to make a connection to the world, even if we don’t talk to anyone in particular. So much of the non-verbal ties we form get lost in the noise and frantic efforts to get something palpable, something to hang on to from an outside source.
There are more subtler nuances of connection and communication, but we usually don’t pay attention to them. We need to get comfortable with silence first, before we can notice them.
Don’t be afraid of the silence.
When outside distractions fall away, we can start to see ourselves.