Last week my daughter Erin—a clinical trials & research nurse—sent me a very dismal report about loneliness. Then, I stumbled upon a piece on the same subject while researching something else. And, in the past few weeks, I’ve talked to at least four people about loneliness. When there’s a recurring theme, it’s a signal to me that it’s an important topic.
Sixty million people in our country say they are plagued by loneliness. Brigham Young University researchers found that people who live alone, experience social isolation, or feel lonely have a 26% risk of early death. This study involved three-million participants and took place over thirty-five years—long before many of us became constantly connected to our devices.
To be clear, living alone or spending time alone by choice doesn’t necessarily mean someone’s lonely. Many people are very happy living alone. Isolation occurs when you feel as if you don’t have anyone you can trust, be “real” with, or share life with. It can happen when you’re alone, and it can happen when you’re in a crowd.
Loneliness When You’re Never Alone
The following point has been key for me to share with people who are in emotional pain: it’s sometimes lonelier living in a relationship, than it is living alone.
Let me explain. When you live with another human being in a space where there’s disconnectedness, disrespect, lack of sensitivity or full-out hostility, a lot of negative things take place:
- you’re constantly aware of the estrangement inside your home
- you can’t be at peace because you don’t have “breathing room”
- you may sequester yourself into a smaller part of your living space to hide out and avoid the other(s)
- the tension in your home makes you feel isolated
- you’re so aware of what you don’t have—a meaningful (life-giving) relationship—that you shrink
- you’re always exhausted—underwhelmed and overwhelmed simultaneously
- the inability to live out life the way you believe God intended for you, makes you sad and depressed
unstable environment = lack of control
lack of control = powerlessness
powerlessness = smallness
smallness = insecurity
insecurity = loneliness
How Do We Get There?
Most of us have danced with loneliness, even if we’ve never invited it to live with us. For those who experience it regularly, however, there are a myriad of reasons they could have gotten there:
- pain of rejection
- never knowing love or kindness
- being afraid of being themselves
- feeling “invisible”
- having been ridiculed or minimized
So, Why Do We Stay in Unfulfilling Lives?
So if we’re lonely, why don’t we just do something about it? The question’s simple; the answer’s more complex. Putting ourselves “out there” over and over is tough. When we feel deserted we become vulnerable. We may subject ourselves to situations we would never, otherwise, have been in. Sometimes we maintain the “status quo” because:
- there’s no other financial choice
- we feel we have to fulfill a role (“it’s my job to be the wife, mother, breadwinner, etc.”)
- of societal constraints (my family of origin or faith or personal belief system says, “you must stick it out”)
- there’s fear (“I could be rejected/not wanted again“)
- sadly, we don’t think that we’re worth more
The Bottom Line
Regardless of whether you live alone by choice, live alone by default, or live in community with others, it’s important to live into what makes sense for you. Create an environment that feeds your spirit, where you have autonomy and some jurisdiction.
There are a lot of songs about loneliness—proof that it’s a topic that most people understand. If that’s the theme that keeps being replayed in your life, remember your value as a child of God. Live into your fullness even if that means taking a risk. You are worth it. That I’m sure of.
©2017 peace full home™/intentional living
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