How can I be lonely in the midst of continuous contact? My heart feels strangely empty and unknown. I have a sense of purpose with a meaningful ministry. I have a husband who loves me and children who seek my connection. What is going on?
Loneliness is a common experience for many. Loneliness may be a physical reality, but all to often it is a mental disposition.
“The number of single-person households has increased from roughly seven to 25 percent of all households in the last 60 years. But as psychologists have discovered, humans are meant to live in groups, and they thrive through their social interactions.”
Loneliness can have a detrimental effect on one’s mental and physical health. It can activate poor coping choices, such as increased alcohol and food consumption and other addictive behaviors.
The lifestyle of business has become something to admire. We live over scheduled, hyper-networked and self-reliant lives, seeking to be filled by the connection of success and admiration from others. Turning to technology can seem like a clean substitute for connection. Yet, this only short circuits authenticity and has been proven to decrease empathy.
Shorter attention spans typically found in technology-savvy people negatively impact the mature development of the human qualities of empathy and compassion. (Karp, 208; Merzenich, 2008; Marziali, 2009 – printed in Family Therapy Magazine, aamft.org)
Our life style can create our loneliness. But, is it just life style that contributes to this sense of loneliness?A negative mindset toward self and others may be the strongest contributor of loneliness.
There are four common strategies for reducing loneliness. For the lonely, there is a need to improve social skills, increase exposure to social support and opportunities for social contact. Particularly the chronically ill and the aging population.
The number one most effective strategy was addressing the negative thoughts a person has about themselves and others around them. These negative thoughts are automatic, reactive, and not factual. A feeling is not a fact. As the negative reactive thoughts take over they will sabotage any other attempt to connect. It becomes a vicious cycle. Bingo! That is my problem.
I know I struggle with feeling alone, not good enough and unimportant. I have had those “default” thoughts about myself since childhood. The more I cater to those old feelings the more isolated I become.
To compound the effect of my automatic negative thoughts about myself (my ANTs)… I am naturally an introvert. Introverts are introspective thinkers, they are overwhelmed by too much social exchange. I can not change my temperament but, I can lessen the negative impact it has on my emotions if I take the time to be self aware and objectively understand my perspective.
As an introvert I am prone to excessive self talk (which is influenced by my ANTS) leaving me more prone to anxiety and depression. I then can begin to feel guilty and more inadequate for feeling anxious. What a mess!
My biggest challenge is to not feel like an outsider in my own world. Sometimes I would rather spend time processing thoughts than seeking connection. I am a great listener but by the end of the day I am drained, seeking solitude.
What hope do I have to change! Hope is precisely what I will need to change.
First, I must recognize those ANTs that plague my thinking. They have become my default setting and rise to the occasion when I become fatigued and lonely. They are my fears, not fact. They began in childhood from the eyes of a ecocentric child that took everything personal.
Second, I must reparent my inner child and exchange those eyes of fear with eyes of faith, exchanging feelings for fact. As God’s child I am valuable, wanted and lovable. My best friends also tell me that I am intelligent, loving and compassionate.
Whom do I believe?….the eyes of a child with limited vision or a loving God and tremendous friends. When a call is not returned, a social engagement is postponed or a friend never calls to check in- it does not mean that I am not good enough and unimportant. That is personalizing the action of others. The action of others speak more about them and their situation not who I am as a person. It may mean they think I am busy! Believing the truth based on the love of, the God of hope, creates a different perspective that perpetuates a better attitude for connection.
Hope in God is a confident expectation. Not wishful thinking. Scripture is full of over 3,000 verses referring to the promises of God that supplies our hope. To be hope(full) I must fill my thoughts with truth, not fears. God given hope gives a lovely reality that relieves the lonely feelings of unworthiness.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1:18-19 (NIV)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NIV)
Third, it is helpful to know your temperament. How did God create you? To understand your temperament is to understand your strengths and weaknesses. It really relieved my guilt and feelings of inadequacies when I realized how my temperament impacted my response to the world. I have linked a useful web site that makes a free Myers Briggs personality inventory available. Taking the time to understand your natural “bent” is helpful for you to understand your connections in relationships and life experiences.
Fouth, to spend time with the author of this unyielding, constant source of hope. God carries you through life, he is there regardless of your awareness of Him. Let your eyes see Him, look for Him, expect Him. Hope in Him heightens your awareness and brightens your reality giving a connection for eternity.
The lonely is faded by the lovely of His love.
Listen to this song Hope Now and let God’s love flood your thoughts.