Photo credit: countryliving.com
All the lonely people,
Where do they all come from?
– The Beatles, Eleanor Rigby
A proud son of the South Wales Valleys, Stephen Truelove is a mindset coach with 20 years experience, co-author of The Therapy of Cooking with Cardiff restauranteur Giovanni Malacrino and author of A Journey of Discovery and Self-Learning.
Having experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows of life, Stephen developed the Love Life Love You princess Breaking Limitations, and now helps people tackle anxiety, depression and other obstacles to become the best possible versions of themselves.
Loneliness – a natural survival mechanism
We may have destroyed or subdued virtually all other life on earth, but deep down, biologically, psychologically, we’re not predators – we’re prey. And we don’t want to be all alone when that sabre-toothed tiger turns up. With people we know and trust, even a beloved dog, we feel safe and cared for, sleep better, worry less. Heart rate and blood pressure are lower, depression rare. But like any other social animal, in solitary confinement we start to unravel.
So with entering a new year and Covid still upon us, what can we do to help one another and ourselves?
Which of the following are You?
- GREEN I’m stuck in my cave and I want to be out seeing people, but someone will be home later or I’ll ring a good friend and make sure all’s well. (Circumstantial isolation)
- AMBER I’m stuck in my cave and no one’s coming round because my partner left and I don’t know anyone here. But I’m in touch with old friends and family, have plenty to do, eat and sleep regularly and can relax with a good film, an online pub quiz or whatever. (Social loneliness)
- RED No one’s coming home to me again ever and I don’t ring anyone because they’re all busy and wouldn’t want to talk to me anyway. Even if I could go out, I wouldn’t because I’m useless with other people and they’re better off without me. I’ve lost faith in everyone and everything, including myself. (Psychological loneliness)
GREEN won’t do much harm in the long run (how long it feels like to you will depend on your age, situation and social skills), if you keep busy and look out for your health and your friends.
Solution: Wait it out, try to help others in a worse hole, keep in touch with existing friends and family – we are physically separated, don’t get socially isolated
AMBER is genuinely lonely, but susceptible to self-help of one sort and another, some of which seems to be already on board. Anything from losing a partner to going away to uni can be got over in time, often with your own resources (including your existing friends and family). You should survive reasonably well and be ready to go out and make new friends again soon. So long as you don’t fall into feeling sorry for yourself, sleeping all day, eating junk food takeaways at random times, achieving nothing and never being awake when anyone calls, in which case you’ll be at risk of slipping into a real hole.
Solution: With a bit of help from your friends and perhaps a bit of advice and encouragement from a professional, you should be all right eventually. Take a leaf or two out of Green’s book if you can, keep to a routine and talk to someone every day to avoid slipping into Red.
RED is serious stuff and calls out for help asap. You may find that difficult, but the sooner you reach out the greater your chances of feeling massively better. If you’ve had a huge loss and somehow turned in on yourself so that everything outside seems threatening, you need help asap. This is the land of agoraphobia, getting sucked into conspiracy theories online and beaten up by strangers if you disagree. If you think you’d just be a burden or even a negative impact for others, you need help right now – the internal barriers you’ve somehow acquired won’t go away by themselves.
Solution: This is a truly horrible place to be – give us a shout and we’ll help you out.
NB It is possible to move from one group to another as time goes on – for the better if you make a big effort and get help if you need it, for the worse if eating, sleeping and everything else go to pot (even if you don’t).
Are you Lonely or just Alone
Lonely is a feeling, alone is a fact. You can be lonely in a tiny village or a great city, stuck at home with a baby or running a great corporation, or even in a long-lasting marriage. We all need others we can be our authentic selves with. The apparent loner may be solitary but well connected. The life and soul of the party may feel part of nothing at all.
Our family are the friends we’re given to get us started,
our friends are the family we find for ourselves.
In all the surveys, people invariably say that what they want in a friend is loyalty, understanding, kindness. It’s not about your wallet or your weight or how clever or successful you are. So just about anyone can make friends while being exactly who they are – in fact, that’s the most important requirement.