As some may know, loneliness – to feel lonely, isolated – has been a longtime hangup of mine. For more than a decade, to be precise, but that is a closed chapter now. Aloneness – to be alone – is still my main M.O., and the blues still get me from time to time.
Fortunately, i have learned quite a few things about this phenomenon, through many years of feeling, looking, writing, acting, reacting, thinking and unthinking. To spare you the time and trouble, i here present to you some observational shortcuts.
Loneliness is a tough nut to crack for many people, even for those who have a partner and/or a great number of friends. It usually brings in a whole mix of thoughts and feelings, including sadness, anger, pain, confusion and a lot of frustration.
From my own experience, i see two basic processes going on in the brain. These can’t be fully separated of course, but the way we deal with them can largely affect their impact on our mental state.
First, there is the biological, physical need for affection, the sexual urge, which is only natural. This is a very personal matter, and more or less beyond our control. There are no clear answers, and it keeps changing over time, so there is not much more to say about that part. (I am leaving out the need for friendship, for like-minded companionship, because this slips in thought, and i want to make the clear distinction between inborn instinct and cultivated thought.)
Secondly, there is the psychological factor, which amplifies and elongates both the biological factor and itself. We are all familiar with thoughts such as “I am feeling terribly lonely and i will remain like this for the rest of my days”, “Why can’t (s)he be with me?”, “No one likes me”, … Simply turn on your radio or TV or read a magazine to see what i am talking about.
Psychological time is the big driving wheel behind this major part of loneliness. We tend to project the past into the future and take life for granted, as if some things will never change. The image we make of loneliness, of the emptiness, breeds fear, and in most cases we cannot face it, just like we cannot face death for what it is. So we easily digress in stories, in self-pity, self-love, self-hatred, in self-centered thinking. We focus on our suffering, on our self-image, mistaking the pain and the dreadful image of emptiness for emptiness itself. To face emptiness, you have to let go of yourself, of your self-image. That is the sole means of discovering what it really is. Are you willing to go there?
To feel lonely within any so-called relationship, actual or imaginary, is the ultimate act of romance, of passion, pain and suffering.
To be alone is not problematic. Psychologically speaking, it is a permanent fact for all of us.
We might think that we are in some special relationship, in something that is everlasting, secure, but this is just romantic make-belief, never actual. Furthermore, as long as there is fear of loneliness, you are caught in thought, in romance, which is a very dangerous thing when not fully examined and understood.
— A few weeks ago, my 11-year old sister had to write a love letter for homework, she had to come up with some of that valentine bullshit. Quite naturally and luckily, she couldn’t care less. Just imagine, forced to write romantic nonsense at an age where abstract thinking is yet to be fully developed! That is the manipulation of children’s emotions, enforcing the lies they unconsciously absorb from the media, making them believe that they need romance in their lives to get by. What is going on inside the heads of these teachers?!
I am not underestimating or trivializing the benefits of a healthy intimate relationship, on the contrary. For many of us it makes up a significant part of our lives, and the synergy is something marvelous. However, most relationships are built on image-making and psychological imbalances by fearful, insecure and self-centered individuals, rendering them stale, unstable and almost meaningless.
When you are absolutely alone and not caught in thoughts, not comparing with others, there is little chance of feeling lonely. The physical needs can always be at play, but this is never lasting. Most of us never get to a single moment of conscious radical independence, of totally accepting the truth of being alone, without judgment or emotions, and that is why fear of solitude and why attachment within relationships continue to exist.
On the other hand, how contradictory and absurd it may seem, company rapidly breeds loneliness.
Verbal communication involves thinking, sharing our views of the world and ourselves, using abstractions and concepts, and thus brings in the past. Thought, time, creates distance, division, and it is this which primarily causes our loneliness, the latent suffering. It seems almost inevitable to get stuck in time, because 99% of our conversations is about the past or the future, about existing patterns. Moreover, most of our talking is also part of these patterns. This does not mean that any dialogue per se is bound to be separative in nature. When there is an openness of mind on both sides, a curiosity, a sincere interest or concern, any subject can get across. That is creative, healthy relationship, mutual understanding, freedom to grow and let grow.
In contrast, self-centered, closed thought on either side creates distance and hence loneliness on both sides, mostly unconsciously. In many cases, both sides are not really listening to the other, but only listening to their own stories, justifying their self-image, insensitive to the underlying problems, preoccupied with themselves and careless about the other, pretending the opposite.
Only silence at that point, both outward and inward, can end the spell. Only in that state of inner silence, of high alertness, in those very gaps between distracting thoughts, there is the openness and compassion that defines true, wholesome relationship.
Thought has divided us in classes, cultures, subcultures, experts in this, experts in that, this party, that party, and so on and so on. Our society is based on fear and distrust, on war and deceit, not on creating happiness and health. It is only logical that all these separations have a tremendous effect on our daily lives and conversations.
We tend to overlook the fact that we are all in the same rat race, and that it is us who make the rules. We hand over the growing psychological mess from generation to generation and tell our children that nothing can be done about it, that life is and always will be a struggle, so that they should compete, become this and that, achieve, be egoistic. Most of us remain self-centered children, with a certain notion of brotherhood, which is very hypocritical. It is sad but true, we are all educated to become lonely hypocrites in one way or another.
Instead of looking together at how we can make our daily lives more balanced and less stressful, most of us blindly follow society’s patterns of conformity, prestige and envy, forever wanting more, increasing the pressure on everybody. We are slaves to money and time, and most of us seek freedom in that cage, by buying things, by going on holidays, by adapting to the marketing madness. Consensus trance, consensus stupidity.
People who are unable or refuse to run the rat race are left out and considered abnormal. Well, if living unhealthy is the norm, then it is a blessing to be abnormal.
Loneliness is a symptom, a disease, and its only cure is aloneness.
(1) to grasp or understand clearly; to bring vividly to the mind
(2) to make real, to bring into existence, to give reality to
Loneliness is the realized (2) illusion of separation, i.e. to be stuck in the isolation we create in ourselves and others. We, society, cultivate loneliness by getting constantly lost in stories of the superficial and by remaining unaware of the separations in our minds and our destructive, insane way of living.
The only way out of the insanity is to examine and to point out the insanity, by talking about it, not just by telling people to read this or that, but by acting, by changing our lives wherever possible, so that we can live more openly and create better ways of living together, defining new ways of wholesome, healthy communication.
We realize (2) loneliness but we never fully realize (1) it.
Only when you become utterly aware of the roots of your loneliness, when you recognize your own divisions, fears, projections and the walls of distrust in yourself, it can dissolve into something much more bearable, it may even dissolve completely. There is only one way of finding out.
On a final note, i have no advice whatsoever on how to get sex, intimacy or affection.
A healthy trust in yourself and in nature is a good start i guess. Stay attentive, stick to the moment, do things you like and hence stop the future from fucking up the present. The less fearful, the less lonely you’ll feel, the more confidence you’ll have, the more able you’ll be to open up and connect. Nevertheless beware / be aware: the more you see through the make-belief, the less you’ll fit in, the more alone you’ll stand, but your solitude will have a whole different quality than what you had known before.
Also, sexual energy can be directed in different ways. Some practices in yoga, tantra and taoism could be worth checking out. Or you can dive into sports. Nothing beats the real thing though.
Personally, i’d rather remain alone than shift to lower gears or go astray too much, but there are no strict rules. It is a matter of balance, and each one of us has to do the math.
Just look and see:
Each one of us is alone, but we all are, and not.