Well, there’s no point sugarcoating it: Self-quarantining is NOT fun. Here I’ll share some methods to help you when facing loneliness and come out of the other side of this crisis mentally-stronger than before…
Now that your all outdoor routines and social interactions are cancelled, loneliness is looming over like an ever-growing shadow.
Netflix, But No Chill
Loneliness is the absence of intimacy, be it physical and/or emotional. Although loneliness isn’t synonymous with being alone, most of us can’t always embrace solitariness readily for a long time. We have needs for our familiar companion and struggle to find meanings in social isolation.
At the same time, facing loneliness is an entirely interior, subjective experience. You can still feel lonely when you are with your partner/spouse. Perhaps you yearn for more affection. Perhaps you don’t feel seen in the relationship.
Either way, when we are lonely, we experience bodily symptoms of distress. Our stress hormone cortisol is high, hence our body is in “fight-or-flight” mode: we have no chill.
What You Resist, Persists
At any given moment, when we resist what we’re experiencing and wish it to be different, we suffer. In Buddist teaching, this resistance to things and beings as they are is known as “aversion”. As the feeling of loneliness arises, we are also averse to our own experience. Fear, anger, frustration, irritation, annoyance… they are all forms of aversion.
There tends to be a belief attached to our aversion. When I reflected on the moments in my life where I experienced poignant loneliness, I was also feeling ashamed. “I shouldn’t be so weak!” I would condemn myself. At that time, I held a belief that “I felt lonely because I wasn’t strong enough” and I was “therefore flawed and wrong”.
This belief further engulfed me with anguish. The more I wished I weren’t feeling that way, the more I felt it.
“What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size”. – Carl Jung
Whilst the truth was there wasn’t anything wrong with me. I was only having a human experience by reacting to a negative external event. Instead of criticizing myself, I could meet my feeling of loneliness with courage and compassion. This would mean to see my experience without creating a story: Yes, I’m feeling lonely. No, that doesn’t mean I’m a terrible person that is unworthy of love and attention.
The Antidote of Loneliness
3 weeks into our new self-quarantining reality in the West, we’ve already seen a blooming of virtual interaction happening around the globe. While business and networking are being converted to online platforms, we are also given an opportunity to cultivate a deeper connection. Especially one with ourselves.
“Loneliness is loneliness with Yourself.” – Rev Michael Beckwith
We seek acceptance and approval from others, but what about from ourselves? Do we accept who we are, with all the imperfections and humanness? Can we acknowledge that we are enough, without needing to please and perform? As we sympathize with others for their misfortunate, do we also allow ourselves to grieve for what we’ve lost?
Loving and accepting ourselves is the antidote of loneliness. We learn to embrace our sorrow and fear, not by forcefully commend ourselves to “stop feeling” but to acknowledge what we are going through. When we are facing loneliness, we can slow down and take notes of our body sensations. Is there an achiness in the heart center? A tightening at the throat? Let the tears come. Move your body to see where the energy takes you.
Next time when you get in touch with feelings of loneliness, try to stay, even just for a moment. Trust yourself with those raw emotions, for it will show the part of you where the light emits.
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