The Blessing of Standing Alone
Part of the human experience can be times in our lives when we feel very alone, unsupported, unheard, or invalidated. This can leave us feeling lonely. I believe that this is a normal experience, although certainly not a place we want to be in or stay in. It is uncomfortable, doesn’t feel good, and can be a bit paralyzing if we allow ourselves to sink into the feelings too deeply.
These feelings, because they are not comfortable, and even painful, drive us to do something different. Sometimes, people develop patterns to avoid being alone and to avoid these feelings. This can come out in therapy if I ask a client to spend some time doing a relaxation or visualization exercise, or just sit with him/herself and do deep breathing. I have had clients say that they could not sit quietly with themselves. Others have different avoidance patterns that may include workaholic tendencies — spending hours at work only to come home and collapse into bed for the night, getting up in the morning and starting all over again. Some people will keep their schedules full and flit from one scheduled event to another, often not even having time to complete one event before arriving late to the next. This certainly prevents that quiet time of being alone from creeping in.
Probably one of the most prevalent ways to avoid being alone is to stay in a relationship that isn’t working. Another way is to make sure that there is a new relationship started before even having time to grieve and learn from the old, which sets up failure in the new relationship from the start. However, it does physically prevent a person from being alone.
The reality of the situation is that you can be lonely in the midst of a crowd of people. Yes, it is true; you can avoid those feelings through keeping yourself busy in whatever mode of operation you choose. But the bottom line is, at the end of the day, it is only you. Let’s face it, we came into the world alone and we will leave the world alone. And if our life journey is such that we have a long life, we may have years of being alone even if we are now blessed with a companion.
Obviously, being strong in our own self and being a whole person will gift us with a foundation that can withstand the turbulence of life and all that happens. We can always count on our own “self” to be there. Our relationships can only be as whole as we are within ourselves. So learning to be whole will only enhance a relationship. If we are needy, we are not whole. We are looking outside ourselves for something that can only be given from the inside. If we are lonely and uncomfortable with our own self being our primary companion, we are not whole; we are looking outside for completion of our self.
So, these times and these feelings can be opportunities of growth for each of us if we use them as such. Feeling alone can give us the chance to dive into our own selves and be validating to self. Being alone and embracing our self gives us the gift of “self” and is well worth the endeavor.
So perhaps the first step is to assess, honestly, where you stand on this subject. Most of us know if we like to have times of being alone or if we prefer not to be alone. Some of us can do a little bit of time alone, but not too much. Others sink into alone time and have learned how to have self as the primary soother of difficult moments. Some of us have had no choice because we got dumped into the deep water and are learning to swim after losing our significant other. We clearly know we are having trouble with the lonely waters. Look at yourself and the patterns of avoidance you may have used and consider if they are to avoid the inevitable task or risk of being with yourself.
The second step would be to try out the moments. Allow yourself to stop and “be”. If you are one who over-schedules your life, make a point to stop running and start being. Stop the patterns of avoidance. If you are lonely, don’t seek out another person. Seek out yourself. Do something creative or fun, tap into your passions. If you don’t know what your passions are, it is time to learn what they might be.
Don’t numb out your feelings; pay attention to them. Journal about your feelings. If the feelings you have are uncomfortable and painful, journal more and tap into the depth of where they come from. Realize that doing this is validation. Someone is listening to how you feel and it is you. Also, realize that feelings are just feelings. They come and they go. You don’t have to judge them so put away the negative thoughts. Focus on spending time with yourself. A good exercise is to journal about your strengths and your positive attributes. Even if you don’t believe in yourself, start with small positive statements and step into the statements, faking it until you make it. Eventually you will internalize the positive thoughts and find esteem through thinking the thoughts.
Lastly, as you would take care of a good friend, take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, get adequate sleep, say nice things to yourself, and start to really enjoy who you are. What you take away from this experience is that you know you can count on yourself and your ability to manage the turbulence of life’s happenings.Tags: counting on you, empowering yourself, realizing the perfection of feeling unsupported, The blessings in feelings alone
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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