Curing Loneliness & Climbing the Ladder
Curing loneliness is somewhat like climbing a very high ladder. Each rung takes you closer to your goal because each rung decreases loneliness, yet the top is often out-of-sight.
Tip: The easy cures (steps) are at the bottom. The cures (steps) get harder and further apart as you reach the top.
One of the final steps for alleviating loneliness is a long, hard step. It involves combining your new social network with a few close friends.
Start by trying quick cures. Common quick cures for loneliness include:
- A pet to care for
- Long telephone conversations, including superficial ones.
- New hobbies and interests
- Pampering yourself or shopping
- The singles’ party scene
- Sharing time with other lonely people
The long-term cures for loneliness all involve becoming comfortable with yourself. This includes raising your self-esteem, then rebuilding a social network. After you have built a good social network, you will form one or two close friendships. These steps will cure social and emotional loneliness.
Incidentally, this is not an article about raising self-esteem or becoming comfortable with yourself. Look for other curatives for yourself.
As you would expect, social friendships are much easier to achieve than close friendships. However, superficial, social friendships are almost always the source of close friendships.
Close friendships usually start with a feeling of “chemistry” or sameness with another person. They normally start slowly and proceed slowly, often taking two to three years to mature.
Once you find a suitable person for a potential close friendship, start by sharing a few private thoughts and/or feelings. If the person is responsive, he/she will usually share a personal thought or two with you. If he/she is not open to your overtures, don’t think of this as a rejection.
People may appear indifferent to your friendship advances for reasons of their own. Or–their indifference may merely be a perception of yours. Nevertheless, they can’t be rejecting you as a person because they don’t even know you yet.
Will you ever reach the top?
Maybe, maybe not. However, one day you will certainly look down and see most of your loneliness below you and the top of the ladder in sight. You’re almost cured!
All goals start with a purpose. Your purpose is to cure your loneliness by:
- Developing a social network.
- Turning one or two people from your social network into friends.
Start with a list you prepare by:
- Consulting the many entertainment guides available. What looks good to you?
- Brainstorming with yourself and others. Ask your friends for suggestions.
- Comparing things you have enjoyed in the past with the list of activities you can enjoy now.
- Volunteering. Don’t forget volunteer work. Almost anyone is accepted in a volunteer situation. However, don’t volunteer for the jobs that don’t include people contact. You will defeat the purpose unless you meet new people.
As soon as possible after reading this:
- Reach out to new people.
- Set definite goals for becoming socially active.
- Develop at least two close confidants.
Life is so much easier and so much more successful when goals are set, individual steps are planned, and that first step is taken down the road to your final goal. There is almost no part of life that does not lend itself well to goal setting.
Being lonely is painful
“I feel like my stomach is a big cheese with a little rat gnawing away at it–never making any progress. But it is painful–it hurts.”
“I can’t settle down–I just walk around picking things up, putting them down, and never really accomplishing anything. I feel like I’m in pain.”
“I feel like I am empty inside–no stomach, no insides, nothing. And it hurts.”
“It’s kind of like the pain of flu but not really.”
These people are all describing loneliness.
There is no doubt that loneliness is painful. And that pain is real.
The pain could be more severe in certain situations such as combined with the end of a relationship, but all loneliness carries some pain.
Loneliness also carries other feelings. It is sometimes accompanied by:
- Lower self-esteem
Intended comforts for loneliness can be deceiving, too. Often activities that should decrease loneliness, such as a night out with happy friends or holidays with family, can actually make lonely feelings more intense and painful..
Loneliness is no respecter of age either. People do not necessarily get more or less lonely as they age.
Being lonely is described as universal, even among married people. In fact, many married people describe themselves as lonely either because they are not emotionally close to their partner or because they depend on their partner for most or all social contacts.
People suffer from two forms of loneliness:
- Social Loneliness
- Emotional Loneliness
Social loneliness is brought on by a lack of social network. Everyone needs people for “hanging out.”
People with an active social life rarely suffer social loneliness. Others, for various reasons such as being shy, a workaholic, or new to an area, do not have a social network in place.
The first step, then, will be to rebuild or develop a social network.
Emotional loneliness is the absence of a close emotional relationship. Those superficial acquaintances that can cure social loneliness won’t touch the emotional variety. That explains why people can party for weeks and still feel lonely.
A good social network includes friends for hanging out. Yeah!
All that sounds good, but where do you find that network?
The bad news is you usually don’t find ready-made networks that befit you. You normally have to create your own network.
The good news is that networking is not too hard to do. I know that is easy to say but try the tactics below and see if you agree with me.
1. Join Groups
There are many types of groups you can join from the strictly social to a church group to a group that promotes a hobby or special interest of yours.
If you are religious, join a church group. They are normally quite accepting.
There are many kinds of social groups but I have always been shy enough that this is not the first order of joining for me.
I like to join special interest groups, though. If I have an interest in a subject, I find conversation much easier.
And the best for me is a sports group of some sort. I did volleyball and basketball in my extreme youth. Now I am more in to softball and sports that don’t run as fast or as far.
Volunteering is a great way to meet people while giving something back to your community. Make certain you volunteer for a task that will involve you with people rather than “things.” Assisting with a booth at a fair or helping plan a fund-raising activity usually involve lots of people.
There are some aspects of volunteering that don’t advance your network quickly.
Writing the newsletter, for example, usually does not involve you with many other people. However, if you are uncomfortable in a crowd, maybe this is the place to start. You can then expand your network with one-on-one contact with others in the group.
You ask their advice; you ask their assistance; you can even ask them to write articles for the newsletter. Then when you brave the crowd, you have some people you already know.
This is good! You are already networked before you enter the crowd.
My very shyest friend joined Ambucs. He helped at every occasion and built up friendships here.
Keep looking. You will find something.
Work is probably the worst place to find a social network although it may be the most easily available. Any problems with your networking and you can conceivably affect your career.
However, professional groups that you join might be good. If they don’t have a potentially large bearing on your career, then network socially as well as professionally here.
Go back to school and get involved with campus life. Not everyone will be young. People from 25 to 95 are going back to school now or getting left in the slow lane of our high-tech life.
After you have tried a few of the above, there should be some social friends that can be combined for:
5. A Party
One way to start having parties involves asking a couple who brings another couple. This kind of party can be as large or as small as you wish it to be, assuming you have at least one couple as casual friends to get it started.
The best party for me revolves around TV sports. There is always something to talk about when you are watching the tube.
Second, I like cook-outs, whether they are at home or the local outdoor spot. Being outdoors lends itself to physical activity, meaning I don’t have to talk the entire time. It is also best for family parties. The little kids and the grown kids can work off some energy.
If parties scare you to death, and your spouse feels the same, ask a friend or relative to help you execute the first one. Humm, maybe “execute” is not the right word here.
If you feel you don’t have enough friends to start a party, keep participating in social, volunteer, and special-interest groups. You will find enough casual friends here to get parties started soon.
And, see, you have created a social network of your own. And it was easy. Well, if not all that easy, at least it works!
A good social network will lead to at least one or two very close friends. That cures emotional loneliness.
Emotional loneliness is often the hardest to cure.
1. Developing a close relationship can be scary. All close relationships require self-disclosure. That frightens most people because of the potential rejection factor.
2. Just as with a love relationship, any close relationship requires a certain amount of “chemistry,” that click that comes with finding a kindred spirit.
Again, just as with chemistry and love, it becomes a “numbers game.” We need to meet a lot of people to find our kindred spirits. Meeting a lot of people requires a lot of effort. And it does not happen quickly.
3. Developing a close relationship also requires a non-competitive atmosphere. Dropping that competitive self is hard-to-impossible for many, especially those who have been socialized to be competitive beings.
Tip: It is important to develop at least two close confidants in your life.
Self-disclosure is usually the first step in establishing a confidant. And it is scary because of the potential rejection factor.
People are non-responsive for reasons of their own. They can’t be rejecting you because they don’t even know you yet.
But whatever the reason they are non-responsive, your cure for loneliness depends upon your efforts in building a new social network combined with a few close friends. So, put these people behind you, and move on!