Moving through lonliness

We are social creatures.  We live in not only family, but community groups.  This was necessary eons ago when we were nomadic hunter / gatherers working to live in an harsh environment that had multiple dangers that were life threatening.  The only way the weaker, slower humans could survive in this world was to band together.   Today we still need each other, if in a different manner.  I have someone mow my lawn, someone grows and picks the food I eat, bringing it to the store, with more people to sell it to me.  I still cannot live without the help of other man, but the environmental need for close personal relationships is diminished.  I do not need someone living with me to take care of my daily needs and for the most part I am able to take care of my extended needs either on my own or through the help of a service (though today as my battery dies in my car I need someone to take me to the store to buy a new one).

Today we maintain our social connections for emotional sustenance as opposed to physical protection.    No matter if you have a few select close friends or a large group of extended friends, most of us have a social network that we maintain in our daily lives.  We also work to find intimate (both physical and emotional) relationships with a partner.  We crave this contact.  Whether this is an instinctive need that is present because it was required to survive or it is taught to us beginning at a young age, we desire intimate friendships and contact.  This contact releases chemicals in our brain that create that warm fuzzy feeling we often consider “love” and we find that feeling filling and fulfilling.

Without it we experience loneliness.  Sometimes that loneliness feels a lot like emptiness.  We are addicted to the chemicals our brain releases when we are with friends and partners, and without them we go in to a type of withdrawal.  Like any kind of withdrawal this can lead to emotional symptoms of anxiety, emptiness, frustration, and depression.

Loneliness is not life threatening. We are inundated throughout our lives though television,radio and magazines on the need to have someone, how to find that someone, and the trauma of loosing  that someone.  There are very few influences that remind us that we are able to be alone, and that loneliness at times is a good thing.

Something that we forget the one person who is always there. The person who is there when  you are born when you die, and  for all of your life’s hurts and accomplishments: You.  But when you feel hurt or sad, who do you run to?  Someone else, chasing fullness and fulfillment  through others, safety and love through others.  Imagine the ability to find that within.  Imagine not needing to rely and lean on others. Imagine being able to walk through the world with the confidence to face everything that is thrown at you with your own strength and energy.

Ironically enough this confidence is extremely attractive to others.  The partnerships this self-reliance creates, when two people do no NEED to be together but can form bonds of love and partnership, can be amazing.

This confidence does not mean there will be no loneliness in our lives.  It means that we have the strength and confidence to survive those periods when all we have is ourselves.

Ten Years Later

When the mind is clear
and the surface of the now still,
now swaying water

slaps against
the rolling kayak,

I find myself near darkness,
paddling again to Yellow Island.

Every Spring wildflowers
cover the gray rocks.

Every year the sea breeze
ruffles the cold and lovely pearls
hidden in the center of the flowers

as if remembering them
by touch alone.

A calm and lonely, trembling beauty
that frightened me in youth.

Now their loneliness
feels familiar, one small thing
I’ve learned these years,

How to be alone,
and at the edge of alone-ness
how to be found by the world.

Innocence is what we allow
to be gifted back to us
once we’ve given ourselves away.

There is one world only,
the one to which we gave ourselves
utterly, and to which one day

we are blessed to return.

David Whyte

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About Marissa Engel

I have been in private practice in Austin, TX since 2007. My focus as a therapist is to help clients uncover within themselves the courage and strength to face life with confidence. In my work with clients I am most interested in helping people develop a compassionate relationship with their own experiences that can lead them on a journey of acceptance, self discovery, relief from suffering, and healing of relational disconnects. In my practice I have worked with individuals, couples, families, and groups, seeing adults, adolescents, and children. My scope of treatment has included depression, anxiety, panic attacks, anger and stress management difficulties, suicidal ideation, grief and loss, addictions, eating disorders, and couple/family difficulties.