The fear of loneliness affects almost all of us. It is only natural for human beings to want to feel close and connected with others. We are born to be social animals. We yearn to be part of a group. We need a family or some type of tribe in order to feel like we belong.
One of the worst things you can do is isolate someone and cut off all of their social ties. Unfortunately that has been a major challenge in 2020 with many people being forced to stay at home and ride out the Covid pandemic.
Of course, the first way to feel connected is to have strong social bonds with your family and friends. But it can come in many other forms: Sports teams, playing music with others, meetup groups, church and prayer groups, book clubs.
This is so important that there are websites like Meetup dedicated to the task of bringing people together and hopefully forming last lasting relationships.
When retired, professional athletes are interviewed about what they miss the most in their sport inevitably they will talk about missing the camaraderie and being part of the group. “Being one of the guys.”
Many psychologists and mental health professionals agree that being connected and having a support network is one of the most important prerequisites for a healthy and happy existence. Unfortunately, there are times when we find ourselves alone due to factors that are often out of our control.
The thought of being alone for extended periods of time can be terrifying or elicit feelings of anxiety and sadness.
Why is the idea of being alone so scary?
The Primal Switch
What is it about being alone that flips a primal switch in us, causing us so much emotional discomfort?
The answer probably lies within the fields of Evolutionary Psychology and Human Development. There are adaptive advantages to fearing being alone.
During ancient times, people that traveled alone would have been more vulnerable to attacks from predators and other neighboring tribes. Being alone also could have meant that one would have to fend for himself, which would greatly decrease one’s chances of survival in the wild.
We also know that people need contact and touch at a young age. A famous study performed on a group of monkeys found that when young monkeys were raised without physical touch and warmth from their mother, they would show signs of mental illness and distress later on in life. Studies have shown that newborns that are neglected and aren’t adequately touched will have more health problems later in life.
This is not to say that humans are the same as monkeys. But, at a very basic and primal level, many animals (humans included) have an emotional need for contact with others.
Overcoming the Fear
Since we already know how powerful the effects of not having contact with others can be from an early age and from an evolutionary standpoint, it should come as little surprise that the feelings of fear that we experience when alone can seem overwhelming.
- The first step to overcoming the fear of loneliness is to realize that the feelings you may experience can be intense and that this is completely okay.
- Understand that you are not weird or abnormal. Many people are experiencing exactly what you are going through at the moment.
- Whereas most people try to fight the feelings of panic or discomfort at being alone, you are going to do something that most people never do and is also why they rarely overcome this fear.
- The secret is to let these feelings wash over you completely without fighting them. Let the feelings permeate through you and within minutes you’ll feel completely different about being alone than how you did prior to doing this.
- While it may take longer than a few minutes for the feeling to dissipate entirely, you’ll already start to begin feeling relief as soon as you stop fighting these feelings and accept them. They’re natural responses to our need for contact going unmet for a brief period of time.
- Seek out a good coach or therapist to help identify your blocks and come up with a good strategy to break through and become the person you want to be.
The fear of being alone affects all of us, no matter how brave we are in other situations.
If you can let yourself feel the emotions fully when you begin to get scared, you will process these emotions instead of bottling them inside of you. Watch what little children do when they are angry or sad or scared. They don’t hold back – they feel every part of that emotion. It may get intense but it passes and they get it out of their system.
As adults, we are told that it is bad to show strong emotions around others so those feelings get stuck inside of us and have nowhere to go. But they stay there and just grow and grow over time until one day something triggers you and this deep, deep emotion comes out of you and people wonder where that came from. Well it came from you past “Stuff” that never got dealt with until you couldn’t hold it in anymore.
That’s why people fly into a rage or some seemingly small slight. That small slight triggered all of those old emotions and the volcano has erupted.
Learn to feel your emotions full and process them and ultimately they will pass and you will have given yourself a lifelong tool to work through any other unfamiliar or uncomfortable feelings you may experience in the future.
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