Isolation And Loneliness
Dealing with Isolation
|isolation||"the complete separation from others"|
|loneliness||"affected with, characterized by, or causing a depressing feeling of being alone; lonesome"|
What is it?
Isolation is the felt experience of separation and the longing to feel connected. Attachment theory recognizes that we are human mammals, and we evolved to be in a relationship with one another. Humans who don't have contact with others fail to thrive and can lead shorter lives as a result. The power of connection and contact allows us to reach our potential and to feel like we belong to a greater picture.
When it becomes a problem
It is easy to get into a pattern of retreating from others when you are uncomfortable, or if something challenges you, or if you feel bad about yourself for some reason.
What Can I Do To Deal
When you notice that you are making excuses to yourself to not have contact with friends who are reaching out, or not answering phone calls from family, you should pause, and perhaps give yourself the goal to answer just one call, just one text to allow your system to stay connected. Moving closer to connection will bring great relief, even though the voice in your head telling you to avoid others is telling you something else.
Why One-to-One Therapy Is Important
Isolation often arises from the fear of vulnerability, and ultimately- rejection by others. The therapeutic relationship becomes the testing ground for acceptance, and as the client who isolates begins to open up and experience connection, this feeling can be brought into daily life. People who are used to retreating suddenly find themselves taking risks and reaching out, and then experiencing satisfaction and connection, which inspires them to reach out more.
In the short-term, you can begin to notice when people are noticing you. This simple act of allowing yourself to be seen can signal to your mind "I exist" and "I matter", which can be so hard to access when we feel isolated. Even if it is just someone making eye contact across a grocery store aisle, or another driver passing by you on the road, these small acts of allowing acknowledgment "prime" your brain to notice other moments of belonging and connection.
In the long-term, it may be super helpful to uncover where your ideas of vulnerability and retreat came from. Did you learn them from someone? Did you see someone in your family have the same response? These insights can lead to a client feeling kindness towards themselves, as they strive to understand the "why" of "how" they habitually protect themselves. Often, the best way to achieve this is through meeting with a counselor who is trained to look at family dynamics, patterns of thinking and emotional protection and also trained in how to change our responses. It is helpful to have an expert who is a kind and non -judgmental partner to work side by side with you to explore the reasons for your habits of isolation or retreat. Then you can truly let them go.
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