THERAPY FOR LONELINESS ISSUES
Loneliness is characterised by a felt lack of companionship, a sense of isolation and/or alienation, and feeling left out. For most people, perceived loneliness is a relatively stable variable across the lifespan. Two individuals with the same number of social connections and interactions can experience very different levels of loneliness. So while it’s always better to have more quality relationships, developing and/or improving relationships, in and of itself, may not abate feelings of loneliness.
Loneliness is linked to poor physical and mental health, and is an even more accurate predictor of early death than many known physical risks such as obesity. Experienced loneliness – triggered by a discrepancy between an individual’s preferred and actual social relations – is part of a biological warning system that has evolved to alert us to threats or damage to our social bodies. We know from years of research that, as the social animals we are, social well being is essential to good health.
How can we help? Certainly we can brainstorm with you on a practical level about how you can come into contact with more people who might be candidates for connection. But if, as we believe, there is more to loneliness than how many people you know, we can help you discover what in your patterns of interaction may be limiting the quality of your social relations. Are you unconsciously sending signals that keep people at a distance? Are you unintentionally limiting the depth of closeness you allow yourself to have with others? Do feelings of self doubt, self consciousness or awkwardness get in the way?
Knowing how we come across to others is difficult for everybody, and we rarely get constructive feedback about it. One of the unique aspects of the therapy relationship is there is an active invitation to talk about such things. Once trust and connection are established, your therapist can share with you his or her experience of your relational style and habits, and together you can explore ways to make you more inviting and accessible to deep connection. At the same time, together you can examine fears and assumptions you may have about close relationships that are holding you back. Central to this effort is developing self-acceptance. A deep positive connection to the self facilitates connections with others, and in turn reduces loneliness and increases health and longevity.