The Pain and Purpose of Loneliness

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Our feelings and emotions need to be felt and acknowledged, even the uncomfortable ones. They are not a punishment or an indicator of character. By resisting them, we make them stronger.

Loneliness is one of those uncomfortable feelings, but it gives us valuable information about our self. It lets us know that we want or need connection to other beings, or that we have lost a connection that we may or may not be able to restore. It might also come from being around people who do not understand us, or from a need for self knowledge and self acceptance.

By allowing our self to feel loneliness when it arises, we may also discover it sometimes bears a gift. Loneliness can, for instance, inspire people to move with courage and creativity beyond their usual boundaries. Sometimes in the sadness or despair of loneliness people reach “rock bottom” and a warrior rises up, ready to fight for the self or others.

Loneliness not only grows warriors but cultivates empathy by allowing us to understand the world’s aloneness and suffering. Though peoples’ circumstances differ, human emotions are a universal language we can all understand. When we realize this, even our loneliness teaches us to respect another’s experience because it is essentially our own.

Though we tend to run from loneliness, it can be an invitation to go within and create a better relationship with our self. The presence of others can never replace the strength and comfort of being content with our own company, and of knowing we have the capacity to soothe our self when necessary.

Loneliness reminds us that humans are social beings that thrive through meaningful connections, whether they are face to face or via a website. Yet, there will be times when all we can do is acknowledge an absence of connection and feel our loneliness. As with grief, there is something bittersweet in loneliness, suggesting that it not only carries hurt, but healing.

Photo credit: Sheila Sund / flickr

 
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