Loneliness: Additional Survey Results
Soon large crowds will gather in hotel rooms and toast the New Year. Others will party in Times Square and still others will ring in 2013 with a small group of friends. New Year’s Eve is generally viewed as a time for celebrating with friends and can be a particularly lonely time for those who struggle with relationships.
Your survey responses show that for some people loneliness (which is different from being alone) can be static and chronic, a heaviness that doesn’t lift. For others, loneliness varies in intensity and is triggered by certain situations, such as holidays, can make the aloneness worse. When others are making plans with friends or family and you are not, you may feel left out. Television shows emphasizing activities for families and friends can remind you of what you wish for and don’t have.
Some who go to parties still hate coming home alone to an empty house. Having no one to call to announce good news can trigger a sense of loneliness. Wanting to share a good meal you’ve prepared or a view that is beautiful or the poem you’ve written but having no one to call can be a time of loneliness.
Arguments with those you love, being ill, or seeing people who remind you of loved ones you’ve lost can trigger loneliness. Being around people who are closely connected to each other can lead to painful comparisons to what you don’t have. Facing a day with nothing planned or going to bed at night can be particularly difficult times. Some feel lonely when people are angry with them. Some feel lonely when they judge themselves.
Most people who are lonely are not depressed. According to the survey results, only about 30% of those who feel lonely are also depressed. Being sad about not having friendships or a life partner is not the same as depression, though the absence of relationships may contribute to a depressed mood.
While loneliness is painful, being in an invalidating relationship seems to be worse. Over 90% said they would rather be lonely than be in relationships with people who criticize them. At the same time, 65% criticize themselves, often about not fitting in.
Several survey responses mentioned issues related to lack of acceptance by others and shame. People who are lonely tend to feel self-conscious in groups of people, particularly if they don’t know them well. They want close relationships and at the same time do not feel comfortable meeting people. . Some do not want close relationships even though they find loneliness painful. They fear a sense of obligation and not meeting the expectations of others.
Sometimes avoiding relationships is about fear of rejection. Many people fear not being good enough and being pushed aside by others. Their fear keeps them from reaching out and taking steps toward a relationship. Their fears are understandable. Most relationships involve conflict and disagreement. Even people who like you can disappoint, say hurtful words, and be judgemental. In addition, because of their fears of rejection, people who are lonely may at times interpret actions of others as rejecting when that is not the case.
The line between accepting someone’s humanness versus ending a hurtful relationship is often not so clear. For the emotionally sensitive in particular, what in the moment may seem like an issue to end a friendship may not seem so important as time passes. At the same time, the emotionally sensitive may stay in relationships that are harmful, fearful of leaving.
To establish a safe relationship often requires a lengthy period of time. Many close relationships are strengthened by surviving conflict and my become close through overcoming differences. Most relationships are messy. People gossip, criticize, react without checking the facts and can be thoughtless at times. One friend may talk too loudly, another may be too blunt, and another may not call for weeks at a time. Tolerating the imperfections of others is challenging.
For the emotionally sensitive the messiness of relationships can be painful to manage. In a future post, I’ll discuss ideas about how to manage those painful feelings, how to idenifty healthy relationships, and how to know when to end a relationship.
Hall, K. (2013). Loneliness: Additional Survey Results. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 5, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/emotionally-sensitive/2012/12/loneliness-additional-survey-results/