Sex addicts don’t have a monopoly on loneliness although they often say it is one reason for their sexually compulsive behavior. I was lonely as a child myself and I feel sympathy for my clients who have trouble dealing with loneliness and feeling abandoned.
People feel lonely in many different situations and for different reasons. I believe there is always a way to understand and and use the experience .
Ways we feel loneliness
- Lonely because you are single. This is a common complaint among addicts and others. People often get to feeling hopeless about finding the right person and are envious of those who are in a committed relationship or marriage. Sex addicts often feel that having a partner would help them get over their addiction (this is not true).
- Lonely in your family. Some people feel that the others in their family share a bond that they are not part of. Sometimes this is because the person has outgrown their family of origin or evolved into a different person. They no longer play their old role in the family and they don’t “fit” in the same way. Sometimes people feel alienated with their spouse’s family or feel like they are disapproved of.
- Lonely in your marriage. It is possible to feel settled in a relationship and even devoted but still fell lonely at times. Sometimes it comes as a shock when a relationship doesn’t meet all or even most of our needs for connection. People sometimes feel something is missing in the marriage which may not be the case.
- Lonely in a social or work group. People very often feel out of place in groups of people. This can be true even in groups with whom we feel we have a lot in common. For one reason or another we do not feel like we can be open or free or comfortable. We feel separated, like these are “not my people.” Sometimes it is unclear where to find the right group or sense of belonging.
Steps to dealing with loneliness
Some people want to be alone a lot. But I am interested here in the dilemma we face when we are feeling alone and don’t want to be alone; when we feel bereft, cut off or alienated and long to feel connected.
- Turning inward. The first step toward dealing with loneliness is to become aware of it. If you panic when you are lonely you can end up in a kind of agitated depression. Examine the feeling of aloneness. It doesn’t have to be a cause for alarm. Only by letting yourself reflect on your loneliness can you begin to think constructively about it. Regardless of why you are feeling lonely, it is important to take the first step of respecting the feeling.
- Accepting loneliness without judgment. I have hard my patients say that loneliness makes them think “I am a loser”, or “I’ve done something wrong.” But being alone and feeling lonely do not relate to your value as a person. Some people try to resign themselves to being alone, feeling that it is their fate. This is a negative way of thinking too. And negative thoughts create resistance to the situation and prevent you from constructive thinking.
- Using your loneliness as information. If you are without a significant other it may be that you are in lull in which you are assimilating what you have learned about relationships and making room for something better. If you are feeling alienated and disconnected from your friends or your partner, it may be that those are not the people with whom you can feel most like yourself. You are lonely for a reason and you will be able to make sense out of it and maybe change your life accordingly
- Seeing loneliness as part of your cycle. Most people are not dynamic and productive 100% of the time. Most of us have a natural cycle in our lives in which we alternate between periods of high productivity and periods of introspection. It is in the periods of quietness, of withdrawing from the world that we can reconnect with ourselves and find new sources of energy and creativity. We may have cycles that last years at a time and other up-down cycles within the course of the day.
- Using your time alone for self enhancement. Lonely times can be the best times to be self centered. This is where the slogan “turn loneliness into solitude” applies. Being alone can be the time when you can concentrate on doing whatever you want including doing nothing. It can also be seen as a great time to work on some personal goals like learning something new, and improving your physical health or your attractiveness. You may be alone but you are becoming a better you.
Loneliness is a paradoxical state. It is an experience of lacking something and of disconnection but it allows us to connect with ourselves and our own power. Ultimately, loneliness can lead to more meaningful connection with others.
Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling or Twitter @SAResource
Last reviewed: 3 Sep 2013
Hatch, L. (2013). 4 Ways to Feel Lonely and 5 Ways to Turn it Around. Psych Central.
Retrieved on December 11, 2013, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-addiction/2013/09/4-ways-to-feel-lonely-and-5-ways-to-turn-it-around/