Coping with Loneliness

Coping with Loneliness

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Coping with Loneliness Loneliness is a feeling of emptiness or hollowness inside you. You
feel isolated or separated from the world, cut off from those you
would like to have contact with. There are different kinds of
loneliness and different degrees of loneliness. You might experience
loneliness as a vague feeling that something is not right, a kind of
minor emptiness. Or you might feel loneliness as a very intense
deprivation and deep pain. One type of loneliness might be related to
missing a specific individual because they have died or because they
are so far away. Another type might be involve feeling alone and out
of contact with people because you are actually physically isolated
from people like you might be if you work alone on the night shift or

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are off alone in a part of a building where people seldom go. You
might even feel emotionally isolated when you are surrounded by people
but are having difficulty reaching out to them.


Loneliness is different than just being alone

It needs to be emphasized here that loneliness is not the same as
being alone. A person will always have time when they chose to be
alone. Rather, loneliness is the feeling of being alone and feeling
sad about it. And, of course, all of us feel lonely some of the time.
It is only when we seem trapped in our loneliness that it becomes a
real problem.


How do we contribute to our own sense of loneliness?

Loneliness is a passive state. That is, it is maintained by our
passively letting it continue and doing nothing to change it. We hope
it will go away, eventually, and we do nothing but let it envelop us.
Strangely, there are times when we might even embrace the feeling.
Yet, embracing loneliness and sinking down into the feelings
associated with it usually leads to a sense of depression and
helplessness, which, in turn, leads to an even more passive state and
more depression.


Finding ways to change these feelings of loneliness

Recognize the lonely feelings and express them.

To stop feeling lonely, we first must accept that we are feeling
lonely. Sometimes admitting that to ourselves is difficult. We then
have to express those feelings of loneliness in some way. We might
find ourselves writing in a diary, writing an imaginary letter to a
friend or relative, drawing or painting a picture, making up a song,
or doing anything else that lets us begin to express the feelings we
have inside us—including talking with other people! Expressing our
feelings might lead us to discover that we feel a number of things
which might be connected to our feelings of loneliness, including
sadness, anger, and frustration. We might be able to begin to see
where these feelings are coming from—what they are connected to in our
lives. As we begin to see the connections we will be more able to
begin to make changes.

Become more active.

The big change, of course, is to stop being passive and become more
active. If we’re missing someone, such as parents, family, or friends,
we can telephone, write, e-mail or visit them. Talking to an
understanding friend can often help change our moods as well. If we
don’t have an understanding friend, talking with a pastor, teacher or
counselor might be a place to start. If we are lonely because we are
missing someone who has died, being able to express our grief at their
loss and beginning to remember our happier moments with them and
knowing that those memories can always be with us, can move us away
from the lonely feelings. This can also apply to losses of significant
friendships or lovers.

Get involved in activities or clubs.

Getting involved in some sort of activity or club can accomplish
several things. It can take our minds off of feeling lonely as we get
involved in the enjoyable activity. It can actually change our mood
directly in this way. It can give us opportunities to meet people with
similar interests and practice our people-meeting skills. It can
provide some structure in our lives so that we have things to look
forward to. It can remind us of how good we might have felt in the
past doing similar things. Sometimes these effects can come very
quickly and sometimes they may come more slowly. We might really need
to push ourselves to go to meetings or talk to people or attend
several activities before we begin to feel comfortable with what we
are doing and begin to see progress. Perhaps something to avoid is to
attempt to join a club or organization or to develop a new interest
just because we think it will make us a better or more interesting
person. A better strategy might be to get involved in something
because we know we’ve enjoyed it in the past or because we think it
might be fun. That way we’re more likely to find ourselves enjoying
what we’re doing and being with people who genuinely enjoy the same
things. We may also find out that some people like us for the way we
already are. An added bonus is that we might also begin to realize
that we could choose to engage in some of those activities or
interests entirely on our own without feeling lonely.


In conclusion

Everyone feels lonely from time to time. Using some of the suggestions
above will most likely help cope better with those feelings. If you
find that you are having difficulty dealing with feelings of
loneliness on your own, you may want to seek out the help of a mental
health professional in your community. Students at the University of
Florida may use the services of the University Counseling Center or
other campus agencies.

Note: This document is based on an audiotape script developed by the
University of Texas, Austin. With their permission, it was revised and
edited into its current form by the staff of the University of Florida
Counseling Center.
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