A recent coaching conversation I had with a client, who tragically lost her son roughly 4 months ago, sparked this very important topic. They have resisted their emotions every single day for the past 4 plus months. Feeling the full joy of life or the full pain of bereavement has not been permissible by them during this time of grief.
Sure, I could have coached them based on the grieving process, except I am not a big fan of having a model for every facet of life. We all think our own unique thoughts, have our own unique rules and beliefs, there aren’t 2 of the exact same human beings anywhere on this earth.
Now, I cannot say I know what it feels like to lose a child nor do I want to imagine such a horrific tragedy, what I can say is that I know what it feels like to exprience emotional detachment and numbness. I also know what it feels like to overcome it.
The story of how we become emotionally detached and numb is arbitrary, the reason remains the same.
What happens when you don’t give yourself permission to feel emotions fully?
When you do not give yourself permission to feel antagonistic emotions you wound up caught somewhere in the middle. Using pain and happiness as an example, you will not feel the full force of either emotion.
Based on the law of polarities, by not giving yourself permission to feel emotional pain to the fullest extent you have also taken away your permission to feel joy to the fullest extent. Without experiencing 100% of one emotion you have no reference to feeling 100% of its’ polar opposite emotion.
You cannot understand or feel any emotion completely without understanding or feeling its’ polar opposite.
You wouldn’t understand or feel:
Presence without absence
Happiness without sadness
Excitement without boredom
Contentment without frustration
Life without death
These are just a few examples, every feeling has an opposite.
In essence, by not giving yourself permission to feel fully you are detaching yourself from your emotions and drawing yourself toward emotional numbness.
Resisting and escaping only makes it worse
I think from a young age most of us are taught that we have good emotions and we have bad emotions. The truth is, that is just a belief. The only thing we know for sure is that we feel emotions, period. Whether they are good or bad is entirely subjective, and in my opinion, judging our emotions is detrimental to experiencing the full beauty that life has to offer.
By labelling certain emotions as good and certain ones as bad we naturally try to manipulate universal laws by doing everything we can to feel “good” and everything we can to avoid feeling “bad”. All of our emotions are innate and we have all been given the gift to experience every single one of them as we are meant to.
When you try to manipulate the universal law of emotions you will lose every single time.
This is why when you try to escape or avoid feeling a certain emotion it will keep following you until you fully experience that emotion to the fullest extent that you are meant to. Many people describe this as the black cloud that follows them everywhere.
What are you afraid of?
I used to be terrified of my emotions and I didn’t even know why. This made absolutely no sense to me because when I did allow myself to fully experience any emotion, my life had so much more meaning.
If you are resisting or escaping your emotions then fear is ultimately guiding you. A good portion of society these days sees strength as being able to plow forward while detaching and numbing yourself from certain emotions. I assure you, this is not strength, this is cowardly.
True strength is having the courage to be vulnerable and fully experience whatever life throws at you.
You are not afraid of the emotion itself, you are afraid of what you think will happen if you fully experience the emotion.
For most people, fully experiencing and showing pain is a sign of weakness in the eyes of others and yourself.
In the example of bereavement, fully experiencing and showing joy at any time may not be permissible due to societal conditioning saying that you “should” not feel joy while mourning. Or, maybe you don’t feel deserving to feel joy and therefore you reject permission to feel it. Or, maybe feeling joy means you are forgetting or disrespecting them in a way.
In the end, you have created a story as to what it means if you fully feel and express the rejected emotion. Reject the story you created about your emotions, not the emotion itself.
Once you see the story for what it is, which is a story that you made up and you can choose whether to believe your story or not, you can move on to what you need to do next.
The one thing you need to do – Give yourself permission
You are the only person holding you back from feeling any emotion. Regardless of the circumstance, you deserve your own love through allowing. Allowing yourself to feel the opposite of how you think you “should” or “shouldn’t” be feeling at any given time.
Let permission through love guide you, not rejection through fear. You have nothing to fear but your own story.
Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.
Everyone who feels alone has their own justification as to why they think that is. The good news is, regardless of your own justification, the solution is still the same.
What you will not learn here is the typical outside-in approach such as making friends or building relationships with others. Although that is important, it is not the foundation.
In the inside-out approach we will focus on you, and you only. However, I will admit, there’s one little surprise at the end that doesn’t involve you.
The perspective of a cancer caregiver, here’s my reason for feeling alone
When I first started dating Allie (my wife), she had already had chronic Leukemia for 9 years. I had very little experience in understanding someone with cancer up until then. I mean, my grandmother had a brief run-in with breast cancer, which she survived thankfully, but I was not part of the inner workings of what went on behind closed doors.
Once I started dating my wife there were no doors, they were blown off. I witnessed an entire roller coaster of emotions in a world that I had yet to understand. I had to lose my identity of who I thought I was in order to start becoming a new person, one that can understand this all-new world.
It was during this transition period of losing one identity and moving toward another, which at that point you could call the unknown, that I started getting very confused about who I was.
“Why do I feel so lonely?”
All I knew is that I was very uncomfortable, I was starting to view the world differently, and I felt like the only person who could understand me at that point was an older work colleague at the time who had lost two wives due to cancer. I am very grateful for this person to this day. Unfortunately, I would still feel lonely.
I would attempt to talk to my family and friends and walk away feeling completely and utterly alone. They were still living in the world I used to live in. Although I could understand the world their thoughts were coming from, having lived there most of my life, I felt they could not understand the new world I was living in, and I could not blame them as thankfully they had not had to endure what I had up to that point.
I was feeling alone and quite frankly I didn’t know how to be alone without feeling lonely. I felt like I didn’t really belong
That has all changed now though, and I will explain how you can get there too.
To this day I still feel most people don’t understand me or how I see the world, but I no longer feel alone
Are you asking yourself “why am I so lonely?”
Human beings are social creatures, we crave social contact with others. This is perfectly fine until you use this social contact as a form of self-acceptance, relying on others to accept you or understand you in order for you to accept yourself.
Without self-acceptance, you will feel like you don’t belong, you feel rejected by society.
What happens when you feel like you don’t belong? You start to feel very lonely.
When you don’t have a strong foundational relationship with yourself you will see others’ misunderstanding of you or lack of interest in you as rejection. When the truth is that if someone doesn’t understand you or is not interested in you, and THAT IS OK, it does not mean there is something wrong with you.
The relationships you have with others are only as strong the relationship you have with yourself
Here’s how to not feel so lonely
What I did, and what I suggest you start with is cultivating a loving and accepting relationship with yourself. Once you have this, you have the foundation to build loving and accepting relationships with others. Even if you don’t, you will always have a loving relationship with yourself, you will never feel lonely again.
It is having a loving relationship with yourself that will allow you to be alone without feeling alone
This a path you must go down with an open mind. I can tell you from personal experience, there is nothing more rewarding or exciting than truly getting to know yourself. Self-discovery is a fluid lifelong journey, you are always transforming. What you want one day you may not want the next, and that too is OK.
If this gets you wondering what you should do with your life then I suggest you start with the following post as you will come across questions that will initiate this process for you. What Should I Do With My Life?
Here’s what to do when you’re lonely
This may sound extremely simple but I urge you not to overestimate the power of its’ simplicity. Nothing in life HAS TO be complicated or complex.
What I suggest you do when you’re lonely is start spending quality time with yourself
Quality time does not consist of mindless activities such as watching t.v, surfing the web, returning texts or emails, or any other mindless distractions that take you away from being fully present with yourself at that moment.
So what do I mean by quality time?
I mean nourishing your soul and nurturing your relationship with yourself. This could be:
Something that reminds you of the infinite love that always resides within you.
Something that reminds you of the infinite joy that always resides within you.
Something that reminds you of the infinite peacefulness that always resides within you.
For example, some things I personally do to nourish my soul are meditation, read books on topics I’m passionate about, spend time with my dog, write, workout, and Yoga. I workout 3-4x/wk and the rest I do daily.
What are you currently doing to nourish your soul and nurture your relationship with yourself?
If you feel you are currently spending quality time with yourself yet you still feel alone then it would be a good idea to re-evaluate how you are spending your time with yourself.
Does what you’re doing when you spend time with yourself remind you of the infinite love, joy, and peace that reside within you?
Are you 100% present during the time you spend with yourself?
If you answered no to either one of these then it is time to make an adjustment.
How well do you know yourself?
Do you know what reminds YOU of the infinite love, joy, and peace that reside within you?
Who were you as a child?
If not, then think back to when you were a child. As a child, you were on a self-discovery mission daily. Your mind had yet to be contaminated by all the worldly influences surrounding you on a daily basis.
When you were a child, think of all the things you did with your alone time that you absolutely LOVED to do, things that brought you immense JOY, and things that made you feel at PEACE during your toughest childhood memories.
You are still the same person as you were then, the only difference is that now you feel separate from yourself like you’re a stranger to yourself, hence the loneliness you feel. Who wouldn’t feel alone living with a complete stranger that you feel doesn’t understand or know you? You are that stranger to yourself.
Self-discovery can be fun or frightening – it’s up to you
I can assure you from personal experience, a journey of self-discovery can be very fun and enlightening. The best part, you control which one it’s going to be depending on which thought you choose to believe.
Self-discovery is fun once you realize any frightening thoughts you may come across are just thoughts, they aren’t you
One last thing…Get a pet
My dog loves me unconditionally every single day, no matter what. He does not judge me, he always present, and he accepts me for who I am. We can all learn many things from our pets if we just observe their approach to life.
Additionally, a pet will bring you a sense of companionship while you work on developing a deep loving relationship with yourself.
Enjoy your journey of self-discovery and never feeling alone again!
I encourage anyone to share their experiences with loneliness in the comment section below, you will not be judged I can assure you that.
Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.