You’ve heard the phrases, “I’m feeling lonely” and “I feel so alone”. These feeling-states of loneliness and aloneness are similar, but they have different implications and should be distinguished.
Loneliness and aloneness can be simply characterized, respectively, as “the extended state of feeling lonely” and “the extended state of feeling alone“.
Feeling lonely essentially involves feeling disconnected. It means you’ve previously had access to people, but now you don’t.
Loneliness involves wanting to connect, and believing that you’re capable of connecting, and feeling down because current circumstances are preventing you from being with anyone.
Feeling alone is a “deeper” condition. It essentially involves feeling like you cannot connect with others, like you don’t even know where to begin. It’s a more pronounced and lasting feeling as opposed to a superficial feeling of temporary disconnect – it’s a feeling of seemingly permanent unconnectedness. That is, you feel almost entirely cutoff from others and feel largely incapable of connecting at all.
Aloneness means you feel like you cannot relate to others and that others cannot relate to you. Aloneness occurs because circumstances are preventing connection and because you feel like you’re significantly different from others in various ways.
Both loneliness and aloneness generally involve isolation. With loneliness, isolation usually feels more temporary but can still feel intense and painful. With aloneness, isolation usually feels more permanent and is often accompanied by deeper feelings of fear, disillusionment, or apathy.
When feeling lonely, you’re likely to feel as if you’re on the same path as others but that there’s currently no one in sight (because you’re moving at different paces). But when feeling alone, you’re likely to feel lost, as if you’re on a completely different path than everyone else.
The ultimate goal is preventing the feeling-state of aloneness. Loneliness can come and go, and the feeling is to be expected by just about everyone at various points in time. But the feeling of aloneness can stick and linger indefinitely, and it can have serious consequences.
The main key to preventing aloneness is to engage self-awareness regarding any arising feelings associated with loneliness. Typically, feelings of loneliness will occur far in advance of aloneness. When you start to notice significant, recurring feeling-states of loneliness, it should signal you to make an extra effort to connect.
Efforts to connect are not as strenuous as they may seem. There are many easy ways to increase connection, and it’s probably best to start with small steps. Here are some simple, practical actions that will almost certainly make you feel less lonely:
– Call someone (don’t just text!).
– Go out in public. Even if you’re not conversing with people, being around people will create a genuine sense of connection. Getting out of your home will get you out of your head. Actually attune yourself to the public environment. Make eye contact. Study people (but not creepily). Smile at people. Listen to people. Ask questions, and extend your small talk conversations with strangers, cashiers, etc.
– Substitute social media with face-to-face encounters. You’ve heard this plenty of times by now, but it is increasingly true. If you’re feeling lonely, ditch the social media. Literally delete the apps. Go be with someone – with anyone – at the next possible opportunity. (Note: it’s very likely there’s more opportunity to be with someone than you’re perceiving. People are more available than you think.)
Keep reminding yourself, and re-reminding yourself, that your loneliness is temporary. This is a certainty. Your circumstances will certainly change. It’s not a matter of whether or not you believe they’ll change. Loneliness will pass in time, and will pass sooner than you think if you have the intention to change and make just a few simple efforts to connect.
If loneliness escalates into the feeling-state of aloneness, first try to remember that you are not really alone. There are certainly many people out there who can relate to you. Secondly, try to shift from feeling alone to just feeling lonely. This may sound easier said than done, but it can be done rather simply by becoming conscious of the facts that all feelings are temporary, and all circumstances will change in time. Rest assured that any sense of permanent unconnectedness is a false sense.
Now, even if you can’t shift back into basic loneliness (or from loneliness back to connectedness), if you’ve just considered that you’re only feeling lonely, and that you’re not actually alone, then you’re at least on the right track of rational thinking. So good job. Stick with this. You’ll find that you can tap into your rational side pretty easily if you’re just aware of it. Remember that rationality is prosocial – it can really help you connect.
At this point, utilize your rational thinking to genuinely convince yourself that you’re not actually alone, you’re just feeling lonely. And feeling lonely is perfectly okay!
Now go ahead and reach out to someone.
Now is the easiest time in history to connect with others. You may think “I know this, and that’s why I feel so bad about feeling alone”. Never feel bad about feeling alone. That feeling occurs in life, more often than you’d think. And it’s not permanent. Understand the impermanence of feeling alone, embrace this impermanence, and allow yourself to connect. And in the meantime, keep reminding yourself that you’re not really alone, certainly not forever.
By the way, if you’re ever in a deep state of aloneness and feel like you don’t want to connect with people – like you’re just “over” people, like it’s not even worth it – don’t believe that feeling. Accept that feeling, but don’t buy into it. It’s a bogus feeling, for sure. Inside every conscious human being is a desire, a need, to connect. When you’re in a deep state of aloneness, the idea of connection can seem so foreign, so complicated, even to the point of seeming worthless and unnecessary. But that’s a total misconception. Connection, at that point of aloneness, simply seems so unattainable, so much so that you interpret it as having no purpose or value. But again, that’s just a misconception that can fairly easily be reversed with rational thinking and the right type of connection.
If you’re reading this far, take it as a sign that you are in fact a rational person and that you have the ability to connect. You’ve connected to this blog, and other people read this blog – and a person wrote this blog – so surely you can connect to people, and in a way you’re already connected.
I’m not going to post links of numbers to call if you’re looking for connection, because I believe if you’re reading this you’re definitely capable enough to google helplines if you really need to. And you’re also capable enough to open your phone app and press CALL – call ANYONE. There are many great resources available to you – there are genuine people out there who are super-willing to connect with you…
I am one of them. If you’re honestly stuck in a state of deep aloneness, feel free to comment or message me and I will do my best to connect with you.
For those of you who are feeling lonely, or are simply prone to loneliness or aloneness, re-read this post for more clarity. Getting clear about these feeling-states involves identifying and defining concepts, activating awareness, and understanding their elements. Hopefully this post effectively serves to help you in this process of getting clear. And hopefully now you know you’re not actually alone, and that loneliness is temporary, and that there are always – always – people out there who are willing and able to connect with you.