Loneliness

“The truth is you already know what it’s like. You already know the difference between the size and speed of everything that flashes through you and the tiny inadequate bit of it all you can ever let anyone know. As though inside you is this enormous room full of what seems like everything in the whole universe at one time or another and yet the only parts that get out have to somehow squeeze out through one of those tiny keyholes you see under the knob in older doors. As if we are all trying to see each other through these tiny keyholes.”

― David Foster WallaceOblivion

A while ago I felt really lonely, or perhaps more accurately I feared the loneliness sure to exist in the future. I thought long and hard about how to defend from it, and a couple of things struck me:

It is unavoidable, we are all alone inside ourselves.Loneliness

If you experience this sort of loneliness, it is not because you have failed, it is because you are human.

If you are self aware and made of the deep then I think you are likely to feel this more acutely. Firstly, because you feel things in an intense way. Secondly, if the things which are essential to you are left locked away it leaves you feeling deeply unconnected: feeling somehow wrong, somehow failing. Jung said that:

“Loneliness does not come from having no people around, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”

Loneliness gnaws at the inside and is an unavoidable.

And yet …

…there can be rich, beautiful moments where time melts away and you feel deeply connected to another person. It’s the best thing I know of. It’s why I do the work I do. This deep connection; the sweet pain and beauty of it is all about being vulnerable. To be with someone, to feel really alive you have to risk being totally alone. To experience joy, you have to risk some pain, some sadness. You can’t have just one side of the coin: nothing is so thin that it only has one side; especially not something as expansive as life.

For me, the amazing part of feeling deeply, even the bad stuff, is that the pain of an experience seems to scour out a space inside of me to feel it ALL more. The positive of this is that in times of encounter I can feel the beauty of connection so deeply it leaves me breathless, acutely aware of being really alive and so incredibly grateful to be in this moment, with this person.

If this really connects with you then I urge you to get in contact with me. Counselling can be an amazing and safe place to take those risks for the very first time, when you feel ready.

Should I feel differently?

Sometimes we can all feel we shouldn’t feel the way we do. You might feel deeply sad, angry or terrified but feel as though you these feeling are not allowed or not right.  It might take various forms:

  • You might be aware that from the outside it seems as though everything is fine, you have a nice home, a good job etc. nothing is ‘wrong’, but really it feels as though everything is wrong.
  • You might think that you have no right to feel the way you do, as other people have suffered far worse. They are the ones who have the right to feel depressed or anxious – not you.
  • You might feel that you are wallowing or indulging in self pity, that again you have no right to feel negative. Other people seem to manage, you might think; and a scary thought might emerge that perhaps you are broken or no good and that’s why you feel the way you do.

Thinking you are broken or bad for feeling as you do can be painful. It adds more suffering and can lead to an experience of amassing misery on misery, compounding feelings of worthlessness.

I believe the very act of being alive involves for every single one of us, terror, anguish, pain. There are no exceptions. I don’t say this to bear bad news, but to say, you are not wrong or bad for feeling the way you do, simply human. What you feel is as real as you are – there is a depth and a complexity to all that you feel.

Lots of people are frightened that accepting the existence of pain in life will cloud everything else out and all that is left will be pain. We can all fear that the act of ‘giving into’ the feeling will annihilate us. For me when I am able to accept how I really feel I have felt freer amongst the pain and have somehow been more able to feel  my joy and happiness too.

Everything is fleeting, and the eventual aim of accepting how you really feel can create space in yourself to feel more than your sadness, anxiety or anger. You are not wrong or bad, but you feel deeply, and there is beauty in that.

Accceptance is fierce

What does the word acceptance mean to you? Does it call to mind someone who is really chilled, saying something like ‘hey man, you just got to accept it’ ? It did for me: acceptance seemed kind of wishy-washy.

When Person-Centred Counsellors talk of acceptance, they mean something far deeper and stronger; acceptance can forcefully help you to realise it’s ok to be you, just as you are. Actually as you are, not you if you were a bit calmer, a bit nicer: right now. It means coming to terms too with what you are feeling whether it’s rage, hate or happiness. Therapist’s talk of sitting with a feeling, and that’s what acceptance can feel like for some, for me I almost inhabit that feeling, get right to the heart of it, surround myself with it.

Acceptance can be painful too, accepting that you feel a deep sorrow or any difficult feeling is hard. We all tend to run away from these feelings rather than accept them, and no wonder as they can hurt. But what really is the alternative? Running will mean these feelings remain, perhaps locked away, but they don’t go: the strange thing with unacknowledged feelings is they tend to grow, like they are fighting to be seen and heard.

For me, whenever I have accepted a new part of myself, even a part I’m not so keen on, I have opened myself up to be a whole person, lived a little more honestly and been able to connect with other people a little bit better. Counselling is often a process to help you to express those things you don’t feel you should feel, and hearing acceptance from another can be a catalyst to accept yourself, a little bit more.

Does Counselling work?

In my first session with clients a question that comes up is: will this work for me? This probably comes from a completely understandable anxiety to get the right help and not waste time or money. The answer, however, is not a simple one, because it depends…

It depends if the person is ‘in the right place’ for counselling and, of course, if the Counsellor is any good. This answer can sound pretty unhelpful, but in reality it’s true; and at the same time my client’s have spoken of burdens being lifted and massive personal changes taking place. Personally I know it works if people are in the right place, and I know it worked for me.

I also know it to be true that if I can:

  • develop a relationship with my client so they feel able to share all those thoughts and feelings they ‘shouldn’t‘ have, and
  • share with them that I understand what it might be like to feel that way and be alongside them when times are really overwhelming and painful

then something sort of magical happens…

  • clients feel a massive relief that they are not ‘crazy’ or ‘bad’ but completely understandable.
  • The feelings they were trying to hide from are now being acknowledged, and this then allows something to shift**.
  • Once this new feeling is brought out into the open they can see it truly for the first time and can begin to accept and understand it. Like everything in life, if you keep pushing something it will push back, but now because we are no longer fighting against it, it can morph and change, and stop overwhelming us.

This change and acceptance is difficult and can be painful, and it is the only way I have ever experienced how to change things for good.

There is scientific evidence about how effective counselling can be, but as always this is about people in general, not you, not the client sat in front of me. So yes, it is a risk, and with the right Counsellor, at the right time, perhaps one of the best risk you’ll ever take.

*  I use the word acceptance, but I don’t mean it in an airy fairy way, it could be accepting the anger or rage which is beneath the surface or a deep sadness which follows you around.

** This is also called the paradox of change