Only the Lonely
“Sometimes I feel so lonely, it’s palpable.”Â My client, a beautiful young woman with an infectious laugh, interests she’s passionate about, and a circle of friends and family that care for her, doesn’t look like a “lonely” person. And yet loneliness – whether it’s the situational loneliness that comes from too few or too far connections, or an existential loneliness born of awareness of our ultimate and fundamental aloneness in the world – is an experience almost all of us have known, regardless of our circumstances.
For some of us, the root of that loneliness is not a lack of appreciation of all we have, but an acute longing for what we feel is missing – an intimate partner, someone to share our triumphs and our tragedies, someone by whom we feel truly known and valued.
While that yearning for connection is universal, few of us enter adulthood without also having experienced the dark side of moving towards another; feeling rejected, being abandoned, discovering that the person you’ve revealed yourself to is not who you thought they were. Relational theory holds that there is always a trade-off between connection and protection; the more we have of one, the less we get of the other.Â What I often see with the people I work with is that they’re stuck at the intersection between those two needs – yearning for more connection and attachment, but also terrifyingly aware of the vulnerability that entails.
While taking a leap towards connection is an act of faith (and courage), you might decide it beats the alternative.Â As Tennessee Williams wrote:Â “When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone”.
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