I sit here alone as I write this, this piece is another of my attempts to put my own individual creative stamp on the world. Whilst writing this I am being distracted from the ultimate loneliness of my existence. Yes I have a family, I have hundreds of friends in my face book friends list, I have work colleagues, neighbours, I also make a point of making my existence known to the people I encounter on a daily basis. An example of this is the rapport I have with the people that work in my local shop. I always make my friendly presence felt. This morally boosts my existence in the world when I am greeted with a friendly response when I encounter these people on a daily basis when I go to buy my odds and sods.
This part of me most likely exists because my ancestors were hunter-gatherers. You stood a better chance of survival if you stayed in a pack making you less easy to pick of by other hunter gatherers or say dinosaurs. To avoid being lonely is an, in built survival mechanism to elaborate this part of our selves further. Have you ever moved to a different district and notice you quite quickly start using local lingo? Or you start spending time with somebody new and you say something that sounds like them? This is your brain working hard to help you fit in so you don’t get looked at as an outsider, your brain wants you to fit in because it has primitive instincts to survive.
Do you sometimes feel lonely in a room full of people?
Then there is the loneliness we feel when we are in a room full of people and yet somehow you still feel alone. You notice everyone talking and there is something nagging you, it feels uncomfortable and could be easily mistaken as unpleasant.
Does any of this ring true to you? What if I said there is another side of loneliness that you may not have put much thought into. Culturally in Britain this is not something that’s shouted about and that is the ultimate mortality of our existence. Ultimately there is an ending of our life and it could well have and most likely will have a different end time to all the people I mentioned earlier ie friends family etc.
There are drives within us that are not spelt out because I believe many of us do not understand it and arguably perhaps no one will ever fully understand it. We get close to understanding it when we have a health scare or lose someone close to us. Another example of this feeling, is the indiscriminative choice a parent might make if they were to jump straight into a life and death situation to save their child. It would seem more of a loss to lose your child than your own life.
How does having an awareness of these inner drives help?
These drives are not changeable they are a permanent fixture within your existence but what we can do is work with them to understand why we react, respond or feel the way we do when we feel lonely in a room full of people, or why we feel the need to surround our self with people who are not necessarily good for us, or understand the complete shattering when we lose a loved one.
I think a way we can come to terms with some of these strong feelings associated with our existence is to find ground in tragedy where we can find a breakthrough rather than break down. (Yalom, 2003, p. 82) says “Human beings must face up to the ultimate meaninglessness of their existence ‘that there exists no “meaning”, no grand design in the universe, no guidelines for living other than those the individual creates.”
Are my reasons for living someone else’s?
People can get lost living their life to fulfil someone else’s meaning. Imagine a parent who for whatever reason does not fulfil their own dream of becoming a nurse, so when their child gets older they push forward the idea of them becoming a nurse. Have you ever seen the Black Swan? This is a film where a mother wants her daughter to become the Ballerina because she was unable to because of an injury. This is called a mortality project, when a parent attempts to fulfil their dreams through their children.
Imagine a society where we suggest to our daughters that they find themselves a rich spouse who will aid them to live happily ever after………..oh wait, doesn’t Disney do this anyway!
Where can I start looking for my own meaning?
We must find what will fulfil our individual meaning, and if that meaning is to live a life that’s not driven by meaning then so be it. I truly believe counselling can be a way to explore our own meaning. It can be a place to lay bare all the influences that have shaped your existence so far and also be a place to explore what your own meaning looks like without judgement. Therapy is a place to explore our loneliness in all its beauty, brutality and subtlety.
Carl Jung (famous psychotherapist) said “Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”
Counselling can offer to fill that void where one exists in a world where our nearest and dearest have such busy lives that this level of self-exploration may feel easier to laugh off or could even pain our nearest and dearest which is another reason why exploring the lonely part of our self in counselling is safe.
I too have explored what it is to be lonely in the world, have I fully grasped what it is for me? I would say I have come pretty close. Does that mean I am qualified to guide people there? Peoples meaning and loneliness are so far different that no two meanings are ever the same but what I can say I will take into the counselling room with me is a knowing of the bravery it takes, I know what it feels like to rattle the core of my existence and I will know that look in another if I saw it.