We all have times in our lives when we are lonely. Feeling cut off from the support and companionship of others can be a huge source of stress. In my experience of helping people combat anxiety and depression, prolonged periods of loneliness not only contribute to poor mental health but can also have a marked effect on our physical well-being. How can counselling and psychotherapy help?
For me, loneliness is about unwanted time alone. It is not the same as solitude or being on our own through choice. We might even feel lonely when we are surrounded by other people, for instance if we feel like we don’t belong in a group or are different from others. Loneliness can often take us by surprise, perhaps if our circumstances change and we find ourselves separated from previously supportive friends and family. Generally, how alone in the world we might feel will be determined by both external and internal factors.
External Influences on Loneliness
There are a number of circumstances and stages in life that make loneliness more likely. These include:
- starting a new school, college or university
- moving to a new town, city or country
- changing jobs
- being left behind when existing friends move away
- difficulty finding like-minded people
- caring for small children
- separation and divorce
- adult children leaving home (empty nest)
- old age
Internal Influences on Loneliness
Internal influences on loneliness are more about how we feel about both ourselves and other people. These include:
- low self-esteem
- fear of humiliation and / or rejection
- loss of confidence following a knock-back
- difficulty connecting to or trusting others
- not feeling worthy of other people’s attention or care
- general social anxiety or depression
How Counselling and Psychotherapy Can Help
Counselling and psychotherapy can help us identify any old assumptions about who we are, what others are like and how other people might see us that might be getting in the way of us making new friends and going out into the world. Conversations with a skilled and trusted therapist can also shed light on how we might be self-sabotaging our own attempts to combat loneliness perhaps by misreading other people’s motives, talking ourselves out of taking risks or giving up too soon.
Meeting new people requires effort and persistence. It takes time to build a good friendship and it can only be done if we are prepared to put ourselves out there, bear the awkwardness of new experiences and run the risk of (or recover from) rejection. Counselling and psychotherapy can provide a safe and encouraging space to support us as we experiment with new ways of approaching the outside world.
If you live or work within reach of Brighton and Hove and my approach to psychotherapy and counselling interests you, please contact me via email or telephone 07585 910742 for more information and to arrange an initial consultation. Emailing in the first instance seems to work best.
Copyright Caroline Clarke, Counselling and Psychotherapy in Brighton and Hove, Sussex.
Image courtesy of Bwiselizzy at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Perhaps not the most relevant accompanying picture. But it is an oystercatcher on its own looking a little glum. And I like it!
‘Only The Lonely’ by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson (1960)