Battling Loneliness- The Fight for Intimacy Part II

2 12 2010

Continued from Tuesday read more of my thoughts on fighting loneliness-

Especially for singles during this holiday season, feeling loneliness and shame are common and avoidable.  I would suggest a couple of simple things that I have found helpful in my own life and that were suggested to me by Rich Blue of the Center for Christian Life Enrichment:

First- change what you beleive about yourself and the world.  Believe that you are a person worth being in relationship with, that you have a lot to offer and that you are capable of creating the type of fun and connection you are hungry for.  It sounds simple and is yet often overlooked.  If you have the vision for and the definition of what you want it is much easier to actually get that.

Second- Do one thing each day to connect in a way you would not normally do.  Maybe it is calling a friend you have lost touch with, sending out a card, or writing a meaningful email.  It could be as simple as talking to the doorman in your building or the receptionist at your office, striking up a conversation on the bus, or simply looking people in the eye as you walk by them on the street.  The important thing is to be pro-active and assume that other people will be happy to hear from you.

Waiting for others to connect with you can be painful, and is normally a setup that perpetuates feeling stuck, in shame, and alone.

Doing these little things with the mindset that you are valuable and worth knowing will go a long way to filling your intimacy tank- they have and still do for me!  Creating intimacy does not have to be a fight; it can be a manageable, measurable, step-by-step process of getting what you want out of life.  Taking these daily steps does require an increasing level of consciousness as well as the willingness to engage with vulnerability and truth.  The payoff though is living an abundant life full of depth, intimacy, and meaning!


Battling Loneliness- The Fight for Intimacy Part I

30 11 2010

How do you fight loneliness? My best friend and I were talking about it the other day. People don’t realize how much time you spend alone; especially if you’re single and/or live by yourself.


The above question came from a good friend of mine and in the spirit of the site, AskMerce, I’ll take a crack at it.

Erik Erikson was right when he mapped out the stages of human development.  He labeled the twenties and early thirties as the time where people struggle the most finding love, oscillating between intimacy and isolation.  The successful completion of this stage is built upon the previous stage of identity formation and successfully finding a strong enough sense of self such that you are able to be in a relationship and still be an individual.

Emotional pain and anxiety triggered by feeling isolated and lonely are common to people during this time.  I know personally that I have spent most of my young adult life attempting to avoid or solve the problem of feeling lonely without ever really addressing the feeling head on.  Oftentimes I feel trapped and scared, stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Do I put myself out there and risk rejection in dating, with friends, and by meeting new people?  Or do I remain at home and continue to live a small and isolated life, not really investing in many people and not allowing them to invest in me?

I complain that I want to feel more connected and have more friends, a bigger social network, and to also find that special someone, yet I don’t live my life that way.  I am oftentimes too scared and sometimes overwhelmed to be the type of person I envision myself to be.  I see my best self as engaged, energetic, lively and attractive. When I am living in that space and get the connection and intimacy I am looking for, I set myself up to feel the love that I want to feel in my life.  Sometimes though, that’s the problem, I get what I want.

I don’t always believe I deserve to get what I want.  I act in ways that devalue my hungers so that it doesn’t seem to matter quite as much if I am getting them met.  In reality though, I’m messing with myself. Instead of living through and experiencing that hurt, I am avoiding the pain that not getting what I want stirs.  I end up living unsatisfied and ok with that because it has become strangely comfortable and familiar to be that way.

It hurts knowing I am capable of creating intimate relationships and knowing that I choose not to out of fear, scarcity and hostility.  I get in my own way and blame others for what I have created.  What I am learning though is that not only is this a natural process that people go through, going through it with an increased level of consciousness is helping me to find more satisfaction in my personal life.  I am allowing myself more grace and compassion- I am not as hard on myself as I once was.  I am beginning to see that in order to be more fully intimate with another person, I need to be more fully intimate with myself.  Through self-discovery and knowing more of what makes me tick, I have more of myself to consciously and authentically offer in relationship with another person.  Almost paradoxically, spending time doing my own personal work empowers me to be more fully present with another person, and taking the learns I get from my own growth work back to my personal relationships enriches and nourishes the bond between the two of us.

Check back on Thursday to hear some more thoughts on specific step you can take to avoid loneliness and maintain a deeper sense of connection and intimacy, especially during the holiday season!

Surprised by Sadness

16 11 2010

Taylor Hall- Where the Magic Happens

Last weekend I was a staff facilitator at our annual CLE Fall Retreat where our Northshore practice makes the trip up to the Dekoven Center in Racine, Wisconsin for a time of personal growth in a safe, secluded, and sacred space.  Spanning the first weekend in November I learned and grew in ways I could never have imagined and was able to share that surrounded by a community of support.

After dinner on Saturday as I sat in the leaders meeting, wave after wave of sadness came over me and before I knew it I was sobbing in front of a room full of people I admire and respect.  Though I tried to close the floodgates by taking shallow breaths and looking down, I knew that there was no stopping whatever it was that was coming up.  Initially all I could feel was a tearful rage and had no idea what else was lurking just beneath the surface.  I was tense, angry, scared- but mostly in the moment I had the urge to kill.  I sat there in my chair, fist clenched, mind racing, heart pounding, and eyes swelling.  I wanted for the whole room to stop, for the whole world to stop, and for all of it to just go away.  I knew that that wasn’t going to happen, I knew that whatever was coming up I needed to experience.  I grabbed onto my supervisor’s hand for comfort, support, and safety.  As I did so, my feelings switched from rage to pain and once I put my armor down, each word that was being said was cutting through me like a knife.

As we processed, I was no longer in the leader’s meeting, I was back at the dinner table in my family.  Feeling lost, alone, scared, and wounded I would mentally retreat.  Each night at dinner I was braced for a fight yet could never have told you that at the time.  It all felt normal to me, just the way things were.  We said we were a nice family, and our words would have matched it too, but our actions did not.  There was a game going on underneath the surface, one of superiority, competition, aggression, and shame.  Words were words yet the tone behind them was condescending and mean.  This game didn’t feel nice.  And not having a better way to take care of myself and the upset I would feel- I would bury my head in my plate, rarely come up for air, and eat way more than any little kid should.  I could feel but not directly express the dichotomy at the table.  I was a chubby little kid who used food and extra weight to stay insulated and isolated from his family.  I learned to deal with sadness and pain by eating; my strategy was to avoid inserting myself in the conversation and risk being hurt by always having my mouth full of food

In handling an upsetting situation at the retreat, the leader, Rich Blue, took the very protective stance around my colleague Kathleen and I that I wanted to feel in my family.  I recognized in that moment my profound hunger to feel safe, to truly feel that I would be okay no matter what else was happening around me.  I had never been so in touch with this hunger than I was that night.  It was painful the ways in which it wasn’t met, and so liberating to see that that is available to me even now.  I recognized that what I longed for growing up was for someone to just pull me aside and let me in on the game my family was playing, some sort of warning to let me know what to expect.  I lived in the fantasy of what dinners and family time could be like instead of stepping into the reality of what they actually were like.  Now that I am learning how to more accurately describe my pain and experience of that pain I am more willing to live in the reality of what life is actually like and am willing to use that upset as motivation to change instead of justification to stay stuck.  Though at times it takes me great prodding to get moving and grow, this experience of feeling pain, expressing it, and living to tell the story afterwards has been one more notch in my belt of personal growth and self-discovery.

I hope to have many more notches!