Loneliness and anxiety are two of the biggest issues in today’s world. Every day there are more and more people who feel alone. They don’t want to, but they don’t know what to do about it. They see it as a problem, but they don’t know how to solve it or live with it without it causing them harm.
A lot of times it begins with a vague fear of loneliness. It isn’t being alone in and of itself that causes fear, but a feeling like abandonment, a sort of undefined anxiety. If the fear grows to a certain point, it turns into what we call “existential anxiety.” Existential anxiety is constantly feeling threatened or empty.
Loneliness and anxiety frequently lead to insomnia. When you can’t sleep, you end up turning nebulous, unsettling thoughts over and over in your mind. You also feel somewhat inhibited in front of others. You’re tense when interacting with people. And if the relationship gets closer, you quickly turn into a demanding and dependent person. But back to anxiety…
What is behind this fear of solitude?
Sometimes this fear of solitude and loneliness isn’t obvious. For example, when a person packs their schedules so that they don’t spend any time alone. What they are really avoiding is time when they might be by themselves. They are running away from themselves. What is hiding behind this fear of being without another person’s company?
Sometimes there is unresolved conflict from childhood. When we’re very young, we’re very vulnerable. Any kind of rejection or abandonment leaves a deep mark. They’re open wounds that don’t heal because we haven’t taken proper care of them. Maybe someone we loved wasn’t there for us. And then a shapeless fear moved into that empty space. When we’re alone we may be forced to face those painful feelings.
What could also be happening is that the fear isn’t directed at loneliness exactly, but at some aspect of ourselves. Maybe there is something about ourselves that we don’t want to see or acknowledge. That’s why we avoid the contact with our inner selves that can only happen in solitude.
Another possibility is that we have formed a negative opinion of what it means to be alone. Maybe we’ve never really experienced it and we avoid it because we don’t understand how good it can be. Solitude is also uncomfortable when we think of ourselves as incapable of dealing with life. We always need someone else around to lean on.
How can we escape from the chains of loneliness and anxiety?
We can treat and reduce the anxiety that comes from our fear of being alone. Sometimes all we need to do is take a look at the situation and make some lifestyle adjustments. Other times we’ll require professional help. In either case, here are some healthy steps we can take:
- Take a look at your habits. Things like depending too much on your cell phone or computer can isolate you. Isolation, in turn, causes anxiety. It’s not the end of the world if you disconnect for a few hours. In fact, it is very good for you.
- Don’t idealize the company of others. Maybe you assume without realizing it that being with others will completely change your mood. Observe yourself and see if that is actually true.
- Reflect on the positive aspects of solitude. Take a minute to think about the rewards of solitude. What could you do alone that you find interesting, entertaining, or pleasant?
- Strengthen your friendships. You will see that if you work on having close friendships, you won’t be so afraid to be alone. Intimate relationships protect us emotionally.
- Being alone doesn’t mean being stuck in the house. Go to the movies or a show by yourself. You don’t have to stay in just because you are alone.
One of the worst things about loneliness and anxiety is that they can lead to shallow relationships. We need people just to make ourselves feel better. We aren’t trying to cultivate authentic relationships. In order to share your life with others in a healthy way, you have to learn how to be alone.
Think about the fact that fear of solitude is, in some ways, fear of living. After all, the only person who’s always with you in life is you.