In many languages, you can distinguish 2 different states: being alone and being lonely. Moustakas (1972) defined being alone as merely an objective reality of being without other individuals. It can refer to the physical fact of being alone or the psychological. One can be in a room with others and feel lonely. On the other hand, one can be completely alone and not feel lonely at all. Being alone helps us to be connected with our inner world, process different experiences, and reflect on life. It also facilitates the differentiation between our thoughts and the ones that come from someone else.
Existential loneliness is a fundamental aspect of being human which separates us from others. We can never know exactly how the other person feels and therefore can’t share our personal experiences. Being afraid of loneliness is something very human and it requires courage and boldness to face oneself and it can be a very enriching experience to discover new dimensions inside and outside.
When a person can´t manage to connect with him- or herself on a deeper level, the solitude can become loneliness. It may bring up the feeling of separateness from one’s inner self, but also from others. Despite difficult emotions that emerge with loneliness it can also be an opportunity to find a new connection with oneself and others.
Loneliness can be related to the feeling of alienation caused by modern society and also abandoning oneself. If there is a gap between who the person is and what he or she pretends to be then meaningful relationships with oneself, the environment, and others may disappear. If the significant connection disappears the person may start feeling inferior, incompetent, or unlovable. It can lead to a closed circle that is difficult to break. There is also psychiatric loneliness that can be caused by rejection or abandonment in childhood.
People may feel lonely because something is missing in their life. It’s more than the lack of an intimate relationship. We can also miss someone or a relationship that we once had in our lives, but which is not there anymore. The feeling of loneliness may be caused by a divorce, death, or a rupture of some sort.
Sometimes people experience a barrier while relating to others. This barrier could be described as a person longing to relate with another, yet they felt blocked or hindered. This type of loneliness is much more psychological and personal as opposed to something outer.
The person may feel that he or she doesn’t fit in and it can lead to further alienation and isolation.
People can also feel vulnerable because they are afraid of the judgment and critical attitude of others. They feel that opening up is a risk and it prevents them from asking for help or support. The lack of support at the same time makes them feel even more fragile and defenseless.
Try to think if you have experienced any significant life changes recently and if they may be related to the feelings of loneliness.
Identify who your friends are and evaluate if your current relationships nurture and satisfy you. If you notice there aren’t enough close people then pay attention to the way you relate to others. If you see that you would like to meet new people then try to find ways to do it.
If you feel insecure while talking to others then find ways to work on your self-esteem, focus on your emotional needs and take care of yourself. Pay attention to your communication skills and try to identify if you could develop any of them.
Loneliness may have many different causes that may also be intertwined. Sometimes psychotherapy can help to find out what the underlying reasons for loneliness are and identify the possible changes that could be made.