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Thread: Loneliness--how do you deal with it?

  1. #1
    Registered User Tyrion Cheddar's Avatar
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    Loneliness--how do you deal with it?

    I am a loner, as well as intensely lonely, at least some of the time. I have led a solitary existence, and then some, owing to my nature, but anyone needs some company, some socialization, and some intimacy.

    Dealing with other people, generally, has always been extremely difficult for me, and isolation has proved both prudent and necessary. It suits me, anyway, as I say, but when you know you have great trouble being around people, and managing relationships with them, and you feels those pangs of loneliness, how do you reach out to others in hopes of forming new bonds, how do you find the right people for it, and how do you prevent the repeat of past mishap in interactions with other people?

    I was hoping that with this thread, those in a similar situation to mine could share their experiences and possible coping strategies they've come up with. Call it a support group for brighter than average people of fairly high education who tend to be loners. How's that for a name that just rolls off your tongue.
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    Registered User Darcy88's Avatar
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    I'm a loner too. And I've resigned myself to being a loner. I seem to often prefer the characters in books to actual people. I love actual people, almost to a fault, but I seem to lack social skills, am much similar to persons with aspergers even though I have not been diagnosed with that particular affliction.

    The best way to get used to being around people is to actually be around them. Start spending time in cafes. Go for walks. Eventually their presence will no longer feel like a foreign missile and you will have been cured by what they now term "socialization."

    Even if you're silent in those cafes for a while and you never say "hello" to anybody on those walks, the time will come when you do talk to others in those cafes and you do say "hello" to people while on those walks.

    There are other places and activities in which you can implement this method of socialization but what I just described is the simplest.
    “To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    This is a subject that has received some attention in the UK media recently and appears to be more widespread than is normally accepted.
    I think one has to make the distinction of lonely and the desire to be alone when describing 'loners'.
    Making friends and acquaintances is one way we try too make sense of the world when we are young and we feel lonely if we are unable to do so, but with the onset of age and experience we often find other people's presence unwelcome or even irksome.
    Some may become alienated in childhood through a bad experience with other children that forces them to keep people at bay throughout adulthood.
    Personally, although I had the usual group of friends from schooldays on, there was always a side to me that was intensely private so that while 'taking part' there was another me looking in from the outside and drawing an individual as opposed to a group opinion: to that extent I was also a 'loner'.
    It's an interesting fact that massively increased communication through new technology has caused many people to become isolated from each other as they sit before their computers or speak via a mobile phone or some other gadget. They may not feel lonely on a high tech level but on a human level they are very much alone.
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

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    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    I don't usually think of myself as being lonely. I do have a family to keep myself busy. However, it occurred to me last weekend in the theater with my wife that there was really no need to silence my phone. No one was going to call. Not that I wanted anyone to call. I silenced it anyway.

    People are a source of manipulation especially through blame and shame and deception. Being alone is a way to protect oneself. Being humorous is another way to put up a barrier to others, but that takes social skills most people don't have. Outright indifference to what others do or say may be another and is easier to practice, but it leads to loneliness since it leads to not engaging with others.

    Keeping busy by serving others may be the best way to protect oneself. In Hesse's "The Journey to the East" Leo mentions "the law of service". I mention Hesse because I know you admire this author, Tyrion Cheddar.

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    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    I suppose I am a loner too, insofar as I enjoy my own company. I dislike labels, but I do remember reading an article about personality types and realising that I have a lot in common with the 'introvert' type. The main issue, for me at least, is that I'm incapable of relaxing in company with others - being with other people, even people I love, drains my batteries. Spending time with friends is good fun, but I usually permit myself a sigh of relief when they go home. I really do need quiet time, when I'm on my own, to rest.

    I don't do small-talk very well, though I can be gregarious in company - I'm capable of forcing myself to be social, though at some cost. So I wouldn't say I feel lonely (or, at least, not often), and to some extent I enjoy my alone time.

    That said, now that I've left university there is a part of me that worries that I won't be able to find friends with similar ideas of what constitutes enjoyable matter for discussion - an evening discussing literature, politics or philosophy is excellent, but an evening discussing the football is my idea of hell.
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

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    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    Who said; "Hell is other people?"

    I strongly feel the attraction of being on my own, for all the reasons Lokasenna mentioned. In my work (Farmer) I don't need to actually meet anybody for months apart. I don't think I would bother to go out and seek company ever. If I hadn't somehow got married and had kids I would be a wild, hairy recluse living a much narrower life - but not unhappy in my ignorance of anything else.
    Last edited by prendrelemick; 11-18-2015 at 07:13 AM.
    ay up

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    somewhere else Helga's Avatar
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    I agree with both prendrelmick and Lokasenna in many ways. I love being alone and if I didn't have a kid I would probably spend most of my days in solitude. As much as I love my son, I always look forward to the weekends he spends with his dad and I can be alone for 3 days. I sometimes don't talk to anyone from Friday to Monday.

    I do like my alone time, and in many ways I need it, I would go crazy if I had to converse with people all day long. It can of course be lonely at times too but the perks are more to being a bit of loner than the faults. I have even thought about the fact that even though I may someday meet someone, a partner of sorts, I am not sure I would like to live with another person (other than my son of course).

    Now that being said I am working on my social anxieties, for that has been a bit of an issue with me since I was a kid cause I do want the option of being open to meeting people, but on my terms. I have made progress and I can only say I owe that to my therapist, so as a solution to the loner, lonely issue in my book it's getting help from a therapist.

    as I am writing this my brother called, I had planned to have lunch in the university cafeteria with him, and he asked if I wanted to come and meet him and a few other people for a break, I immediately said no cause of the group. I can't handle that. So what do I know.
    I hope death is joyful, and I hope I'll never return -Frida Khalo

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    I have nothing against being alone, but I like people. Like lokasenna, I don't like (or make) small talk. Nonetheless, any subject-- even football -- can be interesting if the people discussing it have good taste in conversation. "Small talk" is boring because it involves merely recapping the dull events of the day, or of the week. But gossiping about friends, neighbors and acquaintances is endlessly fascinating. What, after all, is more interesting than people?

    The reason that football (and other forms of small talk) is dull is not intrinsic to the subject. Instead, it is due to the fact that some people who don't know how to make interesting conversation seek subjects of common interest (like football or events of the day). They seem to think that this is sufficient for social intercourse, and, to some extent, they are right. I don't enjoy hearing about how a friend just went to the dentist (I hope I never talk about that), but showing at least a minimal interest in the everyday details of friends' lives oils the wheels of friendship.

    Of course any topic is more interesting if one is sufficiently knowledgeable to be an active participant. Listening to experts discuss a book one hasn't read palls, after a while. But good conversationalists are sufficiently adept to involve others -- even when talking about things the others know little about. Let's face it: we all like to discuss literature here -- but not every post or thread is fascinating. That depends (in large part) on the skill, taste, and talent of the poster.

  9. #9
    Registered User Tyrion Cheddar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darcy88 View Post
    I'm a loner too. And I've resigned myself to being a loner. I seem to often prefer the characters in books to actual people. I love actual people, almost to a fault, but I seem to lack social skills, am much similar to persons with aspergers even though I have not been diagnosed with that particular affliction.
    Thanks, Darcy, and to all of you who've responded. One day I checked and there were no replies, next day lots. I'd like to respond to each one individually, if I may.

    Like you, Darcy, I am more at ease with the characters in books, or in paintings, or even in anime, occasionally, and relate to them more naturally than to most living persons. In addition, I'm aware that with fictional characters, there is a comfortable absence of both social anxiety and what one might called "bewilderment"--my lifelong inability to comprehend the thoughts and behavior of the people around me. This is part of what makes me more comfortable with my own thoughts, or those of select persons through media like this, or in fiction.
    Obsessed with facial symmetry.

  10. #10
    Registered User Tyrion Cheddar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emil Miller View Post
    This is a subject that has received some attention in the UK media recently and appears to be more widespread than is normally accepted.
    I think one has to make the distinction of lonely and the desire to be alone when describing 'loners'.
    Making friends and acquaintances is one way we try too make sense of the world when we are young and we feel lonely if we are unable to do so, but with the onset of age and experience we often find other people's presence unwelcome or even irksome.
    Some may become alienated in childhood through a bad experience with other children that forces them to keep people at bay throughout adulthood.
    Personally, although I had the usual group of friends from schooldays on, there was always a side to me that was intensely private so that while 'taking part' there was another me looking in from the outside and drawing an individual as opposed to a group opinion: to that extent I was also a 'loner'.
    It's an interesting fact that massively increased communication through new technology has caused many people to become isolated from each other as they sit before their computers or speak via a mobile phone or some other gadget. They may not feel lonely on a high tech level but on a human level they are very much alone.
    Boy, Emil, you hit on some important points here. First, in starting this thread, I wanted to make precisely the distinction you begin with, between being alone and being a loner, not just because the two are not the same, but in an effort to validate being a loner. This latter point stems from my increasing realization of late that that is just my nature, rather than my lifelong isolation being mainly down to imagined failings on my part. Indeed, this relates directly to your other point, Emil, about the urgency during youth of the social need, which abates with time and leaves one increasingly at peace on one's own--and often disturbed by the presence of others. Thus my now accepting quite comfortably my loner nature. Like you, too, during school days I was always alone within even during group activities. That remains true.

    And now, in honor of this celebration of the loner, I give you this favorite old song of the same name by Bruce Cockburn, a beloved Canadian singer-songwriter who's influenced me deeply since my youth, and I think another true loner.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alT19_AzXFU
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  11. #11
    Registered User Tyrion Cheddar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    I don't usually think of myself as being lonely. I do have a family to keep myself busy. However, it occurred to me last weekend in the theater with my wife that there was really no need to silence my phone. No one was going to call. Not that I wanted anyone to call. I silenced it anyway.

    People are a source of manipulation especially through blame and shame and deception. Being alone is a way to protect oneself. Being humorous is another way to put up a barrier to others, but that takes social skills most people don't have. Outright indifference to what others do or say may be another and is easier to practice, but it leads to loneliness since it leads to not engaging with others.

    Keeping busy by serving others may be the best way to protect oneself. In Hesse's "The Journey to the East" Leo mentions "the law of service". I mention Hesse because I know you admire this author, Tyrion Cheddar.
    Thank you, YesNo. Yes, "The Journey to the East" is on my list. ;-) Funny, your second paragraph immediately put me in mind of Sir Anthony Hopkins. He is a famous loner, and bipolar sufferer and has, I think, other problems. I saw him interviewed about this once and he said "people are deceitful" in a certain way, one which indicated both his being extremely jaded regarding others, probably deeply wounded from past experience, and leery of getting too close to them.
    Obsessed with facial symmetry.

  12. #12
    Registered User Tyrion Cheddar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lokasenna View Post
    I suppose I am a loner too, insofar as I enjoy my own company. I dislike labels, but I do remember reading an article about personality types and realising that I have a lot in common with the 'introvert' type. The main issue, for me at least, is that I'm incapable of relaxing in company with others - being with other people, even people I love, drains my batteries. Spending time with friends is good fun, but I usually permit myself a sigh of relief when they go home. I really do need quiet time, when I'm on my own, to rest.

    I don't do small-talk very well, though I can be gregarious in company - I'm capable of forcing myself to be social, though at some cost. So I wouldn't say I feel lonely (or, at least, not often), and to some extent I enjoy my alone time.

    That said, now that I've left university there is a part of me that worries that I won't be able to find friends with similar ideas of what constitutes enjoyable matter for discussion - an evening discussing literature, politics or philosophy is excellent, but an evening discussing the football is my idea of hell.
    Another great response. Thank you, Lok. Introvert, yes. Funny, it strikes me that's a word we used to hear a lot more than we do nowadays, I actually don't think I've heard it in a while. I suppose now it's all diagnostic terms, not that these are inaccurate, just that I like the poetic, too. But certainly being one whose gaze is turned inwards on a permanent basis, and deeply so, is hardly unrelated to being a loner.

    Like you, Lok, spending time with others drains me terribly and always has. This includes family. Indeed, when they leave, or I do, I breathe that great sigh of relief. Also, do you know what I was thinking about today, something I've noticed a lot lately? Smell. Yep, there it it. When you spend essentially all your time alone, especially if you're a fresh air fiend like me who always has the windows open, as soon as you're in an enclosed setting with a group you start to pick up on both the odors (not necessarily foul ones, just the natural odors of the body) and the body heat of others. When this happens I become uncomfortable and just want to get out of there. Funny how the body-mind becomes acclimated to the "purity" of the air in the absence of others.

    Likewise, I have never been able to do small talk. I read in a Michio Kaku books that Sir Isaac Newton was literally incapable of it. I'll take that as a compliment. ;-) Finally, as one who left college a long time ago, where I had the luxury of the conversation of those who, I would slowly come to discover in later years, were well above the norm in both intelligence and learning, and who shared much of my general disposition and artistic and intellectual interests, I fear your final concern may come all too true. I have tried so hard, especially reaching out online to find peers, with very little luck. This is why, quite honestly, this very site is such a godsend.
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  13. #13
    Internal nebulae TheFifthElement's Avatar
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    Tyrion, I think your post raises some really interesting points. Whole books could be written about it (and have been, no doubt). I associate with many of the posters here, in that I take comfort from being alone, yet my work means that I have had to develop mechanisms for interacting with others in a way which is, at least, moderately influential. It is something I am still working on. I too am an introvert, but I think it’s important to recognise that introversion is a reflection of where you gain your strength – internally or externally – rather than a reflection of lonerism or isolationism. Someone can be an introvert and have ‘good social skills’ (more on this), appear sociable and confident in social interactions. It is just a matter of finding how to manage this in a way helps you maintain the control and alone time that you need, balanced against getting some social interaction so that you don’t feel lonely. It’s a complex issue, I’m not sure anyone can really give you a roadmap but a degree of self-awareness and reflection may help.

    I think a large part of the problem is that we’re bombarded with the image of the ‘popular’ of the ‘gregarious’ as meeting a certain, highly extraverted, mould. So there is a certain pressure to be entertaining, outgoing and talkative which many people who are reflective or quiet or insular in nature will find a barrier to social interaction. I don’t think it’s a real barrier, but it takes some effort to overcome the feeling that you are socially inadequate in some way. This, I think, makes people feel like they have ‘poor’ social skills when in fact this is not the case. We have a distorted idea of what good looks like. Actually I find a lot of that behaviour is self-serving, it is about the individual and their ego and a need for approval. I find it in many ways, quite sad. Often I wonder if the person larking around entertainingly surrounded by a gaggle of admiring people isn’t the loneliest person in the room. Because it is superficial interaction. It lacks intimacy and connection, the most meaningful form of human interaction (more on this also).

    I empathise with Lokasenna’s comments about small talk and not being a person who likes football. Again, I think this is a symptom of a distorted societal view of what social skills look like. It is something I have struggled with, also not having an interest in football or those kinds of things. One of the things I’ve learned is that it doesn’t really matter, you just need to try and think about it in a different way. Small talk, the inconsequential chatter in bars and cafes, is a filtering system. It’s a way of learning enough about the other person in a non-threatening way to determine if they are a person that you’d like to get to know better, who could become a friend (rather than an acquaintance). I think one of the problems those who are more reflective have is that they are desperate to get to deep conversation, the connection, by shortcutting this initial filtering process. Consequently if someone starts talking about football, they switch off. They think ‘this bores me’ and instantly dismiss the other person as not being someone who is likely to interest them. But in reality, with your true friends, there will be many subjects on which they have different opinions or things they like that you don’t like. It doesn’t really matter. These are the superficial things. It helps, I think, if you try to forget about connecting on subject matters and interests and think about the purpose of social interaction – which is about the person. Who is that person? How do you find that out? So if someone starts to talk about football, instead of feeling that you have to match them on the subject it is easy enough to admit that you don’t follow football but instead you might explore what it is about football that enthuses them. This could easily lead you to a more intimate conversation about their relationship with their Dad, or an old boyfriend, something on which it is much easier to connect with on a personal level. Maybe they feel like they have to like football in order to make friends. Think of the small talk, whatever subject it is, as a door which you need a key to unlock in order to find the treasure hidden inside. The key to unlocking the door is a well-placed question. ‘How did you develop your love of football?’, ‘What is it about it you like?’ ‘Why that team and not this one?’ ‘Who is your favourite player?’ ‘What is it you admire about them?’

    Suddenly the pressure to talk, to be entertaining, is off. This is something that reflective, introverted people do really well. If you ask a few interested questions you allow the person to reveal themselves. Now you are no longer required to entertain, to be entertaining, to talk about your life. The other person can open up to you, and you can allow (or not) a greater intimacy to develop. If you hone your listening, questioning skills I think this is a great way of getting past the fear of saying the wrong thing or being boring or needing to be entertaining or interesting. It is not about you, but about finding out about them. People are interesting. What enthuses and motivates them is interesting. Reflective people are amazing at creating that space in which people can reveal themselves and intimacy can develop. If you find you don’t like them, it is easy enough to move on. Think about your strengths, rather than your perceived weaknesses, and think about how you can strategically employ that in a social environment to your advantage. It may take some preparation, but a well-placed, interested question is more powerful than any joke or entertaining story in my experience. I think it is easy to think of small talk and socialising as superficial, dishonest. I know this is how I have felt about it, and it is one of the things I am working on. If you can shift your thinking on this it makes it easier to see it for what it is, a way of filtering through the billions of people out there to find the few you will call your friends (or find a way to have functioning and positive working relationships, in my case). And you might be able to be friends with millions of them, but really you only have time and energy to devote to a handful. It’s about finding the people who you think you can reasonably devote that energy to.

    If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend Alain de Botton’s ‘How Proust Can Save Your Life’. It has some excellent advice in this regard.

    Intimacy is the other interesting point that you raised. I believe intimacy, rather than social interaction, is what most people desire. For someone who enjoys their alone time, intimacy is the sustaining interaction that makes the difference between being alone and being lonely. Intimacy takes time to develop, it requires vulnerability and a willingness to be flawed which most people find extremely difficult. Yet here I think those who are introspective have a real strength because they do not seek superficial interactions, they seek intimacy. It may be with one person or two, but rarely more than that. So if you can find a way to operate your filtering system, you are naturally pre-disposed to create intimate relationships. In fact you positively desire it. Introspective people tend to be great friends, loyal, considerate and willing to go to great efforts to maintain that friendship. That’s a valuable commodity.

    If you think too hard about creating friendships, intimacy, then it can seem overwhelming. I am very lucky to be in a strong relationship which satisfies all of my intimacy needs, though I do think about what will happen if I were to lose that for some reason (death, for example). If I were going to try to replace that relationship I wouldn’t go to bars or those kinds of places but would likely take up an activity. In fact this is how I met my husband (archery). This exposes you to a limited, manageable number of people who you can interact with in a way which is not about you but the shared activity (forget what I said about football!). Then you might find that you naturally lean towards one person or another and from there maybe a friendship will develop. Maybe not. But if nothing else you may have learned some new skills along the way.
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  14. #14
    Internal nebulae TheFifthElement's Avatar
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    Another book recommendation here: Mindset by Carol S Dweck. Excellent book.
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    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Beer helps. It's been breaking down social barriers for centuries.
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