As I reflect upon loneliness, I remember these words written by Carl Rogers:
“What is most personal is most universal.”
By its very nature loneliness is a solitary experience, our feelings and emotions are unique to each of us.
At the same time most of us feel lonely at times and can relate to descriptions of sadness, emptiness, missing, helplessness, hopelessness and so on.
Here are some of the reasons for loneliness that I have come across:
Missing someone and just wanting to be with them again.
Being the type of person who wants and needs social contact, and spending too much time alone, missing the interactions and the company of others. Rogers writes about ‘the lack of any relationship in which we communicate our real experiencing – and hence our real self – to another.’ (p.166).
Being without a sense of belonging perhaps feeling like an outsider in a group or community.
Following a trauma feeling separate from people who were not there, they do not know what it was like and cannot comprehend the impact.
Ignoring, and denying one's inner truth, perhaps losing touch with personal beliefs and meanings. Rogers writes about ‘The estrangement of man from himself, from his experiencing organism.’ (p.165).
Experiences that are associated with depression. Becoming immersed in sadness and living with a sense of dread, losing one’s confidence and enthusiasm, feeling irritable, achy and at a distance from one’s self, whilst also lacking the words and the energy to communicate effectively with others.
Becoming dissociated and having a sense of one’s own absence, going through the motions of living without being emotionally present.
Common to these causes of loneliness is the absence of connection. Connection with others, connection with one’s self and sometimes both.
How can counselling help?
It seems to me that the quality and intensity of loneliness changes because there is someone physically sitting in the room with you and they are beside you in an emotional sense, reducing feelings of isolation.
I would say that by its very nature loneliness cannot remain the same when we communicate our experience of it with someone who is genuinely attentive, respectful and accepting. Central to person-centred therapy is the intention to understand, as closely as we can, how things are from the client’s point of view. In a non-judgmental and non directive atmosphere, there is space and safety to explore one’s self and one’s experiences.
As a person shares their perspective and feels understood and accepted the healing connection between client and counsellor can grow, and the client’s connection with their inner self can deepen.
Carl Rogers (1995) A Way of Being