Reflecting Upon Loneliness and Counselling

“What is most personal is most universal.”  Carl Rogers

Loneliness by its very nature is a solitary experience. At the same time many of us can relate to our own sense of isolation, emptiness, missing, longing, hopelessness, and so on.

My reflections take me to some of the underlying causes:
  • Missing the presence of a particular person, or a pet.
  •  Spending too much time alone and yearning for social interactions and the company of others. ‘The lack of any relationship in which we communicate our real experiencing – and hence our real self – to another.’ Rogers (1995) p.166.
  • Feeling like an outsider in a group or community, experiencing loneliness and vulnerability when one does not fit or belong.
  • Trauma can leave us feeling separate from others who were not there - they do not know what it was like and cannot comprehend the emotional impact.
  • Ignoring, and denying one's inner truth. Perhaps giving up something of our self in the hope of being accepted and loved by others.  Rogers writes about ‘The estrangement of man from himself, from his experiencing organism.’ Rogers (1995) p.165.
  • The isolation of depression, losing touch with the person you used to be and becoming immersed in sadness. Furthermore feeling anxious, exhausted and hopeless can create barriers that affect our bonds with others, perhaps increasing aloneness.
  • Being dissociated and having a sense of your own absence, perhaps going through the motions of your life without being fully present.
I notice that in each of the circumstances mentioned connection is compromised or missing. This brings me to my person-centred counselling approach where the connection between client and counsellor is at the heart of therapy.

I consider the relationship between counsellor and client and how healing it is when one person genuinely wants to understand the way things are from the perspective of another. How rare it can be in our every day lives to be heard fully and accepted warmly, just as we are.

It seems to me that when another person really wants to understand how we are feeling something about the loneliness can change. Perhaps the quality and intensity is different because someone is beside us in an emotional sense, reducing feelings of isolation.

Clients can become more connected with their inner self as they pay attention to what is going on inside. The counsellor is there for them, supporting the client’s process of moving at their own pace and in their own direction.

In time the client may become more connected with feelings which they had lost touch with. They might get a greater sense and understanding of something that they are yearning for. Clients may also find themselves becoming more at ease and less lonely in their own company.

The word ‘loneliness’ is a general description. During counselling sessions clients might wish to try out words and phrases so as to express their personal feelings more accurately and in greater detail. They can explore childhood memories and current circumstances. Perhaps some fresh understandings and new ways forward emerge.

I would say that by its very nature loneliness cannot remain the same when we begin to communicate our experience of it with another person. As the client 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

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