We are all born with and driven by a need for connection with others --a need to be loved and to belong, to be part of something or someone outside of ourselves. Loneliness is the feeling that we get as a result of being without the companionship of others.
For some, the need for connection with others is very strong; lots of different people is what they need -- a 'special' person, family, loads of friends, work-mates, and so on.; being on their own for even short periods can be hard for them. For others, the need is less intense; having one or two people is enough.
On a scale of 1-10 where would you put your need for love and belonging? Are you a 10 (high need) or are you closer to a two (low need)?
The need for love and belonging refers to our need for things like attention, affection, sharing, co-operation, inclusion. We are all driven by the same need, but our ability to meet the need can vary from person to person. Some people are outgoing and make friends easily, for others making friends is more challenging.
Low mood can make us withdraw into ourselves. We can get out of the habit of going out and connecting with others. We say "When I feel better, I will make the effort to go out and meet people." But what we fail to realize is that it is the going out and the connecting that makes us feel better -- waiting for the feeling to get better of its own accord is like waiting for Godot -- the improvement in our feelings never comes.
I don't feel great. I go for a walk. I meet a neighbor. We have a chat about his new dog -- he tells me got her from the pound -- she's a lovely Golden Labrador with a happy smiling face -- her name is Bonnie. He's been giving her fish oil -- her coat is lovely and shiny. I tell him about the supplements my doctor has recommended for my sore neck, he tells me about his wife's knee operation. The council are putting a new road into the estate. They've cut down some trees. He says "I wouldn't mind getting a few of those - they'd be great for the fire". I come home. I feel better than I did when I left my house. My 'doing' has changed my feelings.
You might like to think about the last time you felt good and ask yourself what were you doing, and who were you with at the time? The answers to these questions are a clue to what you need to do to feel more connected to-day.
Another question that you might find useful: What kinds of people do you like spending time with. Artistic types? Jazz heads? Model-railway enthusiasts? Food faddies? Crafts people? Philosophical types? Where are you likely to find these people? Joining a Meet-up group in your locality is one way to meet people with similar interests. If your particular interests are not being catered for in an existing group, you might like to start your own group, using the Meetup platform. It is likely that you will find connecting with people because of shared interests, easier and more productive, than going out with the intention of 'making friends'.
If you are shy or suffer from social anxiety, going out and meeting people may be particularly difficult for you. Therapy and medication can offer a solution.
If you don't want to go down the medical route, or you are already taking medication, but would like to try a non-medical approach, then Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help.
According to this approach, the underlying fear for those suffering from social anxiety is the fear of being criticised and rejected. Effective therapy, therefore involves a process of desensitization to the fear; in the same way that a person overcomes their fear of spiders by being gradually exposed to a spider, a person with social phobia overcomes their fear of social situations by being exposed to criticism and rejection and by learning how to handle criticism and rejection in an assertive way.
It is important when considering therapy, to find a therapist who has been trained in the method described above.
I would love to hear your views. Please feel free to leave a comment. For more tips and resources, you might like check out my website.