How To Cope With Emotional Loneliness
WellNest psychotherapist Sana Imran guides us through how to cope with and manage emotional loneliness. This is a two-part post. Read Sana’s first post on this topic here, where she explains what emotional loneliness is, how it develops, and the ways it can impact us as adults.
Emotional loneliness is the feeling of not receiving sufficient empathy from others. Sometimes we only understand emotional loneliness when we discuss emotional connection.
Earlier this week, we posted an in-depth article on this topic! That piece also explores the deeper reasons why emotional loneliness develops and how it impacts us in adulthood. If you haven’t done so already, head on over there and read “Why Do I Feel So Lonely Sometimes?”
In this post, we are focusing on how to cope with emotional loneliness.
We will cover:
Discovering our inner selves
Understanding how this process affects the way we relate to other people
Ultimately, what helps in coping with emotional loneliness is not necessarily telling the caregiver, friend, partner about the lack of emotional connection.
What helps us is knowing what we really feel and identifying what we need.
Often, we are forced to pay attention to what we have been doing for years because the impacts of this way of being manifests itself as anxiety, tension, stress, lack of sleep, symptoms of depression, among others.
These can all be signals that the old strategies we have been using to cope and rewrite our realities with, have become unsustainable.
Connecting With Our Inner Selves
The good news is that there are ways to work toward ending this cycle that your family may have been carrying forward for generations.
We know that once we start listening to our emotions instead of shutting them down, they can guide us toward an authentic connection with ourselves.
First and foremost, the work lies in rediscovering our inner selves.
This is the part of us that we have tried to push into our unconscious, because we have not been able to meet its needs. It is the being within us that speaks our truth and is the source of all gut feelings and intuition. Over the years, living in an environment that lacked emotional safety, we suppressed our inner voices, thinking that it was safer this way.
Unfortunately, not listening to this voice left us feeling more isolated and unsure.
What Does It Feel Like To Wake Up To Your True Self?
When individuals who have felt emotionally lonely and neglected for so long eventually wake up and learn how to find their true selves, they start shifting from the role they have been playing.
As they work toward waking up to their true selves, they begin shifting from the role that was hurting them and keeping them trapped in this cycle. They may experience anger, notice changes taking place in their relationships, and fear finding their voice.
The way in which they perceive those around them may change, sometimes going from idealizing others to seeing relationships close to them break down.
It takes time, energy, and feels unsafe to do the work of exploring those values that we have carefully hidden, and actually learn what our own self care looks like. However, the longer we stay in this emotionally lonely space, the greater the danger to our health over time.
Understanding Your Inner Self Changes How You Relate To Others
Once you have started the work of understanding your inner self that has been suppressed for so long, this can begin to alter your way of relating with those that have left you feeling emotionally lonely for so long.
This does not mean you have to end certain relationships. Instead, it means you will want to reflect on how using a different approach to connecting with these individuals may serve you better. Some examples may include:
- Using detached observation: Notice the nature of the relationship that has left you feeling emotionally lonely and do what you need to do to take on a stance of being observational. In this approach, you are practicing maintaining communication without seeking an emotional understanding. As you practice more observation, you will notice yourself becoming stronger and more confident in your ability to see what is really going on, and choose when is appropriate for you to engage further.
- Maturity awareness approach: This approach asks the individual to really take the emotional maturity of the other party into consideration. Estimating this is a way to take care of yourself. Stepping back and assessing the relationship without the obligation of emotional reciprocity, individuals are encouraged to focus on the outcome. The goal here is to manage and not engage.
- Use the support of a therapist or other trusted individual to observe your old role. When you are able to view how you have gotten stuck in a “role,” and are trying to make a healing fantasy come true, you can decide what you would like to do differently.
These approaches are not easy, and the descriptions above barely touch the surface of the work that is required in order to actually practice them!
If you are embarking on this journey, please refer to the resource that was recommended in part 1 of this article to learn more, and work with a therapist or other mental health professional for additional support.
Addressing A Common Concern: Am I Being ‘Cold’ Or ‘Distant’?
A common concern is the feeling that these ways of approaching old relationships feel “cold” or “distant.”
People have worried they will hurt the other person’s feelings. I completely understand that. To those wondering this, I encourage you to ask yourself how long you have been trying to fulfill another person’s healing fantasy?
The roles you have been trying to carry out were not meant for you to fill, and your job is not to carry someone else’s distress and abandon your own path. The longer you continue doing that, neither person will be able to step out of this cycle.
This work is hard, and it’s important to keep reminding yourself of the final end goal:
Ultimately, you are doing the work of guiding yourself to enter into relationships that are more emotionally mature.
These are relationships that allow you the freedom to be human and imperfect, allow you to have your own genuine thoughts and feelings, allow you the freedom to express yourself, set limits, and choose how much to give.
These are relationships that give you the space to practice self compassion, and give your heart a much needed, and well deserved, break.
And you, my friend, are so very worthy of experiencing this.
I want to hear from you: What steps for coping with emotional loneliness seem achievable for you?
That’s all for me! Are there any other topics you want to see me address? Let me know in the comments below!
Sana Imran is a psychotherapist at WellNest psychotherapy services in Toronto and advises on public policy for mental health and addictions. Sana believes in approaching clients and their loved ones through an emotion-focused and trauma-informed lens and is passionate about reducing stigma around mental health.