The Invitation of Loneliness

May 23, 2024
Reading time: 3 minutes
Purpose, Self Improvement, Self-Worth

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Every person alive has experienced it, to some degree, at least once in their lives. Nelson Mandela spoke about the profound effect it had on him during his years of imprisonment. Former United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released an advisory illuminating the dangers of prolonged exposure to it—and shared his own experiences with it as well. Taylor Swift even credits the feeling with pushing her into songwriting.

Loneliness.

Loneliness is a complex and multifaceted experience, one that touches the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life. It can sneak up on us in a crowded room, linger in the quiet moments at home, and even hide behind a smile. But what exactly is loneliness, and how can we navigate its depths to find true connection?

Even the definition of loneliness is, well, lonely:

1. destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship, support, etc.:

2. standing apart; isolated:

While it may be accurate, this definition doesn’t cover what lonely people are feeling. Loneliness is a subjective feeling of sadness or melancholy brought on by social isolation. It can arise from a lack of meaningful relationships or a sense of being disconnected from others, but it’s more than just the physical experience of being alone. Loneliness can also be felt in different, sometimes invisible, ways: lack of support, lack of mental or emotional stimulation, a lack of intimacy, companionship, or connection.

The feeling also does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. Children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly can all experience loneliness. It can be triggered by life changes such as having a baby, moving to a new city, starting a new job, losing a loved one, or even the simple passage of time.

But these indicators aren’t the sole cause of loneliness, either. Even those who appear to have active social lives can feel lonely if their connections lack depth and authenticity. It isn’t just about being busy, active, or surrounded by people. If your soul is not fed by the interactions, you could have a revolving door of conversations and social experiences, and none of it would matter. It may sound bleak, but the answer to loneliness is actually an invitation…

The Kabbalists believed that every human has within it a soul that contains a spark of Light. According to Kabbalah, this spark inside of us is our essence, our “true self,” our soul. But to connect to it, it requires effort. When we don’t put in that effort and are disconnected from our souls, the result—no matter what our physical or social circumstances are—is loneliness.

However, I believe anything can be rethinked—including loneliness. If loneliness arises as a disconnection from our soul, the feeling itself could then be seen as an invitation back to our soul. But how do we get back to our soul? Here are a few ways:

Spend Time With You

This probably seems counterintuitive, but I’m not talking about sitting by yourself and scrolling through social media. Talk a walk, journal, or take yourself on a date. Listen to your thoughts, notice what is beautiful around you, and be aware of your emotions as they arise. Create an intimacy with yourself, even for just a few minutes a day.

Spend (Quality) Time With Others

Connection requires effort. Take the initiative to reach out to friends and family. A simple phone call, text message, or coffee invitation can rekindle relationships, sustain them, and create new ones. Remember, others may also be waiting for someone to reach out to them.

Find Your “Third Place”

Coined by the sociologist Ray Oldenburg in the 1980s, a “Third Place” refers to a physical location other than work or home. Your First Place is home, your Second Place is work (even if it’s just a Zoom room), but your Third Place is different. Your Third Place embodies a space where genuine connections flourish, a haven for sharing your ideas and aspirations.

It could be a book club, a meditation group, a class, a volunteer organization, or any kind of community that centers around something you’re interested in. Joining communities with shared interests is a fast way to foster meaningful connections and a sense of belonging.

Be Kind to Yourself

When we’re in the throes of a challenging time, the last thing we need is to be critical or judgmental toward ourselves. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a dear friend. Practice self-care and engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Self-compassion is a powerful antidote to loneliness.

Loneliness is a part of the human experience, but it doesn’t have to define us. By acknowledging our feelings, reaching out, and taking proactive steps, we can transform loneliness into an opportunity for deeper connection and personal growth. Remember, you are never truly alone. We are all connected in the tapestry of life, each thread intertwined with the others. Embrace the journey towards connection, and know that you are seen, heard, and valued. Who can you reach out to today, even just to say hello?


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Comments

  1. Jonathan Daniel Kruger Erbstein : May 29, 2024 at 5:31 pm

    Thank you, I will forward this

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