How to beat loneliness and isolation

How to beat loneliness and isolation

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” are some famous words written by poet John Donne in the 17th Century.

They hold as true today as they did then – and of course by “man” he meant all people. It brilliantly expresses the knowing that human beings never do well when too isolated from other people.

We are created as social beings. So we need to be part of a community to grow and thrive.

Almost certainly in the past year since the COVID-19 pandemic led to enforced restrictions and stay-at-home orders, loneliness and isolation has affected more people than it ever has.

Connected yet disconnected

This comes at a time when although we are more connected than ever and there are more people on the planet, we are much less connected in a real sense than ever before in history.

Although social media stops many people from feeling lonely, for many others it also increases a sense of being alone. For instance, we can look at all our friends on Facebook for weeks – but it never has as much real meaning as a hug.

As author Matt Haig wrote in his bestselling book Notes On A Nervous Planet: “The paradox of modern life is this: we have never been more connected, and we have never been more alone.”

He wrote in another of his books, How To Stop Time, about the sort of loneliness we mean here. “It made me lonely. And when I say lonely, I mean the kind of loneliness that howls through you like a desert wind.”

It’s the sort of loneliness and isolation that’s emotionally damaging.

So this is the kind of loneliness that makes someone suffering from it feel extremely disconnected. They feel different from the rest of the human race.

They feel alone in a crowded room. Although this past year of course means not many of us have been part of a crowd – and that’s undoubtedly increased the problem.

Do mental health problems cause isolation?

Naturally, it’s healthy for us to be on our own from time to time. Indeed, it’s actually been shown to be beneficial to our mental health to spend 30 minutes meditating every morning.

As well, to spend some time during every day relaxing to contemplate the day. But the feeling of loneliness that seems to have us drowning in it is of course not beneficial.

Loneliness and isolation is frequently an aspect of addiction. This can be a feeling that is there before the addiction even gets hold.

But it can also be as a consequence of being an addict. For instance, someone who drinks alcoholically might find that they end up alone because of their behavior when drunk or from being hungover and irritable every day.

Someone addicted to cigarettes might become isolated as they spend all their spare money on cigarettes. They might also neglect their personal hygiene and so visiting their home – as well as invitations to meet with others – can dry up due to their reeking of nicotine.

Addicts often self-isolate as their addiction takes hold. One reason for this is that they don’t want anyone telling them to quit what is clearly so damaging to them.

Then someone who’s depressed or has an anxiety disorder might feel so low and mentally unwell they think no one could possibly want to be around them. So their self-sabotaging thoughts cause them to isolate.

Sometimes those thoughts find someone guilty of doing something or living in a certain way they don’t like and certainly don’t understand. So they give themselves a guilty sentence – and one of the harshest punishments for people found guilty is to be imprisoned in isolation.

Someone who’s struggling with a mental health problem can give themselves this verdict.

Disconnection is a huge part of many mental health problems. People feel as if they are the only one who’s suffering as they are – or who ever has suffered that way.

It’s never true. But it can seem as if it is.

Trauma and toxic shame

If someone is suffering from trauma or toxic shame, this can cause an immense sense of loneliness. An example of this is if someone has been abused in some way as a child, then they will most often carry an overwhelming amount of shame about it.

It was not their fault of course in any way. But this doesn’t stop them from carrying the shame about what happened.

Toxic shame is when a person carries shame that doesn’t belong to them. This type of agonizing internal feeling shapes many people’s lives.

Many people carrying toxic shame like this will turn to alcohol or drugs or a behavioral addiction. This is in an attempt to stop the overwhelming negative feelings that are tormenting them.

“I used to drink to solve the problems caused by drinking,” wrote counselor John Bradshaw (1933-2016), author of one of the world’s recovery bestsellers Healing The Shame That Binds You. “The more I drank to relieve my shame-based loneliness and hurt, the more I felt ashamed.”

A normal sense of feeling lonely or isolated can be resolved by mixing with other people. This could be social media for some people, while for others it might mean playing a sport, shopping or going to a bar or party.

This has clearly been difficult for many people during the past year due to worldwide lockdowns. In these cases though, even a telephone call – especially perhaps a video call – can help. 

But for those people already feeling alone and isolated due to a mental health condition it’s much harder. Even when socializing was normal they would still have that sense of aloneness – and it can be quite terrifying.

What is the best solution for loneliness and feeling isolated?

One-on-one talking therapy is the most successful solution for people suffering from this sort of loneliness. They will need to find what it is that is behind their sense of aloneness.

Although understandably difficult, talking about it with a therapist or coach who understands is the way to progress. They will help them realize things that have happened in the past are not their fault – it’s not their shame to carry.

There are ways of making amends if that is also part of someone’s feeling of isolation. Perhaps it is something caused by some of their behaviors while trying to deal with their past and a mental health issue.

As part of our successful 30-90 Day Personalized Treatment Program we can introduce our guests to the Twelve Steps recovery program. These have helped millions of people around the world since they were started in America in the 1930s.

This is not just for people with alcohol addiction or other addictions. Many people who suffered from a terrible sense of loneliness and isolation have found the spiritual aspect of the Twelve Steps has helped them to overcome it.

If loneliness or isolation is something that you are experiencing, you can be sure of a warm and understanding welcome here. We think of all of our guests as part of the family. 

We’re in the ideal natural setting to help with wellbeing and relaxation. Our luxury mansion by our tranquil beautiful lake is made with the absolute comfort of our guests in mind.

Our experienced Tikvah Lake team offers proven treatments that can help anyone with all types of mental health issues. This always includes regular one-to-one talking therapy sessions.

Please get in touch with us today to discover how we can help you.

David Hurst - Tikvah Lake Recovery

About David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, Psychologies, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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