We’ve all been lonely at some point in our lives. Maybe a friend moved away or took a long vacation over the summer. Maybe you moved to a new school and haven’t made any new friends yet. Maybe a relationship you’ve been in for years ended, and you’re living on your own now.
Whatever the situation, we’ve all been there.
What’s the Link Between Loneliness and Trauma?
But is there something deeper when determining who is more likely to experience loneliness? As mentioned before, we’ve all been lonely at some point. But how many of us experience chronic loneliness? How often do we feel alone — even when we are in a relationship or out with friends?
The truth is, the number of Americans who consider themselves lonely is much larger than you may think. According to current statistics, over half of US adults claim feelings of loneliness, and almost 80% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 state that they feel lonely. This is a huge number of people who feel lonely.
But, more interesting is the connection between childhood trauma and loneliness. When we are young, we do not have many relationships. Of course, we have our caregivers and any siblings and family members that may be around. But, suppose we experience neglect, abuse, or other trauma in those developing years. In that case, we are likely to develop attachment or relational trauma, which can affect how we make relationships.
In other words, individuals who experience trauma in their childhoods are more likely to create situations and relationships that result in feelings of loneliness because that’s all they know. We are creatures of habit, and if all we have ever known is detachment and loneliness, then that is likely all we will be able to create for ourselves.
The Cycle of Loneliness
There are some feelings and emotions that can create a constant cycle that spirals you further and further into a negative space. Unfortunately, loneliness is one of these feelings. Often, feelings of loneliness come with feelings of shame, inadequacy, and unworthiness.
These feelings can lead to a very unpleasant cocktail of chronic loneliness and toxicity. Many people who experience chronic loneliness can become depressed and fall into bad behavior habits — such as excessive video gaming, self-medicating, or engaging in superficial relationships. This is even more so the case for individuals who may be feeling lonely due to past trauma. This is because we may feel that we have been ostracized from a group, or we only feel valuable when we can help others with their problems — which leaves our own problems completely unresolved.
Truthfully, it can often be easier (and more convenient) to simply interact with others via social media or other virtual methods. But, people who fall into the habit of distancing themselves physically from others can create a situation in which they regularly enforce their loneliness by only connecting with others online.
How to Overcome Loneliness
Just like any other feeling, loneliness is a completely natural and valid feeling to have. Loneliness reminds us that we are social creatures who value the shared time and companionship of others. This said, no one wants to experience this feeling all of the time — it gets, well, lonely.
We want to build lasting and meaningful connections with our friends, family, and other loved ones and feel loved and valued. So, how can we overcome this cycle of loneliness? There are several ways to break the cycle, and here we’ll dive into a few tips you can use to cope with feelings of loneliness.
Recognize Your Feelings
The first step in overcoming any feeling is recognizing what you are experiencing. Unless you take the time to really recognize and validate the feelings you are experiencing, you’ll never be able to overcome them.
So, take some time to just check in with yourself. What are you feeling? What makes you feel this way? What makes you feel better when you are feeling lonely?
Work on Self-Love
Make yourself your best friend. This may sound strange at first, but it makes perfect sense when you give it some thought. After all, how can we truly love someone else if we don’t know how to practice self-love?
Relationships with other people are crucial to our happiness as social creatures, but there is only one person who will be with you throughout your entire life — and that is yourself.
When you love yourself as unconditionally as you would someone else you can begin to recognize that what you may have experienced in the past and what you are experiencing now isn’t your fault. You are not to blame for your trauma or loneliness, and you deserve those meaningful relationships you are looking for.
Take it One Step at a Time
It might seem intimidating to jump right into meeting new people or getting together with old friends. That is okay. Just take it one small step at a time, and eventually, you will feel comfortable enough hanging out with social crowds that you’ll be able to work on doing so more regularly.
The key is to take small steps. Maybe start off with a text asking how someone is doing or meeting a friend for a cup of coffee. Another great place to start is joining a club for one of your hobbies or a support group for a shared trauma. These can also be safe places where you can meet and connect with others in a meaningful way.
Change Your Mindset
In 2006, psychologist Carol Dweck published a book called Mindset. This book explored the importance of one’s mindset in how they approach and process their life. Dweck brought about the idea of the “growth mindset.” In contrast to a “fixed mindset, “where one believes that their traits and abilities are fixed, a growth mindset focuses on the belief that their performance — in anything — can always be improved.
If you get stuck in the belief that nothing you do can change your feelings of loneliness, you will likely get stuck in your loneliness. If instead, you believe that you can make meaningful connections with others, you will learn to find those connections and overcome your loneliness.
Remember, Quality Over Quantity
You don’t need 50 friends to not feel lonely. All you need is a few solid and meaningful relationships where you feel valued and accepted. This could mean having a partner, family member, or friend that you know you can always turn to for support or a lighthearted conversation.
Whatever quality relationships mean for you is what you should be focusing on. When it comes to combating feelings of loneliness, high-quality relationships will always win over a higher quantity of relationships.
Talk to a Therapist
The final tip is to seek out professional support when you need it. A therapist can be a great resource for anyone who is looking to make change in their life. For example, maybe you want to work on a system that will slowly get you out in the world and making the meaningful connections you are looking for. Maybe you need someone to talk to about what happened in your childhood. Maybe you simply want some additional guidance on the best path to help you overcome your loneliness.
Whatever the reason, a therapist can help you work through any issues and progress towards a happier and healthier life. So, if you are ready to take that next step, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow.