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Loneliness is, first of all, a disconnect.
We are disconnected from ourselves, our inner world, our true nature. I believe this is at the root of our loneliness.
And this inner disconnect is what we bring to our relationships, which gets expressed in the lack of fulfilment, lack of connection, and lack of intimacy we all report.
The way we relate to others is an expression of the way we relate to ourselves.
Do you feel lonely, too?
I know I’ve felt lonely for most of my life. Even as a mother. Even with my husband of 32 years…
I know he, too, has felt lonely in our relationship.
Apparently, loneliness is a pandemic in our society.
And even though we tend to blame loneliness on factors outside of ourselves—on social media, on divorce rates, on nuclear family as the end of community, among others—I see loneliness and its cousin, depression, as a reflection of our internal state.
More often than not, our relationship with ourselves is a battleground. One part of me hates, shames, and judges another part of me. This internalized emotional violence is the filter through which we relate to others, including our partners and children.
The unrealistic expectations we have of our relating partners reflect the unrealistic expectations we have of ourselves. We are intolerant of anything other than perfection in ourselves and then demand the impossible from everyone else in our lives.
Permission to be human is something I find myself having to fight for.
Just like many others, I spent my life trying to be “better,” constantly trying to fix, polish, remove, improve something about myself. Whether it is weight loss, defying aging, or making more money, we never slow down long enough to accept and enjoy who we already are.
This perpetual dissatisfaction with ourselves compels us to seek fulfilment, validation, and love from our partners. We objectify ourselves and each other and expect the impossible. Confrontation with other imperfect humans causes eventual disappointment, and ultimately brings us back to our loneliness.
Loneliness is genderless.
Women are lonely. Men are lonely. We all crave love, understanding, attention, recognition, and respect. We all crave connection, intimacy.
Intimacy is a relatively recent request that many of us are grappling with.
Casualties of the societal structure we’ve inherited, traditional gender roles are not built for intimacy in relationships, and we’re realizing that now. They only prepared us for production, consumption, and stability.
What we crave is intimacy, connection, vulnerable discussions, to be seen and understood by our partners. But what we do is judge, demand, reject, and objectify.
Realizing that my husband was a person with fears, triggers, and his own wounded inner child was a serious blow to my capacity to love him. As my savior and need fulfiller, he had no right to have fears or behave or feel in a way that did not correspond to my idealized concept of “the perfect man” I projected onto him.
As I was fighting the objectification of me as a wife and a mother, I wasn’t aware that I was objectifying and, essentially, dehumanizing him, too.
Meanwhile, I found out that my husband held himself to the same unrealistic ideal as I did, expecting of himself the impossible. Which had him stuck in a perpetual hamster wheel of trying to do “better.” Just like me.
In my many conversations with men, I notice a lot of shame and guilt, and a kind of resignation that they will never quite satisfy their female partners. This is compounded by the fact women are very outspoken about their grievances and their disappointments in relationships with men.
At the same time, in my many conversations with women, I also observe lots of shame and guilt and a kind of resignation to ever find happiness. Each new achievement and milestone—from marriage to motherhood to career—bumps against the impossible standard of elusive perfection, and cannot bring any lasting relief or sustained sense of happiness.
Many of us find solace in addictions.
And even here we judge our need for self-soothing as unforgivable weakness. The inner judge cannot tolerate any display of lack of control. Few of us understand that addiction is not a question of willpower, but is a largely unconscious coping mechanism that contains intelligence about our most deeply held needs.
We keep many of our addictions secret, because we are ashamed of those too human and needy parts of ourselves. Our inner critic and internalized shame keep us repressing big chunks of who we are. Feelings of loneliness and depression are a natural byproduct of this disconnect from our whole nature.
Our inability to accept all that we are keeps us from revealing ourselves to people in our life. We then complain that our partners do not see us, demanding that they “do better.” Few of us realize that no one can see us until we start showing who we actually are.
It is only when we own all of our parts—the good, the bad, and the ugly—that true intimacy with others becomes possible. We can start establishing real connections with people once we’ve re-connected to all parts of ourselves.
That love and connection we all crave from others, so that we feel less lonely, we never find it—not sustainably anyway.
Because what we are all looking for is within.
It all starts with the work of un-shaming.
Accepting imperfection as normal—not pathology.
Re-learning what it is to be fully human—not this thin sliver of existence that we allow ourselves.
Learning to connect to a sense of safety to be all that we are within.
Becoming our own greatest authority, because no one can give us permission to be ourselves.
Connecting to safety and freedom within so we can to express ourselves without filters.
No one can make us feel loved if we harbor unresolved (and usually unconscious) beliefs from childhood that we are unlovable, that our true nature is shameful, that there is something wrong with us.
No one can compensate for the love we did not get as children or the love and care we are unable to give to ourselves as adults. No one can be the god-like figure we seek in other humans—until we are able to reconnect to that force within.
I see how vital the work of inclusion, un-shaming, and healing the inner child is for us all. Regardless of gender.
Each one of us has to be prepared to take the lead if we are to start healing our relationships, starting with the one with ourselves.
Until now, I have been working mostly with women to break the inherited patterns and take the lead in our relationships, and in our lives. After my “10 Harsh Truths About Love” series, several men reached out to me.
Men who are interested in understanding their own inner child and inherited relating patterns, showing up in their relationships as grownups, and cultivating love from within.
As we come out of codependency and more-or-less clearly defined gender roles of previous generations, we are stepping into uncharted territory, learning to relate from scratch.
I wish to create fundamental changes in the way we relate to ourselves and each other.
Free to Be Me is a new program I’m creating for men.
(It will start with a small pilot group on December 7. If you’re a man and this sounds interesting, I invite you to register your curiosity here or go here for program details. Or if you have a man in your life who may benefit from such a program, I invite you to share this article with them.)
Safe to Be Me is my signature program for women—to learn more and be the first to know when registration for the next cohort is open, join my interest list here.
For more paradigm-disrupting insights, join my mailing list here.