Psychology

Alone, But Rarely Lonely

 

woman walking alone on a beach

Can you be alone without being lonely?  Or lonely without being alone?  I would say yes on both counts.

Google gives this as the primary definition of lonely: “sad because one has no friends or company.”  A secondary definition is “without companions; solitary.”  For both definitions “alone” is listed as a synonym.  Google’s definition of alone is: “having no one else present.”

Lonely is a word that has a certain emotional charge and judgment attached to it, whereas alone is more an objective observation about the immediate social environment.  Being alone also has a temporariness to it; you can stop being alone by walking into a space where there are other people.  Loneliness, though,  seems like a more persistent state of mind that can only be changed through mental adjustment rather than simply changing the surrounding environment.

I’ve always liked being alone, and am very much an introvert.  I rarely have a hard time amusing myself when there’s no one else around.  For more than half of my adult life I have lived alone, and I’m good with that.

When I do experience loneliness, it doesn’t tend to have much to do with who or what is in the immediate physical environment.  I sometimes feel lonely when the figurative distance between myself and important people in my life has grown wider.  This is usually as a result of my depression-related tendency to push people away,  And yes, I do see the ridiculousness in feeling lonely because I’ve pushed others away.

Loneliness can also be triggered when I fall into the trap of comparing my life circumstances to others.  This isn’t a trap I get caught in too often, but it’s still there lurking in the background ready to pop out and knock me down every so often.

There’s also the issue of feeling lonely when I’m around people.  Being around others and feeling completely disconnected can be a strong reminder of my level of isolation.  I’m not anxious and I’m not worried about what others think; I just feel like an alien life form with no shared language of meaning or experience.  That kind of loneliness isn’t eased by being around people; in fact, the more contact there is, the worse it gets.  I only feel better when I’ve settled back into my cave.  More alone, yet less lonely.

On days that I’m not working (which is most days), I have very little face to face contact with people.  My best friend and I either talk on the phone or text every day, and that’s been an important source of support for me.  With that plus the online interaction with the blogging community, I seldom feel lonely, despite being alone the vast majority of the time.  My guinea pigs make a difference too; it’s hard to feel lonely with those five little balls of fur paying attention to my every move (because it could mean treats).

What makes you feel lonely, and how do you manage it?

 

 

Reflecting on Powerful Words guided journal cover from Mental Health @ Home

 

The Reflecting on Powerful Words guided journal matches amazing quotes from people like Maya Angelou and Winston Churchill with prompt questions that relate to each quote as well as beautiful images.  It’s available free on the MH@H Store.

37 thoughts on “Alone, But Rarely Lonely”

  1. I feel lonely all the time. I’m definitely an introvert and probably a bit of a loner, so I would probably choose a lot of alone time, but I would like to have more people around some of the time IF they were people I could really connect with. Sadly, most of the people in my life I do not connect with deeply, probably on some level my fault for being too anxious to open up to them, perhaps also for being autistic and thinking/acting differently to them. I definitely feel alone in crowds. There probably is an internal contradiction here that means I will never be happy.

    I find blogging doesn’t help me much with loneliness, perhaps because I don’t get many comments or perhaps because I want a deeper type of contact that most people extend online.

    1. Does the contact with E. help with the loneliness at all? Despite the various issues there it does at least demonstrate a level of capacity.

  2. I agree with Luftmentsch. As you know Ashley, I have been having a really rough time. And it’s scary. I blog…maybe looking for reassurance or comfort. I get scared though because I know that things I write…makes one wonder if i should go inpatient. That sticks with me. I don’t feel that inpatient can help me. I feel like a lost cause. And I have lost many people for the person I am. No one is helping me figure this all out. It’s just me. I hate it.

  3. I think the only thing that makes me feel alone is in all honesty, missing my ex-husband that passed away.
    For the most part, I enjoy being alone. I don’t feel lonely per se, I enjoy my own company. Besides, technically, I’m not truly alone with Peanut being in my life. My little feathered son is the best companion because he gives love to me daily.

  4. I generally like being alone too, and am alone a lot of the time. There are certain times for me though – due to one of the kinds of anxiety I experience – when, even if I don’t feel exactly lonely, I don’t like feeling alone and it can be very difficult to stand then, and it’s quite a paradox. I do feel lonely at times too, especially when I’m significantly depressed, or, like you, something makes me think of how inadequate I am to other people or when I feel disconnected from others, but then I suppose that even if I had someone in my life that could be there for me physically at such times, I’d probably still feel lonely because it seems more of an internal thing. But since I have Misha, I tend to feel less intensely lonely when I do. That is definitely not as bad though as to feel lonely around other people, or in the crowd. I absolutely hate that feeling, and it’s quite funny how intensely lonely and alienated you can feel around others vs when being alone.

  5. What makes you feel lonely, and how do you manage it?

    Being as asocial as I am, I’m rarely lonely. But recently someone called me on that and proferred the idea that I actually DO enjoy being with people. And that’s true, but I like to be able to choose my involvement and time to cut off that interaction. The only times I really feel lonely are usually when I’ve watched some sappy movie about how (some) families are close knit and kind and loving to each other, and I realize that the opportunity to create such a scenario for myself is long gone. No children for me. Also when I realize that most of my loved ones (four footed or two legged) have died. That makes me feel terribly lonely.

    Depending on the level of grief or anxiety that accompanies these times, I may take a Xanax or I may listen to some ‘happy’ music or find a good comedy to watch. Anything to take my mind away from the feeling.

  6. You have a best friend? This is wonderful news!!!! Aren’t best friends great?!?!

    I wouldn’t be so hard on myself for pushing people away. Maybe they were all wrong for you! 😮

    For the first … [thinking and doing mental math]… 38 years of my life, I had no friends worth mentioning, but I was lonely as all get-out and I craved the kind of friendship I’d come to believe only happened in fiction. I’m glad to say that’s finally in the past! 😮 It was horrid.

  7. I like that you brought up the difference between being alone and lonely, because I’m okay being alone in general… it’s mostly on weekends, when I feel like I should be out because everyone else must be… and then I start to feel isolated. And it also happens when I get invited somewhere. I decline invitations often and then I wonder why I’m lonely. What is that?! And I agree with going out and seeing groups of friends in crowds, while I start to think something must be wrong with me while I am alone. At the same time, I feel the need to be around other people when I’m studying and doing work. Maybe as long it’s not on weekends when I am tempted to compare myself. 🙂

  8. Lately, the only time I feel lonely is when my husband goes into the office instead of working from home. I get lonely while he’s at work all day, Going somewhere might help, except for my fear of leaving the house. At least I’m able to text him, and though it may take time to do, he always answers.

  9. Introverts unite! I definitely do well on my own, especially if there’s a good book laying around. That being said, there can be too much of a good thing. I do feel very lonely sometimes. I work at home and I hardly ever have people around, especially when my husband works really late. A funny, lighthearted movie helps me through it – as does the “phone a friend” lifeline when I have the courage to use it 🙂

  10. I don’t get lonely often oddly enough even though I live alone and only have a couple close friends and family, I’m just very introverted I guess, I do value and enjoy spending time with people but I’m definitely okay by myself as well, sometimes I prefer/need a break from spending a lot of time being social

  11. I have worked hard on understanding alone vs lonely. I used to think that if I was alone it meant I was lonely…then I discovered the wonderfulness of having alone time, and noticed that there were times I felt lonely in a crowded room. It been an interesting journey.

  12. One can feel lonely even with people around. I battle with this at times inspite of being married with children. I came to realize that it’s an internal issue that has nothing to do with having someone around (at least for me). I have to learn to keep myself busy and my mind occupied.

    I hope that anyone that is lonely because they don’t have anyone soon finds a friend to talk to. Depression is real.

  13. You make some great points Ashley, being alone feels more black and white, being lonely is more emotional. I spend a lot of time on my own (although sadly not enough now the kids are on holiday again) and generally I’m not lonely as I’m content in my own space, doing my own thing.
    Lonliness for me is more apparent when I feel listless, when I’m scrolling through facebook looking for connection, when I feel like I have nothing to offer the world and that no one really cares whether I’m here or not, when I want to connect with people but at the same time want them to stay away, and when I feel like I don’t fit in or emotionally distant.

  14. I can very much relate to this. I am generally very happy in my own company but sometimes I feel that it’s learned behaviour through a bit of a history of loss and depression.

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