"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
No one wants to be alone. We find comfort in healthy relationships.
It is an essential part of the human experience. When we mature, we especially find comfort in romantic relationships. They are intended to be synergetic, self-esteem building, growth producing. To wish to be in and stay in a committed relationship is an admirable goal and makes sense!
Here are some ways to prevent wasting precious time and energy on relationships that are not a good fit for us. Even if we already know it is not a good fit, these tools can also help us stop ignoring those red flags.
1. Make a “What I Know for Sure” list.
Get to know yourself and what you stand for.
You are smarter than you think you are! You have many years of life experience where you have learned valuable life lessons. Include your values, standards and beliefs about characteristics of healthy romantic relationships. Also, list the things you know are never healthy in a relationship. It may come from your own experiences and/or what you have witnessed in other relationships.
2. What is your long-term goal for a romantic relationship?
It should include personal growth and joy. There is a lot of solid research about healthy long term relationship goals.
3. Make decisions ahead of time.
Decide how you will implement your list. Decide how you will defend this list. Identify those oh so subtle veers off your path and acknowledge and address them. ***Note that here is where your red flags will begin to pop up or not pop up!
4. Re read your list often.
Especially while you are in a romantic relationship with someone. Unhealthy characteristics of romantic relationships are literally everywhere, including pornography, so keep in mind that if you are not constantly careful and intentional it is very likely the relationship will veer off your healthy, planned path.
5. Nurture and give attention to the healthy relationships you DO have in your life (romantic or not).
The more time and energy you give to these relationships, the more likely you will attract those who are interested in being healthy with you!
Having a goal and plan for your relationships is very attractive. You are much more likely to attract those who fit into your definition of healthy if you do some homework. You may need to tweak it a bit as you gain more knowledge and understanding. Good Luck!
Barbara C. Murray, MSW, LCSW – www.barbaracmurray.com
From the beginning of time, humans have been driven by their need to procreate in order to preserve survival. We are neurologically and biologically wired to be attached to each other and to be in relationship.
Why is falling in love so intoxicating?
And, why are break ups, divorce, and the death of a loved one some of the most painful and heartbreaking experiences of the human condition?
Both science and neuroscience are quite illuminating when it comes to more deeply understanding why the process of being in relationship is so profoundly beautiful and simultaneously devastating.
When we fall in love, our brains are working overtime and pumping our bodies full of the chemical oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter released whenever we engage in any type of social bonding. It is especially prevalent when we hug, kiss, or physically connect with someone. Oxytocin is responsible for the incredible high we feel when we are in the honeymoon phase of a relationship or when we experience an undeniable attraction to someone.
When we’re in relationship over time, our bonding and attachment to our partner naturally increases.
It then makes sense that when our relationship is threatened, we feel physical pain. In fact, the pain of a break up or a threat to the safety and security of our bond can be so intense, that our brain and body tells us to avoid it at all cost. The reality of being without the bond and completely alone can feel like death. This is part of the reason why it can be challenging to break up or separate even when the relationship is unhealthy.
When we are constantly seeking our next high in search of the rush of oxytocin, connection, and safety, it can be hard to remember that we have the capacity to deeply connect to ourselves.
When we are in relationship, we typically rely on our partners to fill the spacious void of loneliness or emptiness that is a natural part of the human condition.
In Buddhism, it is believed that our capacity to love and feel full is inextricably intertwined with our pain and sadness.
When we are soft, vulnerable, raw, and open, as we often are in romantic relationship with others, we are often connected to the fragility and vulnerability of our humanness.
As sensitive and vulnerable creatures, we naturally want to feel comforted, safe, and loved. We often forget that we have the capacity to nurture ourselves in exactly the way we need. We have been conditioned to believe that we need something outside of ourselves to feel fulfilled. This could not be farther from the truth. When we nurture our ability to be connected to ourselves, we are able to connect more deeply with our romantic partners.
In relationship, it is incredibly easy to lose your sense of self. We can become trapped in cycles of trying to appease our partners. We might decide that it’s not safe to communicate our true needs for fear of being abandoned. The practice of healthy relationship starts with cultivating a healthy relationship with your self.
When the all-encompassing fear of loneliness arises, how do we begin to take care of ourselves?
1. Stop, feel your feet, and take a few long, slow, deep, belly breaths.
You may even put your hand on your heart and really feel your feet and the earth supporting you.
2. Orient to your environment by letting your eyes settle in different places around the room to assure that you are safe and not in immediate danger.
3. Cultivate self-connection, by developing an ongoing self-care practice.
Whether taking a bubble bath, exercising, being outside, reading, meditating, creating art or music, or watching a movie, choose self-nourishing activities that are relaxing and pleasurable. Create your list of self-care practices. The next time you feel your fear arise, try a practice from your list and see how this changes your experience.
The brain and body can’t distinguish between emotional fears or threats, and physical ones.
Learning how to calm the nervous system through bringing awareness to the body and breath can help to discharge the insurmountable anxiety of being alone so that you can think and act from a clearer space.
When we are attached to ourselves, we are able to set clear and healthy boundaries, honor our truths and values, have deep self-love and respect, and know how to best nourish and care for ourselves. Regardless of your relationship status, cultivating a strong sense of self-connection will transform every relationship you have.
Sandie Bershad, MA – www.sandiebershad.com
In my practice, I find that a person’s fear of being alone is often a long-standing one, before it ever became associated with a specific partner.
We usually take a two-pronged approach, with both concrete/behavioral actions, and internal reflection.
First, taking concrete steps will help you get through the first, and toughest stage.
You’ve probably heard of most of them, but the hardest part is actually doing them. Try the ones that seem most appealing first, and see what does and doesn’t help. You’re taking action will help change your perception and how you feel.
1. Distract yourself with something you can wrap your head around, like watching a favorite TV program or movie.
2. Get up off the couch and do a favorite activity, for instance cooking, jogging, playing basketball, or gardening.
These activities are not only a distraction, but can help relax both your mind and body, helping you realize you still have some oases of satisfaction in your life.
3. Do your preferred exercise routine, whether it be jogging, going to the gym, or just following a yoga routine on TV. It will get those endorphins going, and help relieve that stress.
4. Call, or get together with a friend/friends.
It will help take the edge off, and help you realize others care about you. Try not to lean totally on one person, other wise it will make them feel awkward, and make you feel guilty and lousy about yourself. Spread the grief around. Everyone’s been through something similar. Remember, you want them as a friend, not a caretaker, and you still want them to be around when this blows over.
Second, do a little internal digging around. You’re thinking about it anyway, so you may as well make it productive. This phase actually goes on at the same time as the first one. As you’ve already painfully discovered, you can’t turn your mind off.
5. Realize that your fear of being alone is most likely a long-standing issue, and that there’s an understandable reason behind it.
Remember, it comes from somewhere that makes sense, not logical sense, but sense at an emotional level, a level that you can understand, tap into, and use.
6. Get some ideas about where it might have come from.
Look back to see when you already had an inkling of it. Was it there in some of your previous relationships? How far back does it go? Does it crop up with other people or situations? Start to understand that it might come from another time and place.
7. Realize that you are lovable, and that you can find the love you deserve.
There is nothing wrong with you. If you don’t believe any of this, then you might want to consider that your perception could be a bit skewed. Understand that this has nothing to do with the reality, but again, comes from another time and place.
Understanding what this is really all about can give you comfort, more confidence, ease the pain and loneliness, and help you move on to a better place.
Barbara Ferullo, LMHC – www.TheBostonTherapist.com
One of the hardest things you will ever do as a parent is launch your children.
How well you transition will depend on how well you’ve stayed connected with your self during your parenting years. If you’ve given your entire heart and soul only to your children but have neglected yourself, this transition will be more challenging. Whether you are married or single, feelings of aloneness are just a part of the process of this transition.
It’s important to give yourself some time to adjust.
Allow yourself to feel the emotions that arise. This grieving process is common during this stage of life and needs to be honored, felt and moved through in order to fully transition in the most optimal way. It’s important to transition in an integrated way, consciously processing what is present, as this will guide you into a more empowered and positive next phase of your life.
If you try to cover up difficult feelings they will indirectly get acted out and impact you negatively.
Of course you don’t want to feel sad, lonely or fearful. You may resist learning how to be alone. It may even be your first time ever being alone if you were a single parent. Or you may struggle with how to reconnect in your marriage if the focus has been primarily on the kids. All of this is normal and with time will get sorted out.
Many people try to distract themselves in order to avoid these uncomfortable feelings.
Not allowing yourself to experience uncomfortable feelings and moving through them can create destructive patterns in your life. For example, you may try to distract yourself by doing things that are seemingly benign such as joining activities that don’t really interest you or starting to date before you are ready.
Or you may be more destructive such as self-medicating. Taking these paths will often lead to unfavorable outcomes because they are a way of ignoring the underlying issues.
Really experiencing and processing your feelings can lead to a “map” for your life that originates from a deeper place within you.
This new journey can bring you closer to your true self where you feel more connected, empowered and motivated to create a positive future. After all of the work you’ve put into parenting you deserve to give this yourself this gift.
Here are three ways to start the process:
1. When you have a difficult feeling, name it and notice where in your body you feel it. Breathe into it. Notice how it will dissipate.
2. Write 3 pages a day of steam of consciousness, whatever comes to mind. Don’t think about it. Just write. The more you do this the easier it becomes.
3. When you have an uncomfortable feeling come up, remind yourself that it is just part of the process and it will pass.
Practice any of these. They will help you move towards self-empowerment and more fulfillment.
Christine Roslund, MFT, CPC – www.beingtrue2you.com
At some point in almost everyone’s lives, the fear of being alone surfaces–or more specifically, a fear of loneliness.
Being alone simply denotes that you are not in the presence of other people, whereas loneliness, the one feared the most, is the sad feelings that occur because of that separation.
Do you find that you make a lot of decisions about relationships based on this fear?
If the answer is yes, then you may find that you experience friendships and intimate partnerships that do not support and nurture you in the ways that you imagine being loved. You may compromise what you need or believe in order to maintain relationships. Ironically, approaching connections in this manner can lead you to feeling unseen and lonely: the exact thing you fear most.
That last sentence is important to remember. We often fear most that which has already happened.
When in your life have you felt left behind or left out or utterly alone? Explore your relationship with loneliness, know where it came from, and what it wants from you now. By knowing the fear well, you can also consider a variety of options to address it, or even let it go.
Next, start making the changes you want to see in your life now.
If you are unsure about leaving a relationship, you may be spending time worrying about what to do, or constantly analyzing the pros and cons of the relationship. Take all that time and brainpower and focus it on what you want to be doing to become the person you envision. Make the changes, and either your mate will respond and change with you, or not. If the answer ends up being “or not” you will be very clear on what to do with the relationship.
Now, become great company for yourself.
Do you enjoy time spent alone with yourself? If the answer is no, its time to get to know yourself on this level. If you are unsure how to do this, start with smaller activities, doing what you like to do that is nurturing to yourself. When we know how to keep ourselves company, we are not so dependent on others to do this for us.
Lastly, always be true to yourself.
Loneliness can also come from all the moments we abandon ourselves. So many times, we don’t say what we mean, break agreements with ourselves, and sabotage our health. And we end up separated from the people we imagine ourselves to be. Then we look outside of ourselves to feel better, but what we really need to do is focus on loving ourselves and letting that lead our life.
Be true, whole, and loyal to yourself. Then, there is a very good chance you will have the strength and courage to face whatever fear comes your way.
Barbara Young, MA, MFT – www.barbarayoungmft.com
Of course you don’t want to be alone.
Humans are pack animals, we crave and need to be with other humans. However, you do get to pick your pack, your tribe, the people you choose to honor with your presence. See you are an amazing person with amazing gifts to share. And you have free will and the power to decide who you spend your time with.
How awesome is that?
Yes, it’s scary, we desperately want to be accepted, be part of the cool crowd.
How many times have you sold yourself short, dimmed your light, silence your voice to fit in, to be accepted, to be in a relationship? How did you feel? I am guessing, not very good. When you play small, silence yourself, dim your light or conform who you are to fit in or make someone else happy, you deplete yourself. You lower your esteem and often times suffer to feel happy. Is the fear of being alone really worth it? Guess what?
You can get over your fear and not comprise you. All you need is a change of perspective.
1. Remind yourself daily, of how awesome you are. Make a list and read it.
2. Remind yourself, you are in charge and you get to pick your friends. You have a lot to offer and they lucky to have you as a friend.
3. When you start to fear being alone, look at your unhealthy relationships and ask yourself, “Is it worth the sacrifice?” Remind yourself of everything you have to lose by sacrificing you.
4. Start to pick healthy relationships and weed out the unhealthy ones. Start to spend more time with people you enjoy being around. People who love you, accept you and make you feel good about you. Start to spend less time with those who make you feel worse about yourself.
5. If you really fear being alone, start to do things on your own, by yourself. Go to dinner, lunch or the movies. Find time to enjoy being with you!
You deserve to be happy and to be around people who love you and accept you, for you.
Start choosing those friends and relationships where you don’t comprise you. And before you know it, you will be happy and be living a life filled with beautiful loving relationships. No more fear of loneness in control of you or your relationships.
Margaret Bell, MA, NCC – www.forwardkindheart.com
A fear of being alone can often lead us to toxic relationships, to stay in toxic relationships and an overall sense of depression and anxiety within ourselves.
One may feel ‘stuck’ in situations in order to unconsciously avoid working through their fear. Our fear of being alone is often a limiting belief system within our soul that tells us, “I am not enough’. To transcend the fear of being alone, one must have the willingness to believe in the potential that ‘I am enough’ at a deep soul level.
Below are a few key steps to guide you to open your mind to this possibility.
Step 1: Create a sacred space.
Even if it is just a small corner of your bedroom, designate an area that you deem as sacred or special to you. Gather pictures of places, people or things you love, favorite books, poems, cherished mementos place them on a small table with a candle. Make sure the area around it is tidy and clean.
Step 2: Spend time alone in sacred space.
This is a special time for you to connect with you. Leave your phone out of the room, turn off the TV, light your candle and sit quietly in the space with the items you love. If this is hard or uncomfortable to you, that it ok! But just try even if it is only for 3 minutes a day to start.
Once you are there mindfully pay attention to your breath, allowing yourself to be surrounded by what brings you joy. Breathe in feelings of self-love and self-worth… and if you aren’t feeling it yet, breathe in the possibility of feeling these feelings and try to breathe out any negativity you are holding on to within your body.
Step 3- Gradually increase your time and include positive affirmations.
If 3 minutes is all the alone time you can tolerate, that is a great start. Have gratitude for whatever you can do. As you gradually increase your time and tolerance of ‘aloneness’ you will be simultaneously working through your fears and increasing your capacity to be alone and your fears of not being enough will slowly fade.
As this is happening and you are becoming more comfortable, incorporate positive affirmations such as ‘I am enough’.
Even if you don’t cognitively believe them at time, as you continue to say them, they begin to resonate more and more with your consciousness and understanding of yourself.
As you become more comfortable in your ‘aloneness’ you will be getting more in touch with your true self underneath your fear and what that person desires and has to offer in relationships. And from that place within yourself, you have the ability to create a life and have a relationship from a place of wholeness and self-love instead of fear.
Ashley Watson, LCSW – www.ashleyewatson.com
A few months ago I received news of a former colleague passing away.
After her retirement, she slowly withdrew from her support system; however, there was one friend who would periodically check on her. Weeks went by and the friend sent law enforcement to my former colleague’s home. The police officers recognized someone sitting in a recliner appearing to be engaged in the program playing on the television.
Because she did not answer the door the police officers forced their way in and determined my former colleague was deceased. The coroner determined she passed away approximately 10 days prior to her body being discovered.
As you can imagine this was extremely disturbing to me as I had so many questions/statements running through my head – Will I die alone?
Will I find a significant other? I gotta find someone quick!! Let me call John Doe – at least he is better than nothing!
After attending the funeral I began processing through my feelings. I determined a few things. First, I slapped myself for even thinking about returning to Mr. John Doe!! Let’s get real – there was a reason I left him alone.
Based on the conversations with her friends and family I then understood my colleague no longer had peace and joy. She built a life based on the happiness of others that when the others were gone she had nothing to show for it – no physical or emotional connection.
As a result, she became bitter and afraid of the world. It appeared she was no longer able to experience joy and love. In essence, she was a victim of a ‘Nothing Relationship’. That is, we remain in a relationship where we don’t receive the respect and love from our partners – it is no longer reciprocal.
So how do you ensure you don’t fall in the trap of a Nothing Relationship because you are afraid to be alone?
1. Ask yourself: Is there peace and joy in this relationship?
Are you and your mate participating in activities that make you happy? Figure out what makes you happy and then go do it. Joy in life is contagious and others will see it. Invite the right people (e.g., honest, open, caring, respectful, etc.) access to your joy just DON’T LET THEM STEAL IT.
2. Ask yourself: What is this relationship costing me?
If you being with him or her cost you your peace and joy, then it is time for you to reevaluate this relationship.
3. Ask yourself: Am I still alone in this relationship?
All relationships must be reciprocal to ensure success. If your mate is only available when they need something from you or you spend more nights alone than with him or her, then it is time for you to reevaluate the relationship.
4. Stop ignoring the signs
Your spirit (you know the guide that protects all of us) is showing you your future. LISTEN TO IT!
Please remember My Lovelies it should never be about being alone; but, about living in YOUR Peace and Joy!
Dr. Maurita Hodge – www.movingmountainsconsultingllc.com
At the very heart of it we are all alone.
We come into this world alone and we die alone. There is no getting away from the fundamental experience of being alone at crucial times of our lives. The existential writers tell this story of humanity so well. However, some people thrive on this while others feel terror at the thought. Much depends on how we were responded to as babies.
The capacity we learnt for self-soothing and the capacity to manage and contain our emotional states are all influenced by how we were responded to in the first two years of life.
And then there are other factors in the mix like trauma, upbringing and personality. There used to be such a sense of shame in ‘feeling dependent’ and many people still do anything to avoid this feeling because of the vulnerability which it brings up.
If only we could tolerate it and know how normal it is! Of course we’re dependent! We are wired for connection.
We need to be attached to others in an emotional way to feel secure. But good relationships require a capacity to be independent and inter-dependent. Otherwise we may end up co-dependent!
Because the fear of being alone can be so primal I recommend psychotherapy if this is your situation. There is nothing better than learning in a safe and therapeutic space how to be secure in yourself and to take care of your own needs in a way that inspires confidence and trust in yourself. In this way psychotherapy makes up for the deficiencies of our early attachment experiences.
Now you know how normal this fear can be and how you can transform it with appropriate professional help.
However, on top of that here are 7 tips to assist you to develop the capacity to be OK with being alone:
1. Practice mindfulness: Breathing and meditation improves your capacity to be with your own experience, just as it is.
2. Practice gratitude by keeping a journal: Write 5 things each day which make you grateful, this increases your sense of well-being and enhances your resilience.
3. Do things each day which nurture you and contribute to your happiness: Take a walk, take a bath, watch a sunset, play with a pet.
4. Increase your skill base: Learn a new hobby or join a group, a gym or a club. This increases your sense of connection with others in your community and can reduce the sense of aloneness.
5. Spend time on giving to your community: You will take the focus of yourself so much and meet others at the same time. Do volunteer work with others who have less than you do.
6. Work out what your purpose in life is and put energy and time into developing that, as well as giving back to others this enhances your sense of self.
7. Connect with something bigger than you, be it spiritual or religious, having a sense that you are part of something bigger enhances well being and connection.
Margie Ulbrick, LLB/BA/GD SOCSCI – www.margieulbrickcounselling.com
Is it better to be in an unhappy or unfulfilling relationship or not in a relationship at all?
That depends upon who you ask. As a happy yet never-married woman of 50 who counsels singles and couples, I have firsthand experience with both sides of this dilemma.
The fear of being alone reflects many negative thought patterns. Do any of them ring true for you?
– Is there something wrong with me… am I unlovable?
– Will I grow old alone?
– Is this relationship the best I can attract?
– I hate being a “third wheel” among my married friends.
– Maybe there’s no one out there for me.
– I’d better hang on to this one—my biological clock is ticking.
– I can’t be happy if I’m single.
Too often, people equate being single with failure.
One of my neighbors, a thrice-divorced man about my age, has actually asked me why I never married and went as far as saying there must be something wrong with me. Really? Someone who has said “I do” three times and he thinks there must be something wrong with me? That just makes me chuckle.
Scott is a poster-child for someone afraid of being alone. Sadly, in the years I’ve known him, he’s bounced from relationship to relationship with an obvious desperation that drives very unhealthy decisions. Rarely does he share happy stories involving the current woman du jour. It is apparent his fear of being alone is fed by his belief that he won’t be happy unless he’s in a relationship.
For my clients sharing Scott’s belief system, we’ve worked together to shift their thought processes by having them:
1. Focus on building non-romantic social connections
By nature, humans are social animals and survive and thrive with the interaction and support of others. When not involved in a romantic relationship, we have even more time to enjoy our friends and family.
2. Find satisfaction and even joy in “alone time”
I met one of my favorite clients, Ken, while he was going through his divorce. In his late 40s, Ken had never lived alone as an adult and was struggling with the thought of being alone at night for the first time. After working through his fears and negative thoughts, I’m proud to report that Ken, six months later, actually looks forward to being alone and having his new apartment all to himself.
3. Identify their own interests and favorite activities
We are all creatures of habit. When we want to implement change in our lives, we must change our habits. Developing friendships within and around one’s favorite activities ensures options for company when we want it. I have golf buddies, ski buddies, cycling buddies, foodie buddies… you get the point.
The fear of being alone can lead people to settle for less-than-ideal romantic partners and less-than-happy relationships… and therefore, less-than-blissful lives. Settling for “less-than” reveals a sad irony: that those who equate happiness with being in a romantic relationship may, due to the fear of being alone, reduce their chances of finding happiness overall.
Deb Daufeldt, MA, MBA, PMP, NCC – www.newchaptersolutions.com
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