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Loneliness and Forgiveness

We feel most lonely when we are not a friend to ourselves. We feel most abandoned when we abandon ourselves. We feel most rejected when we reject ourselves.

Lack of forgiveness can isolate us from other people and create loneliness in our lives. If we have a store of unforgiven material it can make it hard for us to trust others. We may also find it hard to trust ourselves as we might fear we will make the same mistakes again and be hurt the same ways again. This can cause us to avoid situations where we might otherwise feel connected and engaged with other people and connected with life.

Every time we are become embittered by an experience we create another brick in the wall: the wall separating us from others. It is not the experience which creates the wall, but our reaction to those experiences.

If we don’t know who to trust, this usually means we are locked into feeling fearful because of previous bad experiences. It also probably means that we have not forgiven those who we feel harmed by, as the process of learning from experience is hindered by being unforgiving. Forgiveness helps us gain a detached perspective where we can objectively evaluate who we can trust and who we ought not to trust. Unforgiveness tends to keep us in a untrusting reaction where we feel that we cannot trust anyone. If we feel that we cannot trust anyone this usually means that we feel that we cannot trust ourselves and need to forgive ourselves too.

Perhaps we have judged ourselves as ‘foolish’ or ‘stupid’ if we feel that others took advantage of us. Perhaps we are punishing ourselves for our mistakes and teaching ourselves a hard lesson, by strenuously avoiding the types contact with other people which we would find rewarding, when a much kinder lesson would do with much less pain and isolation to ourselves. We may have put ourselves into social solitary confinement as part of our self-punishment for the mistakes we believe we made.

We may have felt rejected or rebuffed in our attempts to connect with others socially and feel confused or afraid that may be socially inept and may just not know how to get along with others, particularly potential life partners. Again a forgiving and kindly attitude towards ourselves makes it easier to recover from any unfruitful attempts to have a better social life. In order to learn what kinds of people we get on well with we need to try out different types of people in different social situations. While we are finding our feet socially we may find that we need to work our way through a number of individuals or groups of people we do not get on well with in order to discover the type of people who we do get on well with.

Creating a good social life is a often a process of elimination. The fact that initially there may be more social situations where we feel we do not fit in than those we do fit in is normal. It takes time to find the right kind of people for our temperament. It takes experience to blend with a new group of people; it is not necessarily something that comes automatically – except for those fortunate ones who are socially gifted. For most people learning social skills takes practise and we can feel odd and out of place in any new social situation till we get used to new people.

If we are the type of person who tends to withdraw from others when we feel pained by something, this can make loneliness harder to deal with. Loneliness feels painful, so the pain of loneliness would make us feel like withdrawing. This of course makes us feel even more lonely and so we have got caught in a loop. The way to break out of the loop is to begin to re-establish and widen our social connections.

It is much more difficult to create good connections with others if we have an unforgiving attitude. If we are embittered by our experiences the chances are we have cut ourselves off from the wisdom-producing nature of those experiences. We have closed down rather than learned wisdom. Our unforgiving stance may be petty, “They did not phone me so I won’t phone them” or “They did not invite me, so I wont have anything to do with them.”, and so on. Our unforgiving stance may be about deeper issues such as abuse or theft of something important to us. Either way, the chances are that it is distorting how we relate to others and affecting our ability to create happy, healthy relationships.

An unforgiving stance in life not only affects how we see other people, but also affects how other people see us.  Even if we do no say a word, others will pick up on our attitude and be repelled or attracted depending on their beliefs and attitude. Our body language such as our physical stance, our tone of voice, our facial expressions, our eye contact and so on, speak volumes about our attitude. A genuinely forgiving attitude is much more attractive than a surly one, or a forced smile.

If we are idealistic then our idealism can cause us to have unrealistic expectations of others. We may have a list of things we expect from a friend and feel disappointed if we meet someone new and they do not meet our unspoken requirements.  “They are not my friend, because they did not…” We might then want to punish them by withdrawing or by being generally unavailable. They may wonder what happened this great new person they were just getting to know. They may think, “Oh they seem to want to withdraw. I’ll wait till they resurface as I don’t want to appear rude by intruding.”

Many people struggle with the issues of avoiding initiating social contact out of wariness around being rebuffed or rejected. We need to be forgiving of people who don’t make much effort to reach out to us even if we make big efforts to reach out to them. It could well be just their temperament and nothing personal. If they are happy when we suggest a meeting, and for the most part make themselves available that is as much as some people can manage. Of course, if they keep avoiding meeting us that is another story and it is best just to bless them and move on.

The unmet expectations can take the form of, “If they really cared about me they would…” We can switch that thought around to, “If I really cared about them I would…” If we do not do a switch around with such thoughts we leave them to fester and grow and dictate the course of our lives. Instead we can release our negative self-focus and cultivate thoughts which enhance our lives and those around us.

Some of us hide away is if we are waiting for some cosmic Search and Rescue Mission to discover us and proclaim our value to the world. Perhaps these are the sensitive types who have trouble fitting in with the roughness of the world. If we are the sensitive type we can we can either focus on every slight which comes our way and withdraw from life believing that ‘nobody understands me’, or we can use our sensitivity to feel empathy for others and to be able to connect with them in deeper ways. Sensitivity may not so much the issue. It could be that we simply have our sensitivity focussed on ourselves too much rather than focussing it on the needs of others. Sensitivity is not really a problem if we look for ways to manage it properly.

If we reject our right to live and our right to explore life and different social situations, then we are likely to feel isolated and abandoned. We will feel abandoned, because we have abandoned ourselves. The feeling of being abandoned is the same whether it is us or someone else who is doing it. The feeling of being isolated is also the same whether it is us or someone else who is the cause of our isolation.

To end loneliness we need to start breaking down the wall surrounding us. Whatever the bricks in the wall are made of; distorted ideas about how people should behave, overly sensitive reactions, hiding from life, waiting to be discovered, or whatever, we can break out and break through and create happy and healthy relationships. Forgiveness lets us let go of our rigidity and flow more with life at it is. Forgiveness helps us see more clearly and we are then better able to determine who we can trust, without being held hostage to fear of being taken advantage of, the fear of being rebuffed, or the fear of being rejected.

Try this:

In this process we notice what types of thoughts are going on inside us when we isolate ourselves too much and end up feeling lonely. We then interrupt that thought by giving ourselves another thought which challenges or contradicts it. Some of the contradictions are in the form of “How” questions as those kinds of questions can encourage our thoughts and imagination to focus on the positive and to find positive answers.  If we do not know what thoughts are going on which make us feel isolated, then we could simply read the right hand column slowly ten or twenty times.

Alternative thoughts:

Substitute thoughts like the ones on the left with those in the right. If the thought on the right feels like it has some truth in it, you can ask yourself, “I wonder what I would like to do about this now”.

“I am all alone.”        “Instead of choosing to be alone, I now chose to have many good friends.”

“Nobody cares about me.”        “I care about me and I intend to lead a happier life.”

“I have no one.”        “I now allow more good people into my life.”

“They rejected me.”    “I accept myself and choose to find more people who are acceptable to me.”

“Nobody loves me.”    “I am free to love lots of people and that makes me a magnet for good friends.”

“There is only me”    “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a great social life! How can I create that?”

“Why am I alone.”    “How can I find the friends I need?”.

“I’m lonely.”        “Who else do I know that might be lonely?”.

“Why is this happening to me?”    “How can I create something better?”

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