I like the clear and insightful ideas in Healing Your Aloneness. The book takes a very unusual approach to aloneness (or loneliness). Rather than taking the usual rather superficial angle, which seems to boil down to encouraging people who want to overcome loneliness to ‘get out more’, it shows ways to resolve the underlying issues that cause loneliness. This approach enables us to feel less lonely no matter whether we feel inclined, or feel able, to seek the company of others. Ironically, by helping us overcome the source of loneliness within ourselves it enables us to be more able to connect with others if that is what we choose.
What the books points out is that we have an inner dialog continuously going on. The major voices inside us are an Inner Adult and an Inner Child. The quality of our lives, and how we feel moment-by-moment, depends very much on the quality of that inner dialog. If our Inner Adult self is too critical and too judgmental of our Inner Child self; “That’s stupid. You did that wrong. etc.” then this creates a very lonely and unhappy Inner Child. It is that lonely and isolated Inner Child that generates the feelings of loneliness that so many of us endure.
A negative inner dialog can cripple our ability to create healthy relationships. This is because we become disconnected from parts of ourselves which are essential to creating such relationships. One of the qualities of the Inner Child is the capacity for empathy. Empathy gives us the ability to connect with others and relate to them in ways that are meaningful to them and to us. If we are disconnected from our Inner Child we lose the capacity to feel connected with others. Without empathy we may know lots of people, and we may even have great conversations with them, but we will always feel empty as we will not feel any connection. We may be the life and soul of the party, but without a connection with our Inner Child, and its capacity for empathy, that will just underline our feelings of loneliness and isolation.
This loneliness does not only come from having a negative inner dialog from an overly critical Inner Adult. It can also come from having no real sense of Inner Adult at all! If the Inner Child has not real guidelines to direct it in life then it feels just as abandoned as it does when the influence of the Inner Adult is negative.
Many of us have got into the habit of treating ourselves roughly and unkindly. Perhaps we let ourselves harbor negative thoughts and beliefs about who we are or how we live our life. We forget that someone is listening. Someone is seriously affected by anything negative we say about ourselves whether spoken aloud or in our thoughts, and that is our Inner Child. That part of us shrinks and cowers at every unkind action or thought towards ourselves along the lines of, “I am not good at….”, “I’m not doing enough….”, or “Will I ever learn….”, and so on. Or, maybe we are prone to scaring ourselves with worrying thoughts so that we make ourselves unhappy that way. Alternatively, we may deny ourselves experiencing any goodness in life by creating a cynical cloud that shrouds our inner life.
We have got into such internal bad habits owing to lack of healthy parenting, or simply a lack of any kind of parenting, when we were children. We have internalized the type of parenting we had as a child and now treat our Inner Child in the same manner as our own parents (or whoever had that role) treated us.
In a way, we do not really know ourselves. If we do not know our Inner Child, or only know it in it’s damaged state crippled by isolation and lack of encouragement then we have not even glimpsed our own potential for a healthy and happy life.
In order to have a healthy inner dialog we need a healthy Inner Adult. It is us (our conscious self) the needs to take on the role of a healthy Inner Adult. We need to accept the responsibility to develop the skills that allow us to have a healthy inner dialog. This creates a healthy relationship between the different parts of ourselves.
It seems strange, in a way, to try and relate to ourselves as if we were more than one person. However, in effect that is what we have become as many of have become so cut off from ourselves that we need to use all sorts of distractions (work, a mission, alcohol, TV, sex, drugs) in excess to distract us from how we feel. We tend to use those distractions rather than resolve the feelings at their source. When we do start to resolve those feeling and have a positive inner dialog we gradually develop a naturally happy inner state. Having given to ourselves in this way find that we have a lot more to give to others.
For a while, at least, it can be very helpful to relate to our Inner Child as if it is an somewhat separate and independent part of ourselves until the barriers between our normal conscious self and that part of ourselves are healed.
Of course, in every adult/child relationship there is a need for a balance between a healthy sense of discipline as well as encouragement. The book encourages us to take a balanced approach. There are unhealthy ways to give to ourselves that just results in a larger sense of an isolated ‘me’ without being able to give more to the world. That is what happens when we just indulge ourselves with numbing distractions, ‘by letting it all hang out’, or by just switching off our Inner Adult rather than developing a healthy one. It is also what happens if we try to become more powerful and effective in the world without creating a healthy inner self (Does the green movement not also have its share of organizational tyrants, egotists and bullies?). This book advocates a healthy way to give to ourselves, one that not only enhances our own lives but enhances our ability to give to others and to the activities in the world that we want to support.
This book offers us a chance to reconnect with ourselves by enabling us to create a healthy relationship with the more basic and childlike parts of ourselves. In that reconnection we feel much less ‘needy’ for connection with others, yet, much more able to create and enjoy such connection owing to the capacities and abilities we obtain by behaving as a healthy Inner Adult and being connected with our Inner Child.
Note: You can this book via major online suppliers, but another option is to encourage your local bookstore to stock it by ordering it locally.
Healing Your Aloneness, Erika Chopich, Margaret Paul
HarperCollins ISBN 0-06-250149-6