Do we choose loneliness?

I realised as I started to write about loneliness, how often it can impact our each and every day. Loneliness can start from a very young age – in the schoolyard for example. How many have experienced, while looking around at all of the kids having fun and playing, that there are distinct moments of feeling detached: seeing everyone, yet separated from everyone and feeling quite alone?

We can have a picture like this of what loneliness looks like, well established from our childhood days . . . surrounded by people yet lonely. Is this still happening in our adult lives – surrounded by family, friends or work colleagues, yet still lonely?

Is it possible that we have a choice as to whether we are lonely or not? Is it a certain way we choose to be that does not stay open to trusting people and keeps us defensive and shut down – which is a very lonely place to be?

Perhaps being lonely is not a symptom of life but a choice within life. Loneliness, I have discovered, depends entirely on what I choose and how I am feeling when I choose it.

In the loving relationship I have with my wife, I have never felt more lonely than when we are not getting on together. This may only last an hour or 5 minutes . . . but what is it like when it lasts for a few hours or a few days? The point is, at that time I recognise that I have made a choice to step away from that which holds us so lovingly together, preferring to wander alone trying to find solace and answers in a solitary space. There is little support available because the shutters have come down and no one can see in, let alone come in to offer a loving hand.

Shutting down in relationships never works.

When I choose to react to a situation and shut down, I disconnect from myself and I am also choosing to disconnect from the potential of ‘us’ . . . and this is how loneliness starts.

I have come to realise that when I shut down it is an attempt to protect myself from being hurt further, and it is also an attempt to get attention from the ‘other’.

Those feelings of loneliness are always so cold. Imagine as a baby that knowingness of being wrapped in love and held in someone's arms. There is a sense of being part of someone's care. It is interesting then, that as we grow bigger, longer arms and legs, more hairy, that it is often the case that we can be held, but a little bit further away, and we can choose more easily to hold ourselves separate from all others. What struck me the most at being so very cold with myself is that the feeling is very familiar; we know this place and yet however uncomfortable it is, we are actually choosing to take this stand, usually with those that we love closely.

It makes no sense

How is it possible that we choose to create a lonely space to reside in until we feel it's safe or are ‘gently coaxed out’?

Is it possible that we need to really appreciate the connection we have with ourselves and cherish this so much that we refuse to let it go?

Choosing loneliness effectively shuts down who we truly are – which is the loveliness we were born with. Even if we like to think that we are not affected by shutting down, thinking it is the others who will suffer, the fact is everyone suffers if we shut down: for as a couple, a family, at school or in the workplace, all relationships depend on the fact that we stay connected, fully open, and support each other always.

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  • By Lee Green

  • Photography: James Tolich