Loneliness is an Inside Job – II

Loneliness frightens us. It frightens us in ourselves and in others. It can feel needy and infantile. People don’t like to talk about it.

I think that loneliness evokes our inner child’s fear of being abandoned. Whether we first experienced that in a relatively benign way, with a parent being absent for short periods or not responding as we wanted, or whether we suffered the more difficult abandonments of neglect or abuse, that primal fear lives inside us. It is the social animal’s fear of being left by the herd, the infant’s fear of being deserted.

In addition, I sometimes feel a fear that there’s something wrong with me. My inner child is afraid that she was bad or wrong, and that she caused the abandonment. In such a mood, I fear I’m not loving enough or good enough. Then I begin fearing that I’ll always be alone—that’s the fear of fear. My thoughts take me in catastrophic directions, regardless of my reality.

At such times, I need both to hold the inner child and listen to her fears and also to let her know that these feelings are not based in reality. It’s not true that I’ve been so bad that everyone has deserted me. It’s not true that I am unworthy of love. Just by the act of connecting to my inner child’s emotions, I can begin to love her back into an inner connection. With this greater security inside, I can more easily make the outer connections to other people, as well.

Loneliness is an Inside Job – Part I

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about loneliness. Being alone is not the same as loneliness. Lots of times I can be happily alone, but sometimes I tip over into a darker feeling. Conversely, I can be very lonely with people talking all around me. Loneliness, it seems to me, is a mix of yearning for connection and fearing it might not happen. Sometimes the yearning predominates, and sometimes the fear.

Today I want to talk about the first aspect.

Yearning for connection is not a bad thing. It can be the yearning for human connection - for a touch, a phone call, a voice. It can also be the yearning for a more spiritual kind of connection. Sometimes I find that tapping into the yearning itself is a difficult but very fruitful way to open up to love. As the 14th century Persian poet Hafiz said so eloquently,

My Eyes So Soft

Don't surrender your loneliness so quickly
let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
as few human or even divine ingredients can
Something missing in my heart tonight
has made my eyes so soft
my voice so tender
my need of god
absolutely clear.

--Hafiz

In this way, if I sit with the loneliness, I can feel a young voice inside of me, my inner child, calling out for connection with the universe – whether you call it god or spirit or universal love. When I fully acknowledge and feel that longing and ache in my heart, then sometimes I also can hold the inner child’s yearning, and sometimes miraculously I feel the love of the universe and of other people flow into me and through me.