Managing loneliness

Managing loneliness

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Loneliness – that universal human feeling – can do things to the most rational among us. Loneliness that comes along with a feeling of despair can be a very difficult phase that affects us mentally and physically.

Joel and Mary have been married for 22 years. It was a case of true love. They have two children, both of who have now left home and stay in different cities. The home has changed from filled with sounds and laughter, to what Mary describes as ‘lonely and dark’.

Joel was back at work as usual. Mary has been feeling down and out. The pain in her joints seems to be a permanent feature and getting out of bed is grueling. It has been a month since her son, the younger one, left but Mary has not been able to overcome the deep feeling of sadness. His room bears his presence though it is completely bare. She had not felt this way when her daughter had left and wishes she could feel the sunshine again.

When the kids were pre-teens, Mary stopped working in her full time assignment as an accountant since she felt this was a stage for providing guidance. She looks back at those days fondly. The kids were happy for her presence when they returned from school and she was happy to take small assignments to keep the money flowing in. As the children grew older and more independent, Mary took up larger assignments. She had been busy and she loved it.

The recession came up and she found her earnings dwindling as the companies she worked for first chopped the work-from-home assignments. Around the same time, the kids got admission to university and were gone before she had got used to the idea of their absence.

Joel on his part knows what Mary is going through but he is working longer hours than usual trying to keep his job down. Now that Mary and he are growing older, their medical expenses have started increasing.

Mary knows that Joel still cares about her, it is obvious in the little things he does for her. But, she feels he does not want to talk to her, maybe she is not interesting now. When he returns home in the evenings, he watches television for a while as he drinks a cup of coffee. She tries to make conversation and he listens, but her conversation topics are always inane. He sits late into the night on his personal laptop while she lies awake with her memories.

Mary has started feeling that she doesn’t know anything. At a recent party, Mary found herself standing with a group of old friends and feeling that they were all ignoring her. Joel’s presence doesn’t help because of his work. The children call up once a week; they seem well adjusted and don’t seem to miss her as much as she misses them. Physical pain, loss of work, the work pressure her husband faces and the move of the children seem to have come together and have caused a feeling of disorientation.

Loneliness – that universal human feeling – can do things to the most rational among us. Loneliness that comes along with a feeling of despair can be a very difficult phase that affects us mentally and physically.

Murphy relates a mental predisposition to the perception of loneliness. He describes a thought frame that considers the self as inferior, uninteresting and similar self-descriptions as the preceptor to extreme feelings of loneliness. The person creates a base of self deficit and assumes that others view this deficit in the same manner. The feeling intensifies to a point when the person is unable to view others with an open mental frame. Others are better, they are happier, they have friends because they are interesting are a set of assumptions that people suffering from loneliness make about others in their surroundings.

Sometimes this thought frame leads to alienation of the self from situations that could otherwise lead to bonding. Loneliness occurs as a constant feeling throughout life. Children fight and come away from play until friends return. Celebrities are known to be very lonely despite the adulation that surrounds them.

Butler and Hope have elucidated the effect of stress on the body. Symptoms like stomach upset, heart disease, asthma and arthritis are aggravated under moments of stress. Therapeutic treatment alleviates the pain but it returns as the stress resurfaces.

Loneliness is set off by latent thought processes and in turn aggravates underlying physical conditions that worsen the feelings of the moment. The cycle needs to be broken using a number of measures.

How should Mary manage her feelings? Firstly, she must treat the pain using the methods she normally does. An alternative is to get busy within capacity. The untidy house will worsen the feelings that Mary is undergoing. She will find herself feeling much better once the house has been tidied. A very important activity is to set up a daily routine that involves some time to contact at least one friend or person outside her family. This is better done when she has returned to some level of activity so that she is better able to consider substitute to utilize the time that has crept in with the reduced workload.

Chronic pain is recognized to be a stressor (Caudill, 2008) and stress management techniques are recognized as a way to control stress and reduce pain. Mary will probably benefit from meditating on a word or phrase for as long as she can. Since she is currently having negative thoughts that are likely to crowd her mind, she should use a chant that she can hear. This will increase her sense of well-being.

Getting professional help in identifying her trend of thought, self hurting presumptions about how she is perceived by others and effective ways to capture and alter her trend of thought.

Loneliness may not leave but with effective mental techniques, Mary will know how to guide her mind when thoughts assail her. She will learn to accept that loneliness is not a situation to overcome but a state of mind to manage.

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