Loneliness Isolation Depression Despair and Robin Williams

Loneliness Isolation Depression Despair and Robin Williams

Self Esteem Self-Acceptance

I’d been ruminating rather relentlessly on how loneliness and isolation has become an epidemic in the U.S. as we increasingly lead lives that don’t nurture support communities when, in the middle of my meditations, came news about Robin Williams. Beloved Robin Williams who was known by so many to be kind and gracious in addition to being hilarious. Mork and Mindy was one of my favorite shows and certainly many of his movies – Mrs. Doubtfire, The Bird Cage to name a few – I’ve watched at least a hundred times. While most news pundits are talking about his depression, most psychologists are talking about his despair, which is the complete lack of hope and is the most life threatening part of depression.

Despair.

When I think about social isolation, loneliness and despair, it all feels like a “what came first, the chicken or the egg” kind of riddle. Does one cause the other? Is one the effect of the other? What’s the source? What’s the result?

Does it even matter?

The thing is, isolation, loneliness and despair involve feeling utterly hopeless (not sure there’s a future worth living), worthless (having no real value), useless (that nothing we’ve done has helped the world), helpless (deprived of strength or power), meaningless (like nothing we’ve done matters). I have coached many singles who suffered from these feelings. I can see their pain.

And I can see how our feelings can escalate and perpetuate. In the case of Robin Williams, I can see how most of us, who don’t know how dark and deep depression can be, would find it hard to believe that he could feel any of the above. And according to many psychologists, that’s precisely what causes a person to feel alone in their pain.

One of the biggest takeaways I’ve gotten from my ruminations is that suffering is feeling utterly alone in pain. While most people can endure pain, few can endure prolonged unrelenting suffering. However when someone is able to make it through and breakthrough our “iron walls” that keeps all help and hope out and keeps us locked up inside, suffering you can’t live with becomes pain that you can.

How does this all tie in together? What’s the greater lesson? When we allow ourselves to seek help, allow ourselves to let people in and become vulnerable, we eliminate suffering. And my heart breaks to think that Robin Williams was suffering so much.

Being single isn’t fun? Snap out of it!

Relationships

OK OK OK – my dander is a bit up. Lately I have been focusing my content on the value of friends and a support community as well as talking about how damaging loneliness can be. Not only to our physical and emotional health but also how it sets us up for dating traps a la the Desperation Trap. Today a friend forwarded me an article in the Huffington Post about the ways fears of being alone can sabotage your relationships. Booyah! I said to myself, congratulating myself for being on the wave of the zeitgeist. Yeah Buddy! I am in the flow! I am channeling universal wisdom! I am on the cutting edge of philosophical thought!

Then I read the first line: “Being single isn’t fun. In fact, it can be a very lonely time, and that time only becomes worse if being single or being alone is your biggest fear.”ARGHHHHH!!!! I want to give this author the old one-two, Moonstruck style. SNAP OUT OF IT, SISTER!!! You got it all wrong and ARGHHH for promoting your backwards viewpoint on such a visible platform.

Stop Thinking that the ONLY Way to Happiness is Being in a Relationship!!!! Yes, we all want intimacy and someone to share our innermost thoughts with. Yes, we want people in our lives with whom we have frequent interactions. Yes, we all want people to have fun with. There are plenty of ways to satisfy those needs — if you are just willing to take those steps. Being single isn’t fun for those who have no idea how to live a great life. For those who refuse to do the right things to create a network of good friends, who have no interests in life, refuse to acknowledge they live in a box of fear and sit on the couch watching TV night after night.

Don’t get me started!

(OK so maybe a romantic comedy isn’t the best film to feature – I see the irony there.)

How social are you?

How social are you?

Community Fulfillment Self Discovery

The most common lament I hear from today’s singles over the age of 40 is the difficulty they have meeting potential partners. When I hear that, it reconfirms for me how broken our approach to being single really is.

In my experience, the singles complaining about not meeting the right people are – among many things – too isolated in their everyday lives, and need to focus on building their community before finding a partner. In fact, it is this isolation – and the fear of being alone – that propels people into relationships that are just not right for them.

Through my Become Successfully Single programs, my clients focus on building their support networks because it’s not only a lost part of our lives, but also offers more benefits than one blog post can actually describe. Support networks and friendships are vital to our well-being on all levels. The problem is that most singles don’t even give this topic a second thought and as a result wind up leading very socially isolated lives.

Are you one of them? Take this assessment, developed by UCLA, consisting of 20 questions. After you read each statement, indicate how often the statement is descriptive of you, using the following scoring system:

1         to indicate you  never feel this way
2        to indicate you  rarely feel this way
3        to indicate you sometimes feel this way
4         to indicate you  often feel this way
______________________________________________

1. I am unhappy doing so many things alone
2. I have nobody to talk to
3. I cannot tolerate being so alone
4. I lack companionship
5. I feel as if nobody really understands me
6. I find myself waiting for people to call or write
7. There is no one I can turn to
8. I am no longer close to anyone
9. My interests and ideas are not shared by those around me
10. I feel left out
11. I feel completely alone
12. I am unable to reach out and communicate with those around me
13. My social relationships are superficial
14. I feel starved for company
15. No one really knows me well
16. I feel isolated from others
17. I am unhappy being so withdrawn
18. It is difficult for me to make friends
19. I feel shut out and excluded by others
20. People are around me but not with me

To determine your level of loneliness, compute your score by adding the ten numbers together.

Scoring System:
30-40: People attaining this score-range are operating comfortably and experience an average level of loneliness.
41-60: People within this range struggle a little with social interactions, experiencing frequent loneliness.
61-80: Scores falling within this range would indicate a person experiencing severe loneliness.

Fear not if you got a high score the first time doing this assessment. I want to reinforce that this quiz merely registers FEELINGS of loneliness … feelings are really predicated on PERCEPTIONS – what you perceive to be true. Your feelings are not FACTS – meaning, you might feel lonely but that doesn’t mean you ARE lonely. You may need to simply shift your perspective OR take some solid steps to form closer connections, which is what we’ll talk about next. You may also need to figure out if you’re being too needy, which can account for your feelings of loneliness.

In addition, you might want to take this test monthly to see whether your score remains static, or whether it dips or rises in response to life events. This won’t solve your loneliness, but it will provide more information about a state that can seem so hard to pin down.

Stay Tuned For More!
(And consider enrolling in my Become Successfully Single home study program!)

Creating a Support Network as a Single Adult

Creating a Support Network as a Single Adult

Relationships Women

When I moved out of New York City, leaving all of the friends and activities I’d been involved with for the past 15 or so years, to live “down the shore”, I realized pretty quickly that I was starving for friendships. Being the enterprising sort, I started looking for ways to meet “my tribe” – people who shared similar values. I came across almost immediately a pocket of holistic professionals and started to attend their events. I befriended three women who I felt I had known my whole life – they were the kind of people who I would have been roommates with had we gone to college together.

That was two years ago. We’ve seen each other three times since. We’re “friends,” butnot quite friends. We keep trying to get over the hump, but life gets in the way.

My story is not unusual. In our 30s and even in our 40s, new people enter our lives through work, children’s play dates and of course, Facebook. But actual close friends – like the ones you make in college or the kind you call in a crisis – those are in shorter supply.

As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, of making friends wherever you go, fade as our work schedules compress our leisure time, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends. After a certain age, people fall into a sense of fatalism, thinking that the opportunities for making BFFs the way we did in our teens or college years is pretty much over – that it’s time to resign yourself to situational friends or kind-of-friends.

People also often don’t realize how much they’ve neglected to replenish their stable of friends as the years progress –until they encounter a big life event, like a move, or a divorce. Then most wrestle with their sense of sheer loneliness and regret over not nurturing their friendships.

That thought struck me few months ago when I was contemplating organizing one of my (previously) renowned “Virgo-a-go-go’s” for my birthday. (Back in the day, I would often host some sort of blow-out birthday party at a favorite bar in New York, where my friends and I would gather and celebrate – often until dawn. And yes, you guessed it – I’m a Virgo.) But I realized that even though I have 926 Facebook friends, I still didn’t know if I could fill my party’s invitation list.

Many of my clients are also facing the same situation. In fact, after a divorce in his early 40s, one of my clients, Robert, a public relations executive, realized that his roster of friends had quietly atrophied for years as he focused on his career and family. “All of a sudden, as someone who became suddenly single, I realized I was lonely,” said Robert, now nearing 50. “I’d go to swing dance lessons. Instead of trying to pick up women, I’d introduce myself to the men and suggest ‘Hey, let’s go get a drink.’”

The benefits of having a strong support network is endless* yet these days, our lifestyle conditions have changed to such an extent that it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximityrepeated interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.

With that in mind, I’m creating live-and-in-person opportunities for people to connect and form friendships while learning key life skills that will in the end help them create a life they love. I’m also offering a teleseminar on this subject that will give you the know-how to create a support community wherever you may live. Check out my Upcoming Events section to learn more. And over the course of the next few blog casts, I‘ll share with you some ideas on how to form new friendships and nurture them, no matter how busy you are or how introverted. Stay Tuned!

* Check out my teleseminar on this topic to learn more about the benefits of strong networks: http://aurorasana.wordpress.com/events/