Most people experience loneliness at some point in their life. It is a common, even natural, human experience. There are two approaches you can take to coping with your loneliness. First, you can look for ways to relieve it: meeting new people, joining societies and clubs, catching up with old friends and so on. The second option is to embrace your loneliness and see it as an opportunity for personal growth and exploration.
The solution to loneliness is not as simple as surrounding yourself with people. You can be in a relationship, or enjoy a hectic social life, and yet still feel desperately lonely. Equally, there are people who live alone in remote places and feel perfectly content. Loneliness usually arises when we feel there is no-one in our life who truly understands us. Most of us have had the experience of being with a group of people who are just not our type. If you place a lonely, sensitive, introverted poet in a room full of boisterous, beer-drinking sports fans, he will probably feel more lonely, not less. People who move to a very different country or culture often experience this sort of loneliness. Even those who are welcomed with great kindness and generosity will, at first, experience a sense of isolation. Their own sense of individuality and separation will be thrown into sharp relief by the contrast in culture, history and tradition.
The obvious start is to make an effort to meet new people. Be kind to yourself though, and don't expect too much too soon. It takes time to meet people with whom you feel a deep connection and understanding. The truth is that many of us find a large number of those we encounter boring, irritating or depressing. Keep trying. If you have a bad experience, keep going. Do not conclude that you are destined to be alone and give up. The one way to guarantee loneliness is to give up on people. Accept that there are a huge variety of personalities out there, and the more people you meet, the more likely you are to find someone with whom you can form a lasting connection. If you are not the sort of person who feels comfortable walking into a local bar and starting conversations, try joining some kind of group or society. Consider the types of people you want to meet. Are you an extrovert who enjoys a drink and a joke? If so, you are unlikely to meet your sort of person at a chess club. What interests you? Do you love literature and art galleries? Or do you have a more practical, scientific sort of mind? If you are deep, sensitive and poetic, join a book club or take an evening class in French literature.
When you meet people, it is important to make yourself open and approachable. Lonely people are often ashamed of their loneliness and may have become remote and detached. If you are used to your own company, others will sense this. Try to make an effort without seeming needy: smile, maintain eye contact, take an interest in what others say and above all listen. The best conversationalists are those who really listen to others. Listening is not the same as patiently waiting for the other person to finish talking so that you can begin.
For the vast majority, loneliness is an inevitable and painful part of life. Do not spend your days thinking of happier times. Focus on the reality of your life here and now. It can be positive and healthy to embrace and explore your loneliness. Learning to be alone, and knowing how to cope with it, are important. In the empty silence of your loneliness you can discover your deepest self. Learn to like and accept this self. If you accept your loneliness, and learn to embrace it, you may find a deeper, stronger and more distinctive personality emerges. Such personality growth can be helped by careful, committed reading. Read as much philosophy, literature and science as you can. The world of ideas is a wonderful, inexhaustible consolation that will lift you out of your own life and put you in touch with the finest thoughts of the finest minds. Art is an especially wonderful antidote to loneliness. Through poetry, story, drama and painting we discover that we really aren't alone. Art can prove to you that your fears and concerns have been endured by others down the ages. Great art will make you feel part of one long human story.
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