Friday, January 15, 2016

It’s hard to find meaning on an island

When waves of loneliness and isolation come crashing in, I immediately recognize them for what they are, but I don’t dwell on them. 

Because I know that sitting around like an inert zombie waiting for time to pass only compounds the pain. It only causes me to behave in ways that push away the very people who might alleviate my loneliness. It only leads to the atrophy of social skill sets like empathy, listening and connecting. 

And so, instead of getting stuck in a poisonous loop of rumination, I shed my cloak of invisibility, reenergize my experience of meaning and start reducing my unhappiness. I send text messages and write emails and make phone calls phone and schedule virtual lunches with people I do know, and I make efforts to forge new social connections with people I don’t know. And within minutes, those empty feelings of loneliness start to fade. 

When you take action of any kind, it always makes you feel better about yourself and your prospects. Pursuing what you believe in always creates the experience of meaning, regardless of the outcome. 

The secret is not telegraphing neediness. Otherwise relationships become based on the model that we’re the victim and other people are the soothers. I learned this from a fascinating interview with a clinical psychologist. He suggests that anytime a lonely person attends an event, they should have an additional agenda. A larger goal besides feeling less isolated. They should seek out to give rather than get, so they can focus on the task at hand, which will in turn make them feel less insecure and vulnerable. 

With such a strategy, the person won’t come across as someone who is lonely, rather, as someone who is passionate. And curious. And generous. 

The point is, complaining about something doesn’t make it go away, purposeful action does. And since meaning comes from feeling connected to others, and believing that others feel connected to you, perhaps it’s time to get off the island. Start devoting real effort toward that life goal, and it will provides you with a significant, renewable source of meaning. 

What’s your strategy for managing life’s inevitable waves of loneliness and isolation?
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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
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