Monday, May 23, 2005

Dealing with the Problem of Loneliness

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Dealing with the Problem of Loneliness

When you see birds flying together in the sky in a strange formation, what does it remind you? When you see groups of animals roaming in the wilderness of Africa or Australia sharing the same food and habitat, what  does that bring to your mind? 

When you look at life in general, it becomes obvious that plants, animals or humans, generally tend to live in groups. The animals may not have our intelligence. But they know instinctively that living together is safer than living apart. Social ostracization is a peculiar trait found not only among human beings, but also among many animal communities. When it comes to punishing others, both humans and animals find isolating the target a very convenient solution. 

People suffer from loneliness for many reasons. Ones own behavior, inner disposition, circumstances and so on lead to a situation where a person has to live alone and suffer alone. Changing social norms, deteriorating family values and confused marriage roles, coupled with the pressures of modern life, are increasingly becoming responsible for the generation of single parents and lonely people.

Whether it is in the east or west, north or south, in today's society even children are not free from this malady. Because of increasing number of divorces, work pressures, social maladjustment, war, terrorism, political instability, ethnic violence and several such factors, many children are forced to suffer from loneliness and isolation from an early age. 

While most of the social or institutional factors are clearly out of the bounds of an ordinary individual, the problem of loneliness is not completely beyond our control. At the personal level it can still be managed with some degree of success and with some ingenuity can be even turned into an effective tool to build, not to destroy, the quality of life. Loneliness is the cherished condition in many eastern religions for the spiritual advancement of soul. 

While we do not advocate enforced loneliness to any one, unless one has an irresistible urge to renounce life and become a solitary person, in which case also you may require the personal guidance of a spiritual master, for those who are in the prime of their lives or spiritually not inclined, we consider loneliness as an undesirable condition which need to be addressed promptly. If circumstances bring loneliness into our lives, we must deal with it effectively to our best advantage. 

The following suggestions are not meant for those who suffer form chronic depression and are in need of psychiatric help and counseling. These suggestions are meant for normal and healthy individuals who become victims of loneliness for one reason or the other and are shaken by its impact. 

For example a person may live in a foreign country and may not have good social life because of the law and order situation in the country. A person may suffer from some debilitating illness and is unable to move freely. Or a person has gone through terrible marriage situation and is forced to lead  a life of loneliness. A younger one might have lost his near and dear in a calamity and is forced to live miserably through the trauma. These suggestions are basically meant for such individuals who are still in control of their lives and are still capable of adapting themselves to the circumstances but have unfortunately become victims of loneliness. 

1. Have a definite aim or goal in your life, something that would possess you and seize you completely and motivate you to undertake constructive action. If you have a definite aim in your life, you are less likely to feel lonely even when you are alone. So, resolve today to have an aim and work assiduously to achieve it. 

Whatever be your aim, if you have one, you are going to find yourself completely preoccupied with what you want to achieve in your life. Ask yourselves genuinely, do you have an aim in your life? If you are not sure, think about your life and activities and make one. It may be even a simple aim like reducing your weight or mastering a new language, or becoming successful in some venture. 

It is better to have a larger aim, an overall purpose that will guide you and become the basis for your present actions. And short term goals that fit perfectly in the frame work of your main goal.

If you can find a meaningful aim, you are sure to overcome loneliness. An aim or goal helps you with an opportunity to explore your talents, give a full expression to your abilities, become proud of your achievements, transcend the limitations of your ordinary self and mediocre life and provide meaning and purpose to your life. 

To have an aim is to become busy in a constructive way and be in touch with yourself and your potentialities. So have an aim and let that aim keep you busy. Believe this: the best cure for loneliness is constructive action and you can have it by having goals and aims in your life.

2. Learn to like yourself. Many people do not like themselves. Therefore they constantly look for some one who they think can compliment them. This is a fallacy. If you like yourself, you are least likely to suffer from loneliness. You must be your best friend if you want to be comfortable with yourself in times of loneliness. 

Many people tend to fall into relationships, because they want to escape from themselves. They do not have the confidence to appreciate genuinely their inner talents and unique abilities. They look for appreciation and approval elsewhere. Since they are not in control of others and their relationship with them, they generally become victims of their own sense of self-inadequacy. 

If you have confidence in yourself, if you like yourself, if you are comfortable with yourself, you are likely to spend your moments of loneliness more fruitfully and find yourself as a person of rare abilities. Remember loneliness is never there for a person who likes himself. There is no problem of loneliness for a person who knows how to spend time with himself. 

We are not suggesting that you should be selfish or narcissistic in your attitude. Far from it. We are not suggesting that you should avoid society because you find yourself more acceptable to you. What we are suggesting here is that if you like yourself, you will be guided more by your thoughts and opinions and find more effective remedies for your problems than otherwise. 

It is a fact that many people do not like themselves. They constantly strive to become something or someone else which they are not. it is an irony of life that men are constantly in search of an illusory self which they are not. This illusion keeps them active, competitive, ever struggling, but in the process also creates feeling of inadequacy and despair about their real selves. Ask yourself. Do you like your body? Do you like your looks? Are you satisfied with your achievements, your intelligence, your abilities and your family background? If there is another life would you like to be some one else? 

Your answers to these questions will help you to know whether you will suffer from loneliness if you are rejected by others. The best relationship you can have in your life is your relationship with yourself. The relationship that requires your best attention and need to be resolved at the earliest is your relationship with yourself. The person that you need to appreciate and accept most in your life is you only. 

We do not believe that this attitude will make you selfish or self centered. On the contrary those who do not like themselves are bound to dislike others also and suffer from loneliness. Over  a period of time they lose many of their friends because of their faulty sense of appreciation borne out of their own sense of self-inadequacy. 

If you accept yourself fully, you will find it easier to accept others and learn to appreciate them fully despite of their drawbacks. He who loves unconditionally himself, will also love others unconditionally. He has little reason to criticize others, little reason to find fault or disapprove others. This is the simple truth. 

Loneliness is a condition that comes into your life when you push yourself away from your own consciousness. you suffer from it when you fail to notice your worth as an individual and try to suppress your natural self. If you want to avoid loneliness, you must accept yourself unconditionally and overcome your negative attitude towards yourself. You may strive to improve yourself, excel in some field, not because you feel that you are not something but because you want to be something.

Learn to encourage yourself with an occasional word of appreciation. Motivate yourself with an occasional reward. Be compassionate towards yourself. Forgive your own faults and mistakes. Try to be understanding towards yourself. Be sympathetic to your weaknesses. Stop judging yourself harshly, whatever be your fault. 

Improve yourself wherever possible without discounting yourself, without accumulating feelings of frustration and anger in your mind. Remember, if you like yourself and feel comfortable with yourself you are seldom lonely. You rarely feel lonely. You will not suffer from the want of company or friendships. You will have many friends and relationships and when no one is around, you know you are your best friend. 

3. Be observant. Give full play to your senses. If you are observant, life will constantly teach you lessons, feed you with valuable information and keep you busy with learning and progressing. The panorama of life will unfold itself to an observant eye. To a sensitive soul, life is full of interesting things and memorable events. 

Some people are capable of grasping and appreciating the beauty and diversity of life even in ordinary circumstances. They are capable of enjoying their lives, because they are able to put their minds and senses to maximum use. Through their observation and analysis they gain valuable insights into their lives and actions and develop a rare capacity to deal with their problems effectively. 

There is no loneliness for a person who has trained his senses to assist him in his exploration of truth. There is no loneliness for  him who sees life in all its hues and colors. His trained eyes can discern a friend. His adept ears can listen to an interesting conversation and he finds harmony in the sounds, smells and images that touch him. 

Whether you are alone or in the company of your friends, your senses can be your best friends. In the latter case they may even help you to cement your relationships, by giving you sensitivity and spontaneity and a rare degree of empathy you might not even expect to possess normally. 

4. Live in the present. This is however seldom possible for a mind that is conditioned to cling to its past or feel anxious about its future. Many lives are wasted on the trivial events of yesterdays or the uncertainties or tomorrows. 

Most people  do not realize that the most precious thing that life gives to us is the present moment. Either  because there is a troubling past or because of feelings of insecurity or some other reason, a person develops an attitude in which the end becomes an obsession and the journey the least enjoyed. An entire life time gets spent in which relationships become impaired and precious moments pass by as the person loses himself in thoughts of tomorrow and memories of yesterday.

We all live on thoughts, mostly thoughts of yesterday and thoughts of tomorrow, but seldom without a thought or with our minds absorbed in the moment. Thoughts have their own usefulness. Thoughts are what our consciousness is made up of. But if you do not know how to use them or control them,  they also devour your precious time and your life without you ever realizing it. Before you know how much time has lapsed, life has already passed away beneath your feet and you find yourself on the threshold of the final journey. 

If you are conscious of the moment, you become conscious of all the movements that are taking place in your environment at any given time. You become observant and sensitive to all that is outside as well inside you. You develop an attitude of maturity that accepts things as they are rather than as you believe or imagine them to be. You accept reality which will ultimately become your guiding factor and help you deal with your relationships in an objective manner. 

To be in touch with today, with the present moment, is to be fully alive. To know what is happening around you is to accept your reality as it is happening to you. He who knows this is never lonely. His moments are filled with life and his life with moments. The moment gives him company, friendship and solace even when the world ignores him.

5. Develop healthy relationships that are not self destructive. Many relationships deteriorate over a period of time because one or both the partners tend to become possessive and demanding. The moment a partner becomes possessive in a relationship, that is the end of it. The moment the freedom of the partners in a relationship comes under the threat of competition or comparison that spells doom for that relationship. 

We often tend to forget that in a relationship bonding is different from binding. We do not realize that real bonding happens only when there is no binding. If you develop expectations and place yourself in front of your relationships, you can be sure of destroying it. A healthy relationship is a relationship that is based on mutual trust, love, understanding,  freedom and unconditionality. If one of these is missing, you can expect trouble in your relationships. 

The primary responsibility of maintaining a relationship rests with you. When events happen against your expectations, it is wrong to blame others. When you accept responsibility for your relationships, you are bound to take care them. You would act proactively, accepting whatever result that comes out of it as your creation. And this in itself will become a blessing because when something goes wrong, you stop blaming the other side. You will show initiative to restore that relationship.

6. Help others so that in helping other you may forget yourself and your loneliness. In doing so you will also develop compassion and understanding that will help you to restore your relationships. Your helpful nature will find you friends and bring you back your lost ones.

You will help others only when you have empathy and sympathy in your heart. When you are happy with yourself and do not suffer from the need of turning to others for help, you will reach out to others in unexpected ways. A compassionate and understanding person is bound to touch the hearts of those he intends to help. 

When a relationship is not working, a helpful person is bound to show initiative and genuine interest that will generate positive feelings of mutual understanding and appreciation. This will eventually help him to restore that relationship. In the beginning he may find set backs. But because of his virtues, if he persists in his actions, he will succeed eventually. And if he is lonely, he will find the doors of love and understanding opening themselves in front of him for the same reason. 

7. Be creative. Creativity is a gift that you can cultivate with effort and determination. With creativity you can transcend your ordinary self and put your faculties and resources to the best possible use. Properly used creativity can be a panacea to many problems in your life, not only to problems of your relationships and loneliness, but other problems of day to day living as well. 

A creative person need not have to look to others for help and guidance. He does not have to imitate others or wait for some miraculous turn of evens. He is sensitive to his environment, proactive, takes initiative and accepts responsibility. He does not have to suffer from the sense of helplessness and frustration. 

Your creativity will help you to deal with your problems as and when they arise and prepare you mentally and physically to meet all the eventualities. It will enable you to look at things anew, to think in unexpected ways, to go out of the routine habits of the mind and its movements, and help you to respond to situations with greater fluidity of the mind and flexibility of action. A creative person is rarely susceptible to boredom. He finds enough avenues to keep himself busy.  He knows how to spend his time,  how to develop himself, how to build his relationships and solve his problems. 

The End


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