Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
Why despite all the social networking, cell phones, e-mail, twitter, do I feel Lonely?
I have a good marriage, healthy happy children, a good job and I am extremely busy in my life. I just don’t understand it.
First you need to see your doctor and make sure you have no physical issues and/or clinical depression. Once those possibilities are eliminated, there are a number of psychosocial/cultural issues that can make one feel alone in the crowed. Life gives us two basic and separate entities to deal with. The first is SELF; the second is OTHERS. There is no concrete answer as to how we balance these entities; we can only use the skills we’ve acquired and try to do our best. How you manage to balance these entities will determine the quality of your life.
We live in a codependent culture that teaches us to see others as ourselves. The one single truth I can tell you is no one sees the world exactly the way you do. In fact, no one sees the world the way anyone else does; there are 7 billion people on the planet and there are 7 billion ways of experiencing the world. The single most erroneous assumption people make is that they know what other people think, want, or need. “Other people must want, need or think what I want, need or think” –NOPE!!! In reality, no one knows what anyone else is thinking.
This belief is the main cause of confusion, chaos, miscommunication, and loneliness in a crowd. It can lead to feelings of being misunderstood, underappreciated, and taken advantage of. It is the source of most resentment. “I go out of my way for others, I put others first, no one appreciates me, people suck!” These are the things I hear people say when they operate under the assumption that they know what other people need. The axiom of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” does NOT mean “Do for others and expect them to do the same for you.” There is no reciprocity clause in the Bible; there is a caveat: if you expect absolutely nothing back, then there isn’t a problem. It is not sacrifice if you aren’t tied to the result and expect no return on your investment. But this is seldom realistic and in the case of a relationship, if there is no reciprocation, then there is no actual relationship.
This is another area where our culture screws up. We are taught that sacrifice is the basis of relationship. In truth, sacrifice is the basis of bullying. There is no negotiation in sacrifice. You give what YOU think the other person needs. Since this is seldom what they really need, you usually end up depleting yourself and essentially flushing your efforts down the metaphorical toilet. Sacrifice is bullying because it forces others to be something for you that they don’t really feel. They have to act pleased or appreciative for something they never asked for, wanted, or needed. If you are always sacrificing then you are a love bully and will only be disappointed. With the best of intentions, you want everyone to be well and happy, and you do what you can to that end… yet it makes no difference whatsoever. You see everyone’s suffering continue and you feel drained; or, worse, everyone you love ACTS happy to please you. True compassion (i.e. non codependent compassion) means getting OUT of the way. It means allowing others to be what they are, not what you want them to be.
If you learn to focus on your own intent and concentrate on building the life you want to have, this becomes a role model for others. Some people will call this selfish; in truth, it is anything but. If no one builds their own life, no new path is ever forged. Again, no one can read your mind or intent. That is your job. When your path is forged and your life is created, people will respect you for it. Ironically, affirmations happen in reverse. Only once you are successful does anyone know what your Intent was. Thus affirmation from others tends to come after you already believe in yourself.
You are lonely because you are looking to have your motivation affirmed. Unfortunately, the act of affirming personal motivation is an acquired skill – it doesn’t come naturally to our culture. We place more value on endpoints and results- but it is far more effective to affirm the Struggle, for it is that which helps to confirm who we really are. .
Interestingly, if you learn to affirm other’s motivation rather than trying to anticipate their needs, not only will you make their struggle easier but by role modeling you are actually helping create the world you would like to live in. Each new skill you learn has the potential to be learned by others and so on, you become a teacher and might actually help correct some of the dysfunction in the culture. Chances are that in doing so, you will feel less lonely. Why? Because you will be reinforcing the strengths of others rather than focusing on their foibles and failures. This puts you on the same level with them, rather than isolating you as the Benefactor. Hopefully, as people pick up on this skill you role modeled they might someday affirm your motivation, thus who you are.
None of the technological or social network devices in our culture offer anything more than superficial contact with each other. A Blackberry or Facebook page doesn’t come with relationship skills. Most of these things basically just suck our time so that the elements needed to create balance within our relationships (such as time together) never get a prime time slot in our schedules.
I hope this has been helpful.
-Dr. Brilliant Cliché