- In a relationship you know isn’t working, but can’t find the strength to call it quits?
- Frequently going on dates with people you’re not really interested in, just so you have something to do?
- Hanging out with friends that don’t really get you, but at least they’re available to meet up?
- Watching Netflix from the moment you get home from work until the moment you go to bed?
- So overscheduled that you couldn’t possibly find another moment?
Though these may seem unrelated, they all have an underlying similarity… Each of these less-than-ideal situations is a way of avoiding being alone.
Yes, I said it. That dreaded word. ALONE.
I couldn’t tell you how many clients come to me with a deep seated fear of being alone. Sometimes they know that’s what they’re really avoiding, other times they come to this realization after addressing more surface level concerns. Often, they can even see it’s not a rational fear, and yet… there’s something about being alone that scares the crap out of so many people.
Maybe you can challenge your irrational thoughts about it. You think, “I know I’ll be ok if I’m alone.” “It’s not really being alone, it’s being single.” “It’s better to be alone than to keep doing what’s not working.” You pump yourself up for a change. But when it comes down to the wire, you can’t take the leap you KNOW you need to make, because you still feel deeply afraid.
I hear ya. That used to be me. I stayed in relationships that weren’t really working, I went out with people I wasn’t interested in, I made plans with friends I didn’t connect with, and worked multiple jobs to stay busy. And I was nowhere near self-aware enough to realize that all of this was an avoidance of being alone. It took a lot of loving-prodding on the part of my therapist, some serious bottoming out, embarassing behavior, painful relationships, and major dysfunction – tearing through other people’s lives like a tornado – until I finally got the message. That no matter what, I HAD to learn to be alone. My life depended on it.
So I took a year off of relationships, off of dating, even off of flirting! I freed up my schedule and stopped hanging out with people I didn’t really care about (OK, so maybe that part wasn’t by choice. Like I said, tornado…) I like to call this time my “relationship gap-year.” This was not an exciting, glamorous thing like Elizabeth Gilbert going off to Eat.Pray.Love, or an adventurous, Wild thing like Cheryl Strayed venturing into the wilderness. It didn’t look impressive to anyone. After all, does anyone really want to read a book about a 20-something woman crying, laying in bed, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on autoplay?
This was ugly. Messy. Tearful. It hurt physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. But I had no choice – I had to face the pain I’d been avoiding.
Maybe this is you – realizing you need to face what you’ve been avoiding. And you’re scared of what you might find.
Yes, I discovered a lot of painful things, like how my trauma history contributed to my fear of being alone. How I’d been actively contributing to my own issues. I had to feel the sadness, despair, shame, guilt, and fear I’d been working so hard to distract myself from. I spent plenty of time alone in bed in tears when I could handle it, plenty of time watching TV when I couldn’t, and I learned to sit with myself in meditation and to be open to whatever experience arises.
And while that’s all important, even essential in the process, that’s not the whole picture. I discovered that in avoiding our aloneness (and as a result, ourselves), we also miss out on some really good stuff! I discovered the depth of my strength, resiliance, and integrity. I learned the world is much more friendly than I’d been told. I experienced the deep relief of recognizing the Presence that we all are, and that it has always and will always be here.
And even though I was “alone,” and even spent a lot of time alone, I didn’t do it completely alone. I exposed these tender parts to truly safe, loving people who were able to hold my wholeness for me, even when I couldn’t myself. I experienced the power of deep, authentic connection by allowing my most vulnerable feelings to be witnessed by safe people. This led me to know, on a heart level, that I am intimately connected with others, in a way deeper than I had felt since childhood. That I am NEVER alone.
My big takeaway: Avoiding being alone was what was making me feel alone!
And – selling point – learning this opened me up to be available for a fulfilling, growth-oriented, heart-opening romantic relationship!
While at the end of the day we may face our existential aloneness alone (another post for another time…) we don’t have to face life all by ourselves. We can get support. We can do it knowing there are people who have our back, who will be there with us through the difficulty, who have touched and made peace with their own aloneness, and who can help us to realize that there’s really nothing to be afraid of. We can discover that in the depths of our aloneness, we are intimately connected with everyone and everything.
After all, what does alone really break down to?
If you need support for your journey into aloneness, which is really a journey into connectedness, I’d be happy to walk beside you. Contact me for a free 15 minute consultation.