Coping Mechanisms for Lonliness

Postby alittlehelpplease » Sun Mar 22, 2020 8:00 pm

I'm turning 27 this month, and I am keen for loneliness to not follow me into my 30's. I realise that we all will have to experience periods of loneliness, its a part of life which can be used for self-development. However, the loneliness I have been experiencing has been going on for a little more than 10 years. It's unbearable.

If I am honest, yes, I do struggle to make friends and social anxiety comes into it, but I try to avoid allowing that to take effect. It's hard, really hard, but If there is one thing I've learnt, its that life isn't supposed to be unchallenging or uncomfortable.

I do make efforts to meet people, speak over the phone, write etc. To help me cope, I regularly take part in group activities, both active and crafty. Every activity I take part in requires me to work as a part of a team. And I immensely enjoy these interactions. I do have people in my life but not many friends, probably 2 or 3 at the most. All of which I rarely see as they have their own lives.

Unfortunately, I am single and have been since I was about 18. Since then, I have had no romance or real intimacy in my life. I would love to seek a partner but know its probably not the right time for me with me in this state.

Now for the tough part for me to admit, I can easily become overwhelmed so often spend time alone. This can often result in me temporarily 'shutting off' people, and I know it's not good but I am working on it. I was abused in my younger years and has left me with difficulties of trust, but again, I'm working on that. I have many more flaws, all of which I can recognise.

What I would like to ask, is how can I learn to cope with this 'chronic' loneliness. I have my flaws, and I am working on them. Without my hobbies, I can go for weeks without having a meaningful conversation with someone. As previously mentioned, I don't want loneliness to follow me into my 30's, but I can cope with a less persistent form of it.

Do you have any coping mechanisms that I can adopt? Any suggestions are welcome.

Thank you.
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Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Mar 23, 2020 4:57 am

My advice is for you to specifically focus on the "shutting off" behavior. You can work on the skill of gaining friends all you want, but all that effort goes away in an instant if you have this escape behavior.

The saying goes that it is much harder to build than to destroy. It takes years to build a bridge, it takes only a few minutes/hours to destroy it. "Shutting off" is destructive to relationships.

Having been in this forum for a few years a common response is that "real" or "true" friends stick with you through the "shutting off" behaviors. That is a nice, utopian idea, but also wishful thinking. Human societies are built on social reciprocity, on sharing. If one person repeatedly only hangs around when times are good and "shuts off" whenever things get overwhelming then they become a burden to the overall group. As that person retreats, life and time move forward. When that person is ready to return to the group they have missed out on the collective adventures of the group. The group dynamics have changed, people in the group have grown, and now you want back in.

How to not "shut off" is obviously not easy, but currently you have that ability. You have created paths or ways that allow yourself to retreat. I don't know your exact ways, but take away those paths. Make commitments to friends that don't allow you to shut off. Without knowing more specifically how you "shut off" it is hard to give suggestions.
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Postby alittlehelpplease » Mon Mar 23, 2020 4:24 pm

Thank you for your response, upon reflection you are totally right, I do need to learn to refrain from 'shutting off'.

For me, 'shutting off' comes in the form of spending more time alone, whether that is in the outdoors or relaxing at home. I'm open to speaking to people, but people do notice that I am low in mood. I only shut off when I've had too much social contact, stressed or when Dysthymia gets the best of me. So after a busy week at college, I tend not to socialise so much as it leaves me fatigued and in a poor state for the next week.

Like you said, refraining causes problems, so I don't know how to get around this, as I can put myself out there a lot more, but I will be at the risk of worsening my mental health and energy level. Is this just one of those situations where I have to accept that this is just me and is unlikely to improve unless my mental state improves(which is unlikely in my case as nothing seems to work)?
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Postby tokeless » Mon Mar 23, 2020 5:45 pm

There are lots of people who spend long periods alone. If you enjoy the times when you do interact with others then finding a state of acceptance for who you are is worth exploring. What do you miss when you shut off? Why does it trouble you? I am okay in my own company in the main but enjoy when I am with others. I don't use social media when my friends do... I'm too lazy to live my life on line chatting nonsense for the sake of feeling connected to others. If you can get the balance right and dispel the reasons you feel you missing out on, life can still be fulfilling on those terms.
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