Have you ever thought about how much of our life is influenced by fear of loneliness?
About how much energy we spend fighting against the possibility that, some day in the future, we will be alone and deserted? We may well have been fighting a ghost, both invincible and completely unreal.
Yes, loneliness does seem inevitable.
The standard way that most of us deal with the fear of loneliness is to try and secure relationships. But is there any relationship that can permanently shield us from loneliness? Not even the bond between a mother and a son can do that.
Each and every one of our relationships will necessarily come to an end sooner or later. Physical death will take care of that, if the relationship doesn’t end earlier—there simply isn’t such thing as an eternal bond in the realm of human existence. This is a difficult truth for many to accept, and yet it is right under our eyes, if only we have the courage to look.
So it would seem that, to a certain extent, loneliness is inevitable.
Loneliness is unreal.
But the good news is that loneliness is also an illusion. Spiritually, it doesn’t make sense. The idea that we are a fragment, isolated from the rest of the Universe, is perhaps the greatest delusion of the human being. Each and every spiritual path on Earth is a progressive realization that we are constantly connected to everything and everyone else. How can we then be lonely?
But even if we take loneliness as “absence of relationships,” that we may feel lonely in an overpopulated planet is nothing short of paradoxical. If we are willing to connect and communicate with others, opportunities abound. In fact, finding a space where one can be completely alone is the real challenge!
We may be unaware of it, but we all carry a magic wand with which we can make new friends and find intimate partners under virtually any conditions. That magic wand is our capacity to be human and to communicate.
Sure, learning how to use the magic wand can take a bit of time and exercise. But in the end of the day, there are only two skills we need to develop:
>>> the ability to be social, and
>>> the capacity to develop intimacy.
Simple, isn’t it?
Ability to be social.
With few exceptions, people aren’t going to knock at our door and ask to be our friends when we feel lonely. This simply means that we need to take responsibility for our own needs. Cultivating the capacity to go out and meet people even when we’re not at our best is our first asset.
This includes the capacity to listen to others, engage in meaningful conversation, be helpful, empathic, and compassionate. It involves the courage of getting out of our comfort zone, admitting that in certain moments of our lives we do need the company of others, and getting out to find it.
Once we develop these skills, we realize that we can make new acquaintances almost at any time and anywhere. All that is left to do, is turning those acquaintances into meaningful friendships—quickly and effectively.
This requires developing intimacy.
Capacity to develop intimacy.
By just being social, we can end up being surrounded by a score of shallow relationships. This may be okay, but we may also need to develop some deep, intimate connections. And guess what—the potential to turn acquaintances into deep friendships lies completely within our hands.
Depth in friendship and partnership doesn’t need to take long. Sure, we may need some time in order to open our hearts—but how much of it just depends on ourselves. Most of us have met people who are quickly open and intimate. This is a skill that can be developed just like any other: it requires trust in people, willingness to be seen, and the courage to appear vulnerable. Opening up can be scary, but it does pay off.
Developing the ability to open up to others is fundamental, because it allows us to go deep into intimacy when we want, rather than painstakingly opening our heart one inch at a time. When we realize that time is precious and that life is short, and that there is nothing to lose from developing intimacy, this skill becomes one of our main survival tools.
Loving without fear.
Anyone who is equipped with good social skills and the capacity to develop intimacy need not be afraid of loneliness, and can start enjoying relationships without the fear of losing them.
Feeling confident in our capacity to make new friends and lovers efficiently and with ease changes our whole perspective on relationships. We can take fear out of the equation, and make our choices based on more positive values.
Knowing that we do possess a “magic wand” that can create meaningful connections almost instantly helps us develop a healthy, positive form of non-attachment—the capacity to love fully without clinging.
The desire to be connected, the pleasure of having deep and caring relationships, the joy of nurturing them—all these are marvelous aspect of the human heart, and they needn’t be tainted with fear. When fear of loneliness casts its shadow over our life and relationships, we are giving it a power over our lives that is should never have.
Facing this fear, we come to the realization that we have nothing to worry about. The impermanence of human life then becomes a fact, not a problem.
As we relax into this awareness, the need to protect ourselves from loneliness gradually melts into acceptance of what is, and enjoyment of the present moment.
Author: Raffaello Manacorda
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Yanko Peyankov/Unsplash