It’s bed rotation day. Despite the fact that there is space for everyone to have their own room, my boys (ages 14, 11, and 6) insist on sleeping together. They have three beds crammed next to each other along one wall of their room.
I started bed rotation day in the spirit of fairness, because one of the beds is a queen bed. So every new school quarter, they rotate. What is so interesting about the rotation is that the queen bed isn’t the one everyone wants. The most coveted spot is the middle bed, because that brother has access to both of the others.
I share this story because it is such a clear illustration of how human beings crave connection to each other. And not just virtual connection, but real-live-physical-proximity connection.
Within each of us is a desire to have other people in our lives. Without that connection, we experience loneliness.
Sometimes people get it stuck in their heads that the connection has to be of a particular type. They want a romantic partner, a child, or a best friend. It can get to a point where it is almost an obsession, where all they see is that missing person or connection creating a giant hole in their lives.
We all know what happens next though, right? Think about what you lack and you will experience lack. People find that the more they dwell on that missing piece, the longer it continues to evade them.
So how is it that you sometimes meet people who may not have a romantic partner, children, or relatives but are still completely content and don’t seem to suffer loneliness?
What I’ve noticed is these people know they need human connection in their lives, but they don’t confine that definition to a particular category or label. They are open. They put themselves in situations where intimate bonds can be formed. They are out in the world talking to and getting to know other people without the narrow vision of what kind of connection they want to make.
It’s the difference between one person who goes out and engages EVERYONE in conversation, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, social status, etc… and another person who goes out and only talks to single good-looking men under the age of 30.
Sometimes a person can be surrounded by others and still feel alone because they are not making connections. Either they’ve chosen to spend time with people who are not capable of true intimacy, or they themselves are not attempting to make real connections.
One of the problems with feeling lonely is that we are all wrapped up in ourselves. All we see is what’s missing and how the world isn’t showing up for us. The reason that is problematic is that connecting with other people requires that we see beyond ourselves and our egos. In order to establish new bonds, we have to look beyond our own needs and give a part of ourselves to another person.
We’re lonely because we are not connecting to anyone. And we can’t connect to anyone because we are lonely. What a trap!
So how do we get out?
- If you are lucky enough to have loved ones, they might just intervene and pull you out eventually. But that isn’t terribly self-reliant, is it?
- A baby step might be to call a friend or start a conversation with someone you run into (one where you listen to THEM).
- A bigger step might be to choose a new way of interacting with people and try that out (take a class, join a church, volunteer somewhere, etc…). Leave your blinders at home and talk to EVERYONE (and when I say talk I really mean listen).
Sometimes it is hard to take any kind of step when you feel alone. In that case, contact me. Nobody deserves to feel alone. Let’s pull you out of there together.