This is the last installment in my series on loneliness, where I take a deeper look into the causes and the challenges of disconnection in all its forms. Today, we’ll explore one solution suggested by the authors of loneliness: Human Nature and the need for Social Connection.
Have any of you had this experience?
You decide to buy a new car, and after much debating and searching with your wife, you settle on a sleek, midnight blue Tesla Model 3 sports car with the performance package.
The styling, the handling, the speed – the luxury of it all – is everything you’ve dreamed that you would want in a vehicle.
Your dream has been fully realized except you hadn’t imagined your wife would look like that! Especially, when she learned about how much you paid for your dream. But you know, she’ll come to love it, because, well, you love it.
How could she not, right?
“Nicola” is one of those experiences that will keep on giving as time goes by. So, you slide behind the wheel, just you and your honey, and you take off from 0 to 60mph in 3.4 seconds! You think you are one of the lucky ones, because very few people have ever had that kind of experience.
In fact, everything in your life has built up to this moment. In complete control of yourself and your life, you enjoy the superb handling of this well crafted machine. Then, fifteen minutes into the drive, you and your wife start to notice something sort of odd.
What “Mario Andretti” (a.k.a. hubby) and I discovered, as we were driving our brand new Tesla down Highway 280 in the San Francisco Bay Area, was that there were not only A LOT of Teslas on the road, we noticed there were a ton of midnight blue Model 3 Teslas on the road!
How come we never noticed them before?
Think of the term “reticular activating system.” Are you familiar with this term?
In a nutshell, we have a system of neurons in our brains that alert us to important information by filtering out other stimuli. It tells us what to pay attention to at any given time.
What does this anecdote have to do with my last installment on loneliness? Well, we never noticed just how many Teslas were on the road until that information became important, just like you and I never noticed all of those “unwelcoming, critical, competitive and self-absorbed” people until we experienced some form of isolation, alienation or rejection.
All of a sudden, it became important for us to be on the look out for people and circumstances to avoid, so we wouldn’t experience the consequence of exclusion, rejection, or isolation.
In our efforts to self-protect, we can fail to realize that we are creating the very conditions that cause us to continue to feel isolated and alone.
We all have moments when we feel lonely, however, chronic loneliness is defined as feelings of isolation and loneliness that occurs over a long period of time.
Getting stuck in chronic loneliness is like getting stuck in a bad habit. We know what to do, but we just can’t bring ourselves to do it.
Instead, we tend to assume all sorts of motives and meanings – which tend to originate from a negative albeit protective point of view.
So what to do?
“We had a hunch that what mattered was not the number of social interactions, nor the degree to which other people provided practical benefit, but the degree to which social interactions satisfied an individual’s specific, subjective need for connection. “Ibid. (Pg. 94)
From the authors’ research and experience in cognitive based therapy, they developed and recommend a four-part process to help prevent, you and me, from getting stuck in chronic loneliness.
E – Extend yourself. You need a safe place to experiment and you need to start small. Simple exchanges in the grocery store, for example, can go a long way for you to feel more connected. You simply need to be aware of your level of need for connection and when you notice that feeling, you act.
A – Action plan. Choose to invest your social energy and schedule it. You are not a passive victim. Charitable activities enable you to put yourself in the social picture with less fear of rejection. What actions can you take that would be safe for you?
S – Selection. The solution to loneliness is not quantity but quality of relationships. Human connection has to be mutual, meaningful, and satisfying with similar levels of intimacy and intensity on both sides. Look for qualities that matter most to you and put yourself in proximity to those people.
E – Expect the best. Social contentment can help you to be more consistent, generous and resilient, which causes others to reciprocate. What are your expectations when it comes to your daily interactions?
This kind of framework gets us out of the victim mindset and helps us to move from stuck and suffering into a more secure, open, and curious approach to our interactions.
For a more detailed understanding of the topic that may spark some ideas for you to create some safe connections in your life, read this science-based, research-backed book!
You get what you focus onA challenger said this
I want us to be on the look out for the kind of people who lift us up rather than make us feel like we are alone in the world. So, if I’m seeing Teslas everywhere, it’s because I am looking for them.
How about you? What do you want to be on the look out for?
If you feel that you want to take your habits of connection and communication to the next level, you can click here to Learn more about High Performance Coaching. The next round of coaching is open.
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So please apply here: https://forms.gle/uLSVrT8EbhhYAD9h8. The questionnaire, itself, is a great self discovery tool and may help you to think more clearly about who you are and how you are showing up in the world.
Thank you so much for reading and until next time, make the most out of the time you have!With love and respect,
Coach “I do love my husband’s car”