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 spoilers and all. The styling, the handling, the speed – the luxury of it all – is everything you’ve dreamed that you would want in a vehicle. The dream has been fully realized except you hadn’t envisioned your wife not being too thrilled with the price tag, but you swear she will come to love it! I mean, how could she not, right?
You totally believe that your “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 that very few people have ever had this kind of experience.
It seems like everything in your life has built up to this moment and you feel you are in complete control of yourself and your life, except that you and your wife start to notice something sort of odd about 15 minutes into the drive.
Think of the term “Reticular Activating System.” Are you familiar with this term? If not, in a nutshell, we have a system of neurons in our brains that alert us to important information by filtering out other stimuli. It’s what tells us to pay attention to what is important at any given time.
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?
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 it became important information that we wanted to know, 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.
However, what we failed to realize, in our efforts to self-protect, is that we were creating the very conditions for 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. You know what to do, but you just can’t bring yourself to do it. Instead, you tend to assume all sorts of motives and meanings – which tend to originate from a negative and protective point of view.
A desire for accuracy requires you and me to be proactive, but instead, we become reactive and are focused more on avoidance and confirmation-bias than we are on engagement and curiosity.
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 be up front about it.
A – Action plan. Choose to invest your social energy and realize that 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!
We often get what we look for!Christine Jeffrey
I want you and me 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. But we won’t find them if we are don’t make finding them important enough for us to notice them.
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. As a gift for applying for a free strategy session, I will give you my 52 Weeks of Vision Digital Journal for FREE! – 52 prompts that help you to learn more about your strengths, more about what you want, and guidance on how you will make the vision of your extraordinary life a reality. It’s my thank you to you for being willing to take that next step.
If this style of coaching speaks to you, then I want to encourage you to apply. The transformation began in my life when I discovered how coaching could help me to create an extraordinary life.
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. I want the very best for you and coaching could be the next right step!
Leave a comment, ask a question, I’m here to help.
Thank you so much for reading and until next time,
Make the most out of the time you have!
Coach “I do love my husband’s car”