Table for One? Try an Appt. for Two.
Empty Bed Syndrome
Are you on your own and all alone? Man is a social animal. Solitude is desolation. We all need someone to talk to, someone to love, and to be loved. We need to feel connected, to understand others and be understood as well. We need to feel close to someone, and to identify with them.
People are more lonely than ever before, despite (or perhaps because of) the Internet, social media, and technology. It’s a consumer society, but companionship cannot be bought. No matter how wealthy someone is, feeling connected is not for sale, and there is no payment plan for being close to someone special. As it turns out, one-click shopping is marvelous for everything that doesn’t matter. Remember how the great industrialist, Daddy Warbucks in
Little Orphan Annie, discovered that all of his wealth and accomplishments were meaningless without someone to share them with? Bingo. Check please.
So loneliness is an epidemic, and empty bed syndrome is the silent plague of society. Anyone from teens to our elders can be lonesome and starved for affection. Major events in life often lead to loneliness, such as unemployment, divorce or breakup, diseases and medical issues, and bereavement or loss of a loved one. As an example, so-called
empty nest syndrome can occur after children leave home. Isolation can also be self-imposed because one feels unworthy of affection and withdraws, or imposed by others such as with abandonment.
And loneliness may have little to do with other people. Ever felt alone while standing smack dab in the middle of a group of people? It’s not necessarily about proximity to others. We need to be loved, understood, and close to someone. Without connection, people live a single, sole, solitary existence, climbing nightly into to an empty bed while nobody’s home. The bleak and barren life of a hermit takes its toll, and one becomes desperate for another to be glad to see them, to laugh at their jokes, to sit across that table for two. Excluded, forsaken, cast aside and kept apart, seclusion is imprisonment — and it feels cruel.
You Are Not Alone in Being All Alone
Others have been and are alone. Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850–1919) penned the following short and famous poem after sharing a train ride with a sorrowful soul:
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all,—
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.
Suffering is part of being human. Enter Stoicism, the philosophy that leads to the good life.
The Inside is What Matters
There is a dividing line between that which is conceptually possible and impossible. And in Stoicism, there is a difference between that which is within your control, and that which is not. We are talking about a division between an event and your perception of it, between the way things are and the way you want them to be. Judgment, guided by reason, is your only means of shaping and controlling your perceptions and desires, your responses to situations.
When it is possible to affect the world, we will strategize to do so. For example, there are strategies that can be taken to meet others and build relationships. And regardless of your situation, there are always productive steps that may be taken. Seneca (Epistles, 9.6) suggested that
If you would be loved, love.
But in loneliness therapy, our focus will be on your perception of things, with how you reason and the judgments you make. Just as in common parlance people point out that perception determines whether a glass is half empty or full, it is perception in this overpopulated world that determines whether or not you feel dejected, ostracized, and lonesome. Therapy is not for someone seeking to change their world, but is for someone seeking to change themselves.
These two things — yourself and the world — are related rather than independent. As you adopt new perspectives and change, the way you interact with the world also changes, and so does the way the world interacts with you. Stoic therapy nurtures a perspective that is consistent with reason about the world around you. The Stoic perspective results in becoming self-sufficient, immune to adversity, resilient to misfortune. Stoic therapy may sound like putting on a suit of armor to shield you from the woes of the world, but that is not quite right because Stoicism also results in lasting happiness or enduring peace of mind, mental stability and clarity of purpose, and many other such benefits. Stoicism is a philosophy of life that benefits you in many ways.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox was not a Stoic, but this certainly applies:
Worth While (1906)
It is easy enough to be pleasant,
When life flows by like a song,
But the man worth while is one who will smile,
When everything goes dead wrong.
For the test of the heart is trouble,
And it always comes with the years,
And the smile that is worth the praises of earth,
Is the smile that shines through tears.
It is easy enough to be prudent,
When nothing tempts you to stray,
When without or within no voice of sin
Is luring your soul away;
But it’s only a negative virtue
Until it is tried by fire,
And the life that is worth the honor on earth,
Is the one that resists desire.
By the cynic, the sad, the fallen,
Who had no strength for the strife,
The world’s highway is cumbered to-day,
They make up the sum of life.
But the virtue that conquers passion,
And the sorrow that hides in a smile,
It is these that are worth the homage on earth
For we find them but once in a while.
When misfortune strikes, some get bitter and others get better.
Get Better, Not Bitter
Disaster provides the opportunity to learn from it. In this case, being so alone can be a blessing not a curse. We use it to find the better version of you. Rather than being unhappy with your situation and dwelling on its circumstances, we can begin to build a mature tranquility from within, one that does not depend on the world at large.
While you are lonely, longing for the company of others, now is the perfect time for self-improvement. Self-improvement requires effort, and changing your perspective is not an overnight process. Introspection and therapy take time to make progress. The ingredients are effort and time, and the guidance of a therapist is often invaluable, especially in reducing the time and therefore effort over time. I would be thrilled to help you reduce the time and effort involved. Alas, your betterment beckons.
Make an Appt. for Two
Please call Ron at (860) 960-6711 for a free phone consultation. Let’s discuss the specifics of your situation, and let me answer any questions you may have about loneliness therapy. We can meet in my office in Farmington, talk by texting, or have voice chats such as with Duo or Skype. Welcome to Stoic therapy.