- Mental Health»
Have no friends? Does being friendless mean living a lonely life? What’s next?
Redraw the picture you present to the world.
Could the answer to loneliness be within you?
Being lonely is a realisation that hits like a freight train, an admission that leaves you breathless beneath an invisible weight upon your chest. It is that melancholic bolt that penetrates your heart, leaving a void that physically aches. To be without the companionship of a true friend is a fate that seeds fear and sprouts desperation in the strongest heart. It is a primal sentiment, present in every person, whether it is by first hand experience or by witness to another’s misfortune. For like the proverbial sword of Damocles, even if this day sees you with a name in the eyes of another, tomorrow may abrogate that privilege. So every soul fears being friendless, even those who have the best of friends. This fear drives us to seek out kindred spirits, also fueling the modern cult of social media, where relationships become a commodity. It is the cement that binds society together. For without loneliness, there would be no value to friendship. It would lack definition, like a day without night.
How did you end up here? Did you see the title of this article and feel an affinity with it? Or perhaps you searched for the word loneliness and found me. Are you here because you never knew the warmth of true friendship? Or did you once have friends and the sun has since set, leaving you alone in the dark without a torch to light the path ahead? Whatever it may be, know that someone before you has read these words. At the same time you consider the sentiment of being friendless, it is likely that someone else has just begun the same thought after finishing the same sentence. The tortuous path of loneliness is paved with contradiction: you cannot be alone on a path that is crowded with people. Unless you choose to walk with your eyes closed.
Just like you, I have felt the stigma of being alone. For me, it happened very young. I remember relocating to a new school and finding a very different environment from the one I had left. As a child, I simply could not adapt and no one was there to assist me in this process. Psychologists often trace the root of our inner limitations to events in childhood – and mine had its measure of woe. Back then I initially tried to connect to others, but through a shroud of insecurity, my effort was fruitless. The stigma of my loneliness was then reinforced with the ignominy of rejection. In self-defense I came to the conclusion that these people did not care enough to understand me. Therefore, I would cease to make an effort to understand them. It was a conclusion devised to salvage what little remained of my ego. So it followed that loneliness became my companion. In time, it actually defined me and I became the quintessential ‘lone wolf’. I began to forget names, because without names, people did not matter. I simply existed within the filter of my own mind, like a man in a bubble of self. As a coping mechanism, it worked remarkably well. However, it did little to heal the wounds within because the reasoning was a lie. Every person’s journey to this place is different, but yet the result is the same. If you find a connection to these words, then at some point we have walked the same path.
The sword of Damocles - it is just a matter of time.
I have never been to a psychologist. I will never go to therapy. This is not because I see it as a weakness, but rather I find the concept presumptive that someone who does not know my inner world can solve my issues in predefined time slots. Perhaps I am just too old school and stubborn for new age therapy. I grew up under the influence of celluloid characters like Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, where problems were not discussed – they were pounded into submission and incinerated with extreme prejudice. Perhaps that explains why it took me many years, many countries and many cultures to find the courage and grounding to deconstruct this mental premise of mine. For like a house built on a slab that hides a skeleton, to unearth the bones that haunted me I needed to dig beyond the structures that I had built. In effect, it meant the disassembly of my psyche. When I was finished digging, I discovered the key to my loneliness. It was not that others did not understand me (although I feel misunderstood on occasion), my loneliness actually came from the fact that I did not understand myself. Without an understanding of who I was, I fundamentally lacked the building blocks needed to sustain meaningful relationships.
It necessitates the question: How does anyone know who he or she really is? Who you are is the sum of your psyche, your journey today and what tomorrow will bring. The latter two are unwritten pages, but the former is a book already written by your life’s experience. As the answer to the question is therefore subjective, there is no definitive guide to an answer. But to start the process of understanding who you are, all you need to do is begin and see where the investigation leads you. The first step is to clear your mind and just be. Take a deep breath and in this moment wipe your mind clean of your anxiety of being friendless. Accept that this is a temporary phase in life that can be changed. Release the negative emotion you hold over any past rejection. Realise that your ego is simply a temporary casualty and you will recover. Once you let all of that negativity go, the energy you spent on defending yourself from the world will return to you. It can then be redirected into understanding who you are and who you can be: both for yourself and to others. With this understanding, you can build a foundation that is conducive to a healthy self-identity that is attractive to both the people currently in your life and those who are yet to come.
An invaluable tool for me in this process was the Myer’s Briggs analysis of the self. It enabled me to identify with the way I think, explain why I reason the way I do and why I felt so isolated in the past. Myer’s Briggs theory characterises people into personality types based on four different psychological elements. I found their description of my personality type so on point, they identified aspects of my behavior that I was reluctant to admit to. More importantly, the descriptions also provided me with tools to help me bridge the gap between my personality type (INTP) and the other personality types. With INTP’s like me being estimated as one of the rarest personality types (making up between only 1 to 4% of global population), the lack of belonging I felt had a lot to do with my ignorance of self within the context of the wider world. There are many Myers Briggs personality tests available online. Wikipedia explains the details of the personality theories in detail. Even Facebook has communities premised on each personality type, and interacting with people of the same personality type can assist in creating a better understanding of the self and how you relate to others. Understanding is the key to your development, because this knowledge will put your interactions with others in context with the wider world. (I will provide a link to my preferred Myers Briggs website at the bottom of this article).
Today, I am a person with many friends. I have the kinds of friends that have stood the test of time, be it through fair weather or foul. But if I examine my friendship base, it is without any common thread. My friends do not form part of the same circle. Some are privileged, others poor. Some are intellectuals, others earthy. They do not mix with each other, and in some cases if they do, it leads to explosive results. I consider the diversity of my friendship base to be a reflection of me. I am not a team player and so my friendships are singular in character. My lifestyle is also not the norm; I spend long periods of time on the road and out of contact. But that is who I am and it is natural to me. Those people who share my life accept this as my norm. Most importantly, whether I am at home or on the road, in company or alone, there is no longer a moment where I feel loneliness. This is not because I have friends. It is because the first friend I made was myself. This was the foundation for all positive relationships in my life, and without which I would lack the means to see the true quality of friendship in others.
Good luck with your journey. Remember that no one is truly friendless. The next stranger you meet may be your best friend yet.
http://www.mypersonality.info - The best Myers Briggs site I have found.
http://facebook.com - Search your personality type to find a community you can relate to.