Friday, February 24, 2012
God, Loneliness, and the Human Condition - Part 1
The following is a 5-part blog series on the topic of loneliness. Those of us who have struggled with loneliness know how difficult it is to understand, and even more so to communicate, the true nature of our feelings. Loneliness isn't just about being alone, but is defined by a true sense of disconnect, which leads to feelings of personal isolation.
Through my own spiritual journey, not only has God has filled that void of loneliness, but He has led me to a unique understanding of this condition in my own life.
Loneliness - the psychological state of mind/feeling of being excluded or estranged from others and/or God. Often a feeling of isolation, separation, detachment from companionship, fellowship, intimacy, and communication.
My journey through the dark cloud of loneliness stretches back to my earliest memories. I cannot really recall a time when I did not feel the empty pangs of loneliness, in some shape or form. Inside of me there was always that feeling of disconnect and isolation, perhaps not painful, but always bleak. I felt alone, empty, and unloved, and uncared for....although I did have people who cared for me (my mother, my best friend, the people at my church), I still felt disconnected and alone. There was an internal void, and an external longing. The defining point of my loneliness was the inability to form attachments with others. I do believe that this led to the sense of deep loneliness that began in childhood and defined me well into adulthood.
Much of this had to do with my family upbringing. My dad and his family lived far away, and I never formed personal attachments with any of them. I never met any of my mother's relatives, aside from her own mom, who was a raging alcoholic. As a kid, I was painfully shy, and incapable of forming friendships with my peers. I was a loner, isolated and struggled with low self-esteem. I had no attachments, no familial identity, and a very shallow sense of self. I craved the love of a father, but learned to live without it. I was lonely in many ways, and I learned to embrace it and build my identity around it.
When I was very young, I had very few friends, and was teased and ridiculed by my peers. Afraid of rejection, I shut myself off from people. I desired friendship, but was afraid of putting myself out there. I became isolated within myself. As I got older, I started to make more friends, but still had trouble forming attachments. I was afraid to get close. I projected a quiet and reserved image, but there was a huge part of me that no one knew about – the real me – the thoughts and emotions that I hid.
Fear of attachment, fear of intimacy – This causes loneliness because you have no one to share that part of yourself with.
In order to protect my emotions, I built walls around myself. When I was 14, my mother became ill with cancer, but rather than reach out, I regressed even more. Loneliness became more than just a state of mind, but a state of existence. This sort of loneliness has more or less defined my life. I have always wondered why I have had so much trouble in long-term relationships. Even when I was married, I was unable to give myself over fully to my husband, and there was a large part of me that I kept hidden. Whatever the reason for this, it kept me from fully connecting, and as a result, I still felt very alone....even around him and his family.
I know that I am not the only one who has struggled with loneliness, which is why I am exploring this topic here. So many people struggle with loneliness, yet it's something that a lot of people don't fully understand –even those who are in the midst of it.