Here’s what the remedy really is.
Photo by Lukas Medvedevas on Unsplash
“Sorry for all the millions, but I’ve never been lonely. I like myself. I’m the best form of entertainment I have. Let’s drink more wine!” — Charles Bukowski
Whenever you feel lonely, you think it’s because you’re not connecting enough with others. That’s what I used to think too. I even wrote about it, exploring the theory that relationships are the most important thing in our lives.
I’m not so sure anymore.
Seeking human companionship when you feel lonely is like taking a drug. It’s a substitute, an attempt to feel better. Which works, for a while. But expect the hangover.
It cures the symptoms, not the cause of the illness
What do you do when you get bored? You pick up a book. Or you turn on the television. Or you grab your phone. “Problem solved,” you think. You’re not bored anymore. But what happens when you put that thing down?
You get bored again.
What happens when you get a headache? You take medicine. What the medicine does is anesthetize you. The pain is still there, you just don’t feel it anymore.
You’ve cured the symptoms. But not the heart of the problem.
It’s the same thing when you seek the company of other human beings because you feel lonely. You think you’ve cured the problem. But you haven’t. It makes you feel better, for sure. But once you’re on your own again, how do you feel? Not any better.
It was a distraction. You solved the symptoms, not the disease.
Each of our so-called solutions, remedies, is only a temporary fix. Take the concept of vacations. Vacations are nothing more than a temporary escape from our daily life, which is too unbearable for us to tolerate for more than a certain period of time. Why do you think you never want your vacation to end? Because you know that the problem will be the same when you come back. You are not in love with your daily life.
That’s what all this distracting and entertaining stuff that floods our lives is all about. And Anthony de Mello, in his book “Awareness”, says it extremely well in these words:
“Think of the loneliness that is yours. Would human company ever take it away? It will only serve as a distraction. There’s an emptiness inside, isn’t there? And when the emptiness surfaces, what do you do? You run away, turn on the television, turn on the radio, read a book, search for human company, seek entertainment, seek distraction. Everybody does that. It’s big business nowadays, an organized industry to distract us and entertain us.”
“Do you want your drug? Get ready for the hangover.”
The first time I became aware of the matter, my first reaction was, “So, does this mean that we shouldn’t connect with people?” Of course it doesn’t. Therein lies a subtlety.
It’s not about living like a hermit. It’s about not falling into addiction. Connect with people as much as you want, it’s even extremely positive, but the only rule is: don’t hang your happiness on it. Your happiness shouldn’t depend on whether or not you connect with people. It can bring you joy. Not happiness.
Don’t depend on others to be happy. And more than that: don’t rely on anything to be happy. Learn to be perfectly good by yourself. That’s the real cure for the problem.
“Loneliness is when you’re missing people, aloneness is when you’re enjoying yourself.” — Anthony de Mello
Unless you learn to detach your happiness from everything in the world, you are not healed. Everything will only be a quick and temporary fix. Like a drug. You’ve got to go to the rock bottom of things and learn to enjoy the bare reality.
To learn how to be perfectly happy by yourself, there are not 100 solutions. You have to accept the discomfort that eventually arises and stick with it. Staring it straight in the eyes. It’s like hunger. At some point, your belly gurgles, then you could literally eat your hand, and when food is finally available, oddly enough, you’re not hungry anymore. It’s the same thing with loneliness. Stick with the discomfort, hold on to it, get over it, and after a while see it go away.
You’re not feeling lonely, you’re feeling empty
“Remember: the time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Life’s cruelest irony.” — Douglas Coupland
You’re not feeling lonely. What you’re feeling is emptiness. Like 99.9999% of the human beings who inhabit this planet. Like me too, sometimes, even though I am improving in the way I healthily fill the void.
The only way to fill that void is to feed your soul with real food. And real food is the reality that surrounds you. Learn how to connect with reality. Activate your five senses. Be attentive, very attentive, to the fact that you are alive. You. Are. Alive. Let that sink in. Isn’t that a good enough reason to be happy?
Let everything that makes up human life fill you with joy. Food. Cinema. Sunsets. Human relationships. But don’t let your happiness depend on it. Remember: joy. Not happiness.
When I was in relationships, I used to say to that special person, “You make me happy.” I can’t do that anymore. Because I’ve found out that’s not true at all. This person does not make me happy. I have to be perfectly happy without them, even though I profoundly enjoy their company. Otherwise, the relationship becomes unhealthy. It’s a relationship of need that is created, and it can’t lead to anything good.
You have to learn not to need anyone to feel good.
Connect with people. Deeply. Create meaningful and strong bonds. Share. Exchange. But don’t cling. Stand on your own two feet, without leaning on anyone.
Learn to enjoy your own company. In the end, we are born alone, and we will die alone. You are alone in your body. You are one entity. You are whole by yourself.
Grasp this, and you will never feel alone again.