Loneliness has a profound impact on mental wellness.
US Surgeon General
We are digital natives. We are the loneliest generation ever.
Cry of Gen Z
Loneliness is the detachment of self from the Self.
The US Surgeon General stated that loneliness is now a pandemic, affecting the mental health of more than half the US adult population. In our earlier blog on ‘How can Self be Alone while Self is Lonely?, our conversation with Dr. Soni also spoke about how prevalent the malaise of loneliness is in the youth population. This blog will explore how coaching can empower individuals to overcome loneliness and nurture fulfilling relationships.
Loneliness has long been the scourge of the elderly who had no one to care for them. This was perhaps less in some Eastern countries where families still cared for the elderly. It is not yet fully established, but the pandemic lockdowns and resultant isolation over the last few years may have expanded the affected population to a much larger space. What is worrying is the extent to which loneliness affects the youth, based on studies at colleges and schools. These students live with their families and in communities. Yet they feel lonely. They feel disconnected. They feel no one cares.
What causes loneliness? What makes one stay in the discomfort of one’s own self in preference to the discomfort of others’ company? What makes one feel unwanted and inadequate? What makes one feel worthless? Where does this disconnection of the self from the Self come from?
Studies surmise that loneliness arises from a variety of factors, which would include the impact of the COVID pandemic and its resultant anxiety through lockdowns, isolation, etc. It can also be a neurochemical issue. In addition, research shows these factors to be relevant
- Emotional regulation
- Social isolation such as through social media trolling
- Loss of any kind such as the death of a loved one, financial loss, job loss, or loss of respect resulting in grief, sometimes guilt or rage, and eventually in withdrawal.
Developing your support network, reaching out to family, volunteering, and finding hobbies, all rank high in popularity as solutions. These are symptomatic salves for a problem that requires a root cause transplant solution. They don’t work because these social connections are what those who stay lonely avoid, as autistic people do, though they are not autistic. Autism is a neurodevelopmental problem, which also makes people suffer from loneliness. In the case of non-autistic sufferers of loneliness, it may be because they find no meaning in social connections, and perhaps in life itself in extreme cases.
Our coaching experience shows that the two main triggers of loneliness or unhealthy detachment from societal contact are fear of rejection and lack of meaning in life. Fear of rejection arises from frequent invalidation, making one feel unsafe. Lack of meaning can happen with successful people as well when they find that common indicators of satisfaction such as wealth, power, and casual relationships do not fulfill them.
Coaching helps in creating a purpose and meaning in one’s life by connecting the individual internally. This requires the coach to go beyond transactional and cognitive exploration. The coach needs to engage the client in sensory exploration to evoke awareness at the deepest levels of the mind. To practice this, one does not need any transactional details of what, how, and why. All that is needed is to help the client feel safe and authentically explore sensory experiences in the body. Feelings of rejection, lack of safety, fear of relationships, and anxiety about the future are manifested in the body. Guided into awareness, coaching becomes healing. People become comfortable in their bodies. They then become comfortable with others.
Listening patiently, curiously, empathetically, generatively, inquiring when appropriate, and always being appreciative, the coach can help. People who feel lonely want to be heard. They feel no one is listening. Seemingly too simple, this process works with individuals and groups. The first principle is to become aware of the discomfort one feels in the body even before it manifests as emotions and thoughts. This awareness creates solutions to help the body and then the mind in feeling comfortable.
Coaching loneliness is like coaching grief. It’s difficult. Both are intangible. People say time heals grief; but not always. When it is mixed with guilt, it stays deep down. Loneliness too is a mix of emotions. Reaching a lonely person requires persistence. It requires love and compassion.
- Do you know a loved one who is lonely?
- Do you know how they feel within their shell?
- Do you have the time to find out?