I frequently get so wrapped up in my life—in chores, work, reading, my dogs, surfing online—that I don’t pay much attention to the fact that I am single. Other times, the perpetual loneliness of my situation seems like it will choke the life out of me.

I don’t feel bad or guilty about feeling lonely—after all, loneliness is nothing more than acknowledging that we want more from life, that we want someone to pay attention to us, that we need and desire companionship, affection, and love—and that we not only want to receive them, but that we want to give those things in return, too. It is good to want these things, and it is human to want these things.

Usually, my feelings of loneliness are accompanied by a sense of hopelessness, but sometimes there is the feeling of hopefulness. Often, there is a profound sense of resignation, and other times there are energetic feelings of defiance and determination to change my situation.

One thing I can always count on though is a feeling of self-pity, which I have come to absolutely loathe. Self-pity and I have a long and contentious history together, but it is one of the most emasculating and immobilizing feelings in the world. Nothing beats me up and drags me down like self-pity.

But I find myself wondering: Is it possible to feel loneliness without feeling self-pity at the same time?

Certainly it is possible to feel self-pity without being lonely, as that particular emotion can arise in us for multiple reasons. But can loneliness be separated from self-pity? Is it just childish to pity yourself? Are there ways around it? What do you think, and what are your experiences or opinions on this? How do you deal with feelings of loneliness?

Tags: affection, companionship, desire, despair, emotions, isolation, loneliness, love, negative emotions, self-pity, More…sexuality, singles

Views: 1135

Replies to This Discussion

Dallas,

Good, important post.

I think part of the problem is modern society - although I love the science and technology that the Western tradition has produced, a lot of us seem lost, to some extent, as individuals. I have been thinking a lot lately that the thing that religions really have going for them is their sense of community. I am convinced that us non-theists have to create equally supportive communities.

I guess now that I am older (57) the issue of being lonely and self-pitying is more of an issue than when I was younger and had many (shorter and longer) relationships - I guess I felt more robust when I was younger. Now I am in a relationship where it has become clear to me what I really want, but for various reasons I can't have all that I want. So while not strictly being "alone" the situation has been causing some of the feelings described in this topic. From a romantic viewpoint, it is hard for me to see how it would be possible to separate loneliness and self-pity.

As a method of dealing with these issues I have been trying to: understand myself better; think of the upsides to the situation (unexpectedly these do exist); keep busy with things that I like doing and/or pay the bills; chill out with meditation etc

Good luck!

Regards,

Phil.
I also think that modern society has had some sever repurcussions for us as a species (but that is almost another discussion thread). And yes, we don't necessarily have to be isolated to feel lonely.

You might be interested in this blog post.
Thanks for having the courage to ask these questions, Dallas, and to share your own thoughts about them.

I think we atheists are more at risk of feeling lonely since we don't have religious support systems available to us, and it can also be more difficult to find people with whom we can talk candidly about everything we think and feel, including our perspectives as atheists. In addition, we could be absorbing a lot of negativity from other people about being different from the norm, including seeing negative reactions from people who take offense at the way we think and feel.

That's not easy to deal with, particularly when it happens constantly and at an insidious level.

I think that self-pity can be a normal way of dealing with frustration about a difficult situation; it's self-protective and comforting to our ego in the short run but needs to be relinquished eventually since it doesn't help us adapt in the long run. We don't have to stay helpless; we need to assess the situation and try to move forward by doing something different about it. You're doing something different now by reaching out to other people when you're feeling lonely, like you did here.

Feeling lonely can motivate us to go out and try to make connections with other people. Self-pity, in contrast, could get in the way of being hopeful about our chances of connecting with people---and it could end up contaminating our attitudes, affecting the way we come across to people, and end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, I think we need to focus on appreciating and making the most of the opportunities that we do have.
Thank you Dana.

I think we atheists are more at risk of feeling lonely since we don't have religious support systems available to us...

I think the need to socialize and feel like a part of the group is what drives a lot of people to participate in churches, more so than a metaphysical need to understand the origins of life and be moral, etc. However, in my opinion, I think religious people who embrace these unproven ideas are potentially more inclined to live in a state of denial about their emotional lives, since they seem to embrace denial about other aspects of life. Would you agree?

In addition, we could be absorbing a lot of negativity from other people about being different from the norm...

I think there is a lot of negativity sewn into our modern lives, especially through consumerism--a system designed to make us feel perpetually inadequate so that we continue to buy, buy, buy, and through religious thought, which begins with the belief that we are inherently flawed and in need of fixing. These, and many more influences around us, are forever demoralizing us as persons.
I think the need to socialize and feel like a part of the group is ...

I agree, but I think conformism also has a lot to do with it. Many skeptics also need to socialize.

I think there is a lot of negativity sewn into our modern lives, especially through consumerism--a system designed to make us feel perpetually inadequate so that we continue to buy, buy, buy, and through religious thought, which begins with the belief that we are inherently flawed and in need of fixing.

It seems noone understood that better than L. Ron Hubbard. And how you could make a huge profit from it, of course.
I agree, but I think conformism also has a lot to do with it. Many skeptics also need to socialize.

Yes, and I suppose in some ways we are conformists, too. All members of group must conform to a certain extent.
Dallas, you had written:

"However, in my opinion, I think religious people who embrace these unproven ideas are potentially more inclined to live in a state of denial about their emotional lives, since they seem to embrace denial about other aspects of life. Would you agree?"

I don't know. On the face of it, you'd think so. But I think anyone can be in denial---or in ignorance, rather---about certain aspects of his or her lives, regardless of his or her belief in a god. I think most of us are too complex to be all-knowing about ourselves.

Perhaps group conformity is then a comfortable way to avoid having to think too much for ourselves about everything we think and do. (Obviously, many, many people wouldn't be up to the task of doing that.) I do think that there's a risk to not conforming at all with society or one's group----one could potentially end up being out of touch with reality, or endangering ourselves. Then again, we *might* be able to push the envelope, to stretch what's considered "normal," by expressing our own different thoughts and feelings. Social norms aren't static, after all.
I don't know. On the face of it, you'd think so. But I think anyone can be in denial---or in ignorance, rather---about certain aspects of his or her lives, regardless of his or her belief in a god. I think most of us are too complex to be all-knowing about ourselves.

Agreed. Well said, and I don't deny that at all. It is probably wrong to paint everyone within a group with the same brush, but in general terms, I am inclined to think that those who are inquisitive and questioning and not too quick to believe in nonsense are more than likely better equipped for self-reflection.
Dallas, it is outrageous that you are single. I'm not gay, but I'd totally date you if I was. You have some of the most interesting posts on A/N and at times you sound like a gay version of myself. Until then I'd just try and meet new people. Meetup.org is good for that.

As for myself I've been single for nearly four months and have been dating sporadically but not getting laid. As much as it sucks, I'm glad that I got out of the relationship that I was in because the girl I was in it with had pretty severe bi-polar disorder. Anyways, I'm going to mosey on over to your other topic and extrapolate.
Awww, mthoreau you have now become my favorite person on A|N. Hehe! I good ego-stroking never hurt anyone, especially me. :)

BTW, I think it's outrageous, too. Guys just don't know what they are missing. But how can I convince them? :P
Jaume, most psychiatrists specialize in administering medication rather than psychotherapy; they're medical doctors first. Rather than assuming you'll never be able to date, please consider looking for second opinions from people who are up to date about treating anxiety disorders and who have expertise in providing *psychotherapy* for people with anxiety disorders. Psychologists with Ph.D's generally have the most training in psychotherapy of all the professions, not psychiatrists, although social workers and MFCCs also have a great deal of training as well.

Probably no one person has all the answers, and it's really important to keep an open mind. More is getting understood about the different psychiatric conditions all the time. You might actually feel less stressed thinking you'll never have relationships outside of your relatives, but if you decide you want to have such relationships in the future, I think a knowledgeable and good psychotherapist will be able to help.
Thanks for your time and advice, but it's not really fresh news to me ;-)

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