The last two years brought the notion of loneliness to the forefront. Many people experienced isolation and loneliness in a very different way than before. The pace of life changed, and the incessant distractions came to a halt. This forced many to face internal loneliness. Everything we spend time and effort avoiding, is there to greet us when there's silence.
When the novelty of working from home fades, when all the puzzle pieces are in place and all the wardrobes have been cleared out, we're left with our internal world. I see this loneliness in my work now more than ever; in a 1:1 session, group therapy, and in clinical supervision. The therapist is as wounded as the client.
Sometimes it's easier for people to first connect with others than themselves. It's a very lonely place when you look inside and all you find is cold judgement. Through therapy we try to open up the space for a shift toward self-compassion, but it takes time for a wounded soul to trust.
I believe that the true power of therapy is the banishing of loneliness. The realisation that we're not alone and even though people have different backgrounds and different stories, the underlying emotions are so similar.
There's something tremendous in witnessing a group of people being vulnerable with each other; finding there can be safety in sharing, but also in silence. Because through the silence, all the suppressed and unexpressed feelings come to the surface.
Perhaps that's why so many people find silence painful. It's not considered a safe space. We're so used to being surrounded by noise, that in the absence of it we're lost. So much has changed in the past two years in the collective experience. But I suspect somewhere in our minds we all hold the narrative of how life used to be before. We assume it reverts back to how things were then, as if the time that passed was just a dream.
Maybe we overlook how much things have changed in a very fundamental way, and avoiding this truth leaves us feeling disconnected and alone. Separate from our fellow humans, fearful of our internal dialogue. What if we were to embrace our loneliness instead of fighting it, and use it to actively listen to what we have to say?
Perhaps then, all it takes to start healing is to take a deep breath and use our senses to look at the world around us with a curious and softer gaze. We are all waking up to a new reality, where things can look the same, but we've now changed. We're coming to the collective understanding that we're not alone, as we can have ourselves and each other to lean on. What if loneliness is then an invitation to not only reach out but also reach within?