As if feeling lonely and alone isn’t bad enough, now researchers are saying it’s bad for our health and longevity! This can feel like a rock and hard place.
Our primitive brain is evidence based, has a negativity bias and one immediate priority – to keep us out of danger. Hurt by people? Put up a wall so you’re not hurt again.
We also have a survival level need for connection hardwired into our system. We literally need reliable, safe caregivers to survive through to adulthood. Not your experience? Your brain didn’t have the opportunity to develop the neural networks to nurture connection. This combines with the safety imperative and we’re in trouble.
Making it worse
When we feel threatened and are emotionally flooded, we go into fight/ flight/ freeze. Our predominant pattern depends in part on what offered the best protection when we were children. Some people go into numbing or dissociation, pleasing behaviors and trying to not be a target. Others fight back, sometimes physically but more often verbally. If your pattern is lashing out, you probably have more broken relationships than if you go into freeze.
Hope and healing
We are now adults. We have the capacity to understand our nervous system and primitive brain. We can develop self-regulation and increase the resilience of our nervous system. As children, we were trapped. As adults, we have more agency.
As we understand our survival system and protective mechanisms, perhaps we could open up space for kindness and compassion for ourselves. We have these wonderful brains and capacity for change AND we have a history.
Earlier this week we did these two guided practices to explore and inquire into feelings of being alone, loneliness, isolation and our history and beliefs about these.
We can be alone in solitude and be happy about that. We can be alone and feeling quite lonely or isolated. Holding all the complexity and nuance of this, notice what’s happening in your body. Take a few deep breaths, it’s often very helpful to keep coming back to the breath.