Human beings are, fundamentally, social creatures with an innate inclination to move closer to and connect with others. Sometimes, when we have issues stemming from early attachment difficulties, this wish to be closer to others gets amplified and distorted, e.g., into a belief that “I can’t live without you,” or “If this relationship doesn’t work out, then I’ll probably be alone forever, it’s my only chance.”
This fear of aloneness can drive us to act in relationships, particularly in romantic/sexual ones, in ways that compromise our core values, our dignity or self respect. We may do things that feel degrading to ourselves in an attempt to hold on to that person. People who respond this way often have what is called an anxious-preoccupied attachment style.
Alternately, sometimes people deal with the fear of aloneness in another way: by denying the need, by suppressing or ridiculing wishes for closeness. They may believe, e.g., “In the end, you can’t rely on anyone but yourself,” or “I’ve always had to handle things myself and I always will.” People who respond this way often have a dismissive attachment style.
The following exercise is designed to help you to think about your own feelings about being alone and to consider how these might affect your relationships.
- Are you afraid sometimes that you will end up alone?
- If so, what makes you think or fear that this will be the case? What do you think it is about you that would make this so?
- When you are in a relationship (or a friendship, or part of a group, etc.) are you aware of fears/worries about losing the other person(s)? This might take any of several forms: jealousy of his/her time with others, sensitivity to any indications-real or imagined- that the other person is moving away from you, alternating between moves to bring the other person closer and moves to push them away, etc.
- What does it feel like to need another person so much? Think about all of the feelings that are or might be present.
- How do you deal with your fears of abandonment/aloneness? Please think about a specific situation and describe how you have dealt with these worries.
- If you have done things to compromise yourself in order to hold on to a relationship, what effect does that have on you?
- If you deny your needs for others, what effect do you think that has on you?
- What is your belief about this proposition: “The love of a good man/woman can save me.”
Here are a few things a person can do to be more tolerant of solitude:
- Practice meditation. Meditation is all about learning to sit with and to get to know oneself.
- Find or create a safe space, a sanctuary, a nest. Someplace that is your own peaceful, comfort spot.
- Hold the mirror up to yourself by journaling. A big part of being more comfortable being alone has to do with getting to know yourself and a good way to do that is to “look in the mirror” regularly via self reflective journaling.
Learn about the Life Strategies Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) at Yellowbrick and how our staff helps young adults with self-expression, acceptance, and emotional health.