There are two ways concerning how to deal with loneliness: you can distract yourself from noticing it or cure it.
There’s nothing abnormal about occasional loneliness. That’s because it’s normal to be concerned with the degree of your personal dignity and self-esteem, which are based on your self-concept, in other words, how you understand yourself. When you find yourself struggling by yourself, it’s not abnormal occasionally to feel that the odds of success would be greater if you were not struggling alone.
Like other emotions, loneliness isn’t just important to us; it also essentially involves us. If you judge yourself to be lacking people who love you, it’s easy to find yourself emotionally down and struggling with loneliness.
The only people who are wholly free from emotional bondage and afflictions are fully enlightened sages. Since there may be no fully enlightened sages, it may be the case that, at least occasionally, none of us is free from emotional suffering.
All emotions are analyzable into three components: a judgment of the situation, an egocentric evaluation of that situation, and (almost always) an accompanying physical feeling or passion.
If it is mild and occasional, the distraction method for how to deal with loneliness can work. The two chief ways for how to deal with loneliness using the distraction method are to attack the judgment and to change the physical feeling.
Suppose that you are suffering from loneliness because your lover just dumped you. The intensity of that suffering usually depends upon whether or not it was only a superficial, transitory fling or whether it was an in depth, multi-year relationship. It will also depend upon whether or not you understand it to be part of a continuing pattern.
It may be possible for you to use thought itself effectively for how to deal with loneliness. To do so, it is critical to notice that no thought is wholly true. This is because all thoughts involve concepts, which are ways of classifying objects. In any judgment the object or objects that are its subject matter may be conceived differently. Realizing this, you may loosen your attachment to your judgment.
Did your lover really dump you? Is it possible you are misunderstanding what actually happened? Even if it did happen, there’s nothing to prevent him [or her] from changing his mind. Furthermore, as good as it was with him, even if he doesn’t change his mind, why couldn’t a relationship with someone else be even better? There is nothing preventing this emotional obstacle from becoming an emotional opportunity.
As you probably realize, it’s possible to think your way out of negative emotions like loneliness like this only when they are mild.
If thinking does not turn out to be effective in how to deal with loneliness in this case, you may be able to change how you feel about it. For example, you could go get drunk or stoned to distract yourself. You may be able to go out and have sex with someone else. A better way, though, would be some intense physical exercise such as a long walk or run. Exercise has very important emotional benefits.
Suppose, though, that the way of distraction doesn’t work in this case or that you would rather cure the loneliness rather than just distracting yourself from it. Is there a lasting, really effective method for how to deal with loneliness?
Yes there is: the cure for how to deal with loneliness undermines the critical egocentric evaluation. The judgment in our example was that he dumped me. Let’s assume that’s true.
By themselves, facts are emotionally neutral. Suppose it is raining in Tokyo at this moment: how do you feel about that? Assuming that you don’t happen to be in Tokyo and have no reason whatsoever to be concerned about the weather in Tokyo at this moment, you simply have no feeling whatsoever about that fact.
If you are lonely because he dumped you, it’s because you are emotionally attached to that fact. The heart of every negative emotion is the evaluation that this is bad for me. The heart of every positive emotion is the evaluation that this is good for me. It’s not just that neither judgment is wholly true nor that neither can be known to be true.
Notice the “for me.” All emotions are self-centered. This is the key. The cure for any emotional suffering is to detach from self-centeredness.
So the cure for how to deal with loneliness is to let go of your evaluation that the present situation is bad for you. To let go of self-centeredness completely is to be a wholly enlightened sage.
Again, no wholly enlightened sages may exist. However, the more you are like a wholly enlightened sage, the less you will suffer emotionally.
The less self-centered you are, the less negative emotions will afflict you. “Detaching from egocentricity is the key to flourishing emotionally” (from my How to Survive College Emotionally).
This is really good news: emotional suffering is optional!
There’s even more good news: it takes no time to let go of egocentricity. It can be done right now. In fact, the only time it can be done is the present moment. (It cannot be done in the future because nothing can ever be done in the future!)
The cure for how to deal with loneliness is to be found in expansion of your “self-concept,” which is what separates you from everything that isn’t you. Loneliness comes from awareness of a lack of union between you and something else such as a former lover or a certain group of people.
What if you were not actually separated from that person or from those other people? What if there were no “other” at all?
What if you expanded your self-concept to include everything else? Then, of course, loneliness would be impossible.
In other words, unintentionally, you have thought your way into loneliness. You may instantly eliminate the loneliness by letting go of your thoughts. It’s that simple. On the other hand, the cure for how to deal with loneliness is not easy. It’s not easy to let go. However, it really is simple.
Furthermore, there are many ways to do it. For example, you may become aware of the aliveness in your body [see Life Energy]. Starting to let go of loneliness can begin simply by feeling your hands from the inside!
Focusing on your breathing while meditating is a classic way to do it—and there are other methods as well. Some take time to master, but becoming a master meditator, for example, isn’t necessary. All that is necessary is letting go of your attachment to your self-concept, which requires no time at all.
That is all that is required for genuine happiness.
The ultimate expansion of your self-concept is identification with Being. You are Being; it’s impossible to be without Being, to be separated from it. Since Being is the essence of everything, because you are Being you lack nothing. No lack, no loneliness!
This is really, really good news: by being lonely, by suffering emotionally, and simply reading this post, you have now opened yourself up to a new way of being, a way of freedom from all negative emotions from now on. The task becomes the simple one of using that understanding to expand your self-concept, to drop attachment to your present narrow self-concept.
All you wanted was an effective method for how to deal with loneliness. What you have uncovered instead is the exciting possibility of living without emotional affliction!
Suggestions for Further Reading: Dennis Bradford’s How to Survive College Emotionally, Robert C. Solomon’s The Passions, and Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and A New Earth.
As always, if you think this might benefit someone you know, please forward it.