“Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that are important to you.” – Carl Jung

As a species we need to know that we matter. That we are seen, heard and understood. We want people around us that get us, that make us feel like there is a place where we are welcome and where we fit. We need connection. When these things are absent from our lives we tend to feel disconnected, hollow, uncomfortable, sad, insecure – lonely.

Loneliness isn’t just the absence of people, it’s the absence of a real connection to another. But sometimes we seek isolation (both emotional and physical) as a means of self-defense. Being alone keeps us safe from the pains of the outside world. If one has been hurt often enough, the safety of having no one around, that can hurt you, can seem very appealing.

Battling the loneliness that comes after a break-up with an emotional manipulator can be sheer agony. The pain is exponentially greater than any other type of break up because it’s not just about the rejection. Narcissists make their victims feel powerless and dependent. They get you addicted to their brand of “love” and then keep threatening to take it away. They create the illusion of a deep connection. It’s one of their hooks. But in reality the sharing and the communicating and the finding comfort in sameness, is really nothing more than a reconnaissance mission, to find out all about what buttons to push and what your weakness are, to create that power differential they need for control.

When we are finally faced with the rejection they’ve been holding over our heads, we feel utterly lost. The connection we thought we had is gone and we have never felt an emptiness quite like what we are feeling now. Understand that what you are experiencing isn’t real loneliness. It’s dependence. Any drug dealer will tell you that once you have someone under the spell of a drug – that the addiction creates power for the supplier (I got what you need and you better play by my rules or else) – the dependence creates servitude (I’ll do whatever you want, just don’t take away my fix).

So you’re not just feeling the sting of rejection, you’re feeling the withdrawal of your drug of choice (your Narcissist). You’re also feeling the shame and humiliation that comes from knowing you allowed someone to treat you so badly, yet you can’t stop wanting them to come back.

When a codependent has been through this break up cycle a few times, they hopefully start to notice that there is something wrong with the relationship they are having with themselves. They start to see that their thinking is flawed and they don’t have proper boundaries when it comes to social interactions. They stop trusting themselves and other people. They start to seek isolation because it’s a safer alternative.

When people have been made to feel uncomfortable in their own skin, when they have been told they are inferior, when they have no idea what normal social interaction is supposed to look like, and they don’t have a strong concept of social boundaries, they feel like outsiders or pretenders. They want to be close, but they’ve become conditioned to fear outsiders in the same way an abused animal fears human contact.

Isolation and the Rat Park Theory

Isolation is an important tool for a manipulator. If they can weaken any meaningful connection you have with someone else, the more control they have and the less support and resources their victims have. When you are going through this without any support it keeps you dependent longer. It keeps you ripe for another harvest from your abuser, should they choose to do so.

Like the rats in the rat park experiments that I’ve referred to in previous blogs, addiction occurs when people, or animals, are placed in an environment that produces social and cultural isolation. The addiction I’m referring to here is Narcissist addiction, though you do find many codependents that self-medicate with alcohol or narcotics. We become addicted to Narcissists when the opportunity for normal social relationships is taken away.

I often bounce ideas off of the people closest to me when I’m researching a blog topic and I was thinking of a young colleague that I have a great affection for when I thought of the concept of loneliness. I thought of him because he’s popular and always has something going on. His personality is bigger than any room he enters. He is extremely outgoing, has close family ties and people are instantly drawn to his fun-loving nature. He has a ton of friends and is never without female companionship.

“Do you ever feel lonely?” I asked him.

“Nope, never,” he laughed. “I’ve always got something going on. If I want to go out, or go somewhere I just call up a buddy. If I want to meet a girl I just go out and meet a girl.”

“It’s just that simple huh?” I inquired.

“It’s that simple,” he said. “Sometimes I want to be alone. I like those times too, but I know if ever I need something or I want to do something I always have a lot of options.”

I knew what his answer would be before I asked him. He’s a young, confident, rascal, unburdened with generations of emotional baggage, but his answer was right on the mark.

Having strong, healthy, social ties cultivates healthier choices and more options. This is the area in which addiction research seems to be trending. Addiction, they are starting to believe, isn’t really about the substance, or in this case the Narcissist, – addiction occurs because of a poverty of the spirit, if you will, an unhealthy relationship with the self, a lack of other healthy social ties and alternatives.

If we can create a loving and enriching environment for ourselves, where we feel seen, heard and understood, where we have support and trust and love, the pull back towards toxic relationships would not have the same influence and it would be much easier to leave behind.

Sav’s Other Tips to Combat Loneliness:

Feel your feelings: Let them out. Don’t numb them or distract yourself. Get close to them and you will realize that you are stronger than this hurt. That it can’t defeat you.

Keep moving in the right direction: Make goals and plans for yourself and keep taking steps towards those goals. Have you ever noticed how much better you feel about yourself and your life when you are on track. Get on track and keep moving.

Trust yourself: There isn’t a secret that healthy people know that you don’t know. We learn by example and by trial and error. Put yourself out there. Do what makes you feel uncomfortable. Something is only difficult the first time. Comfort comes through repetition.

Social awkwardness comes from the relationship you have with yourself: Other people usually don’t see the same you that you see. Your discomfort doesn’t come from not fitting in. it comes from your perception that you don’t fit in. Work on changing your perception.

Stop fearing the potential rejection/humiliation and interact: Worst case scenario is they think you’re weird and you don’t make a connection. Best case scenario you make a new friend.

Get comfortable being alone: Learn how to enjoy your own company. Develop a friendship with yourself. Get to know you. Who are you? What do you like? What makes you happy?

Your validation is an inside job: Your partner does not define you. You define you. Being alone doesn’t render you unlovable or unwanted – being with a loser does that.

Create your environment the way you want it: The power to do this is in all of us. Find your power and make your life exactly the way you want it.

Never stop growing and learning: There is no better time for self-improvement than after a break-up. Spend your time wisely by making you better.

Become dissatisfied with the way things are: The late author, Napoleon Hill coined the term inspirational dissatisfaction. When you become so disgusted with your current situation, that it becomes the driving force that pushes you to make you and your circumstances better.

Go easy with social media: It gives the illusion of connection but in reality it fosters more and more isolation. Physically get out and interact with people. Relationships that exist solely online are not real relationships.

Know that this feeling of loneliness is temporary: This too shall pass. Battle through it, make changes, be better.

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