Overcoming loneliness: the pursuit of genuine human connection
Loneliness, a deeply internal experience, can affect anyone. Discover strategies to combat loneliness and rekindle connections, regardless of gender, as we explore the path to overcoming this common human struggle.
Human beings are wired with a fundamental, biological need for connection, it stems from our earliest days when “fear of rejection” quite literally translated to a threat to life. “Social pain” from that time – the fear of falling behind and not being accepted in a group – can now take the shape of loneliness. However, being alone and being lonely are two completely different concepts.
An individual can be completely satisfied and content alone, and feel isolated and lonely when surrounded by a group of people. Loneliness is a subjective, and deeply internal experience. Just like we seek out water when we are thirsty, we seek human connection when we are lonely.
“In practice we have found, both men and women in Dubai are equally distressed by loneliness” comments Zuha Zabair, CDA-licensed psychologist from Thrive’s Wellbeing Centre. “However, women find it somewhat easier to be vulnerable in fostering those new connections and reigniting the old ones than men. When we look at men and loneliness, the stigma around emotional awareness and the overbearing need to be “strong and independent” often comes in the way of taking active steps to combat loneliness”.
One of the hardest hitting feelings of loneliness comes with breaking up of a romantic relationship. The heartbreak, the grief, the loneliness, the hopelessness all compound into a deep sense of distress. Gender role expectations can have a profound impact on men and how post breakup loneliness can affect them. The general assumption is that men get over breakups fairly quickly and almost immediately look at it as “freedom”, which is furthest from the truth. “While taking care of ourselves through this very difficult time, feeling lonely will inevitably come up- be aware of it and when you feel ready, take active steps to overcome it” says Zubair.
- Enjoy your own company: The most significant step is to enjoy your own company. A hundred friends won’t do for you what some good time with your own self can, if you’re happy in your own company and content being by yourself. Spend time doing things you have always wanted to do – read, explore, go to the activity class you always wanted to go for, play that sport, take yourself out for coffee, remember there is nothing holding you back.
- Reach out to three new people: The next recommendation is a bit more intimidating. Reach out to three new people, an old friend, colleague, someone you met at a gathering and hit off but never remembered to follow up with. Remember, the goal is just to make the step, without any expectations.
- Sense of community: Being part of a community is just as meaningful as nurturing one-on-one relationships, don’t be afraid to try new sports or hobbies . Even if you don’t end up talking to most people there, just the sense of belonging and connection, and something to look forward to every week can be very helpful. Another way to engage in communities can be volunteering groups, cultural groups, or art communities. There is something for everyone in Dubai!
Loneliness is an all consuming, “embarrassing” feeling that no one likes to experience. However, statistically, it is one of the most common and distressing human experiences. Heart break is difficult enough as it is, the loneliness that accompanies it just makes the process all the more difficult. So be kind to yourself and be gentle with yourself, take steps that resonate with you and you are comfortable with.