“It is normal to have feelings of loneliness,” says Monei Motswetla, an independent counsellor. This follows a story published last week on Managing Loneliness. The story had referred to reports that correlated excessive loneliness with numerous chronic diseases and gave tips on how one must fight loneliness.
However, Motswetla says that loneliness is part of us, a natural emotional response, unlike anger and sadness that must be reflected on and responded to the right way.
“What instead happens is that because of how unpleasant loneliness is, one might rashly try and fill the void, with excessive drinking or intimacy,” said Motswetla. “When they could simply experience the loneliness and confront the source of their loneliness.”
The source of loneliness could be the loss, through death, of a loved one, separation in a relationship, job loss or simply just having nothing to do. And allowing the emotion of loneliness to be felt helps us develop emotionally and psychologically, she said.
“It is what helps us figure out our own coping mechanism, because some people actually deal with loneliness by being alone while others need a confidant, in which case a support system could be realised.”
One basically must fill the void in the right way, for example, if one is lonely because of having nothing to do, they could simply take up a hobby.
“If one has lost a job, they could address the loneliness, by taking classes that improve their job prospects, volunteer for a cause, so that they aren’t idle” Monei says. The objective is to deal with loneliness in a non-self-destructive manner.”
Meanwhile, coping with loneliness negatively, like taking a nap when loneliness rears its head, binge drinking, being prematurely intimate in another relationship, will only prolong the ordeal.
“In this day and age where HIV and AIDS, alcohol and drug abuse are widely prevalent, some people avoid their loneliness by indulging in behaviours that leave them in compromised situations, forgoing safe sex, drunk driving and other abnormal behaviour,” she said.
“This does not address the source of their loneliness and it only comes back once they wake up or sober up.”
Motswetla says these instances could lead to excessive loneliness and leave the individuals susceptible to depression.
Another example that might seem like an appropriate way to deal with loneliness is going to church, she said.
“One could be in church everyday as a way of avoiding loneliness, but when the source of loneliness is not addressed directly and a resolution made on how to address it, there will be no progress.”