Therapist Offers Help with Experience of Loneliness

 

A question was submitted asking me to make a recommendation of how to handle the feeling of loneliness. 

Feeling alone is not unique to any age. When we are children, we often feel that other children do not like us or want to be around us. We feel rejected. We feel sad. We feel helpless. We feel alone.

I am reminded of a study that was done with adults. Twelve people were asked to stand in a circle and to throw a ball to a person in the circle. After doing this for a while, each person was asked what the experience was like. The ones who received the ball often, felt good and enjoyed the game. The ones who never got the ball felt left out. 

As the interviews continued, many remembered having a similar experience in childhood. To have the ball thrown to you was to be acknowledged. To not receive the ball was to be ignored and not included.

This was the purpose of the exercise. We have experiences as children which can lead to a feeling of loneliness. Clients have told me stories of not being invited to a birthday party or not getting Valentine’s Day cards at school. They feel sad. 

With children, I recommend that a parent ask a teacher to identify another child who tends to be alone or not included. These children can often be identified at lunch or during recess. I encourage that these children be brought together in an activity at school or by the parents outside of school. 

I would like to recommend to schools that this issue be discussed by students and that a place can be designated where a child can go when feeling alone. The other students would be encouraged to go to these children and invite them to participate in something or talk to them. 

As we age, loneliness can result when we end a relationship with a partner or a friend. When I ran a discussion group on aging at the Mastick Senior Center, many participants talked about loneliness. Some had moved to a new area. Some were no longer working and did not know what to do during the day. We can make a decision that seems to be a good one at the time, and not realize the full ramifications until it is too late. Moving leaves people behind; retirement means leaving people and activity behind. 

The Mastick Center is a great resource for those older than 50 years of age. Classes and groups are available all day. The subjects are varied and always changing. It is a place to be around people with similar interests. Friendships do form there. 

For all ages, it is usually wise to participate in an activity of interest when looking to establish a relationship. It might be a political group, a sport, a book group or a religious facility. At school, it may be the school newspaper, drama group or band. 

Finding a friend is not easy. It can be done. 

 

 

Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Please submit questions at drnataliegelman@gmail.com or through Gelman’s web site, drnataliegelman.com.