Lonely Holidays

Last time, we talked about holiday stress and how our stories affected that stress–making it either better or worse. And we talked about some strategies for adjusting our stories during those holiday get-togethers.

But what about those times when our stories create stress because no one is there?

While a great deal of stress is
created by those obnoxious relatives (if you come from a family with no obnoxious relatives, please adopt me — then you’ll have at least one) OR by those
obnoxious friends and neighbors (yes, it is possible to have obnoxious friends… and still keep them as friends),
for a significant number of people the worst stress comes from not having anybody around to be obnoxious and cause stress. (If that sounds strange, read on. If that sounds like you, hope is coming, keep reading.)

You have probably heard the statistic that there are more occurrences of depression (and suicide) during the winter holidays than at any other time. The holidays are a happy time filled with love and goodwill and family get-togethers.

Unless they’re not. And if they’re not, then they are an incredibly dreary time. A lonely time.

But let me ask you a question. To be lonely, do you need to be alone? Conversely, can you be alone and not be lonely?

If you have ever been in a crowd, a new classroom, a networking event, or in the middle of a family gathering, but felt like no one there understood you or cared about you (or was interested in you), you know that you can feel lonely with people around… even people you know and, perhaps, care for.

If you have ever been by yourself, but felt contented, or complete, or watched over, you know that you can be alone and not be lonely.

So what makes the two different? The internal feelings we have. And what have we learned about our feelings? That we can influence them–even change them — when we change the stories we are telling ourselves.

Remember, we are telling ourselves stories all the time. They are part of that inner dialog we have… the running dialog in our heads. (Please note that everyone has this dialog going on but not everyone recognizes it happening — especially when it is happening.)

Sometimes the dialog takes a back and forth flavor as if two people are inside your head. Other times, it is just feelings with a word or picture popping up. And sometimes, there is no real dialog, just a feeling and a picture… and the picture is unpleasant and the feeling is bad.

When the dialog is unnoticed, that’s when we really need to become aware of it and start to direct the story.

When we feel alone even though other people are around, it tends to be because we have told ourselves a story that other people don’t care. How would the story change if we took a quick inventory of the people who care for us (or cared for us in the past), even if they are not present in the room? (And for the few of you who will quickly respond that no one has ever cared for you–EVER– that is your sadness trying to cop out. Go ahead and make the effort. The fact that you are still alive shows that people have cared for you and cared about you your whole life, even if it took strange forms — so look for them.)

Once you get the story to shift –even just a little — go ahead and keep it moving by reframing your present situation (and the future) to one of Not-Yet-Met the person who really understands you and appreciates you for who you truly are. But you WILL meet that person one day and you CAN look forward to it. And you can know that if they were in your life right now, you could be in this same situation and you wouldn’t feel lonely, even though they weren’t in the room at the time.

Is it just a story? EVERYTHING is a story… including the one you have been telling yourself that no one cares.

But is it TRUE? It is as true as, maybe more true than, the story that NO ONE cares for you. And because “there is more in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Shakespeare: Hamlet), I can say with certainty that if you persist, you WILL encounter that person.

So, if, or more likely, when, you start feeling a bit let down from the holiday exertions and the loneliness sets in, take a look at the story you are telling yourself. Then, change it — just a little — for the better. Then, feel free to change it a little (or a lot) more… always for the better.

Are you having trouble changing your story? Needing just a little help believing someone cares? When people reach out to you, don’t bat them away, but, instead, invite them into your life. You don’t have to do this alone. Contact me and let’s visit. Or, you can use the comments and all of us can join in.

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