Feeling Lonely vs Feeling Alone

The words “lonely” and “alone” sound like they are the same but they are different.

Being “alone” refers to your physical status relevant to other people

Feeling “lonely” refers to your psychological status relative to others or to yourself.

You are “alone” when there are no other people around you.

You are “lonely” when you feel disconnected, unsupported, or separated, from the world around you. You are present, psychologically, in the moment but your experience is that something (or someone) is missing.

Please note that I am not talking about  being “dissociated” from the world.  Dissociation is a clinical symptom which implies that you have lost contact with the real world.  You may be in the world physically but you are not there psychologically.

You may have noticed that there are times when you just want to be left alone.  You need the solitude to recharge your psychological batteries, you need time to think about or process something that has happened to you, or you just want to enjoy some quiet solitude. For example, you might want to be left alone with your thoughts to contemplate a beautiful sunset or the quiet solitude of a forest.

You aren’t necessarily being antisocial although those around you may interpret what you are doing as antisocial.  You may, however, be choosing to be anti-social.

To be “antisocial” is to reject the idea that interacting with others is either necessary or important. Unless it is expedient, you have no desire to spend time with, and you choose to avoid being around, other people.

To be “anti-social” is to say that you want to be away from others for the moment.  You are choosing to be with yourself and not with others.

In other words, you want to be alone, for now.

When you are “alone”, you are very comfortable with your own company.  You are okay with being you in your own skin.

Being lonely is a different state of being.

You can be lonely in a crowd of people.

There are two different elements to being lonely.

  1. You can be lonely if you are in a situation in which you do not feel a connection to the people around you.  You miss being around someone you feel close to or supported by.  You are lacking a specific connection and feel isolated or lonely.
  2.  You may feel lonely when you are not comfortable with yourself, your inner thoughts or your sense of who you are psychologically. In this case, being lonely can be thought of as being without yourself. If this is the case, you will find that you must constantly be around someone in order to feel that every thing is okay.

If description #1 applies to you, my suggestion is to accept (validate) your feeling but do not give in to it and get through the situation in which you find yourself.  When you do this, you will notice that the feeling becomes less important and relevant.  This is what you want.  Once you have left environment in which you were feeling lonely, you can move on if the feeling subsides or reconnect with that special someone.

If description#2 applies to you, then you might want to get some professional help in order to explore your self-image, your self-worth, and your self-esteem.  The danger of #2 is that you can become too dependent on others or be seen as too needy.  Should this happen, others might push you away.

I welcome your comments.

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