Tuesday 23 October 2018

Learning about loneliness

Last week I went for Advanced CFT-training in Stockholm together with prof. Paul Gilbert. He talked a lot of loneliness and its central role in what human suffering.

It is no coincidence that we react strongly to loneliness, after all we are pack animals. Eventhough we live in societies where you can manage pretty much on your own our wiring in the brain is still that of  a tribe member. Without good connections and a tribe in the back we die.

The training days got me thinking about loneliness and the role it has played in my life. I recognise that loneliness is not only at the core of many of my clients struggles but also at the core of my own. It makes me wonder if my choice of occupation also was to address that feeling. Because let's be honest, therapy is one of the most intimate moments with a stranger we can have. Rarely are we so close and so in tuned to each other with someone we don't really know.

Over the weekend I have been reflecting a lot on what this loneliness has made me do, besides chosing my current occuptation or self-revealing in a blog like this. ;) I could see very clearly that loneliness has been like a shadow following me around for most of my life and it has ironically caused me to withdraw.

What Paul Gilbert explained is that emotions sometimes become fused together and in my case my loneliness is fused with shame. Any sign of loneliness is a sign of me being wrong, in essence. We often define shame as "I am wrong" rather than Guilt which would be "I do wrong". Shame is a powerful emotion and it often causes us to withdraw. So during the past couple of days I've been faced with this insight that loneliness and shame walk hand in hand for me. I am completely perplexed by it and yet it makes so much sense when I look back at both my personal and professional life. It is deeply problematic though because loneliness can be cured by connection but I hold myself back out of shame.

I also realised that this governs many other emotions in me but especially anger. As showing anger could lead to a rupture in the relationship and that would ultimately mean I would be alone and in addition be a bad person. This is of course not conscious thinking in me nor in clients. It is rather a description of deep emotional processes within us. Therapy can help us uncover this and reveal underlying motivations that come with these processes.

And as I have now uncovered this loneliness and shame, it has given me new motivation to actually work with that feeling of shame and adress the sense of loneliness.

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