You’re surrounded by people. They’re laughing, smiling, and talking. Everyone seems to be having a great time – they all seem to feel so connected with each other. But no matter how much you want that feeling, you can’t help but feel completely alone.
A sense of heaviness and hollowness may fill your chest as you watch them all:
I am alone, completely and utterly alone. Nobody can truly see me. No one truly understands me. No one even cares. I make no difference to them. I am not like them at all.
Your thoughts may spiral as the emptiness you feel becomes more and more suffocating.
Can you relate to these feelings?
Can you relate to being in a room full of people but feeling totally alone and isolated inside?
If so, I want to assure you that you’re not alone.
So many people (myself included) have grappled with extreme loneliness during life. But although this experience can be so hard to cope with, there is help and there are solutions.
By the end of this article, you should have a good understanding of why you feel lonely and what you can do about it.
Aloneness Can Actually Be Empowering
Here’s the thing: being alone isn’t always a horribly negative thing.
I know this may sound crazy. But hear me out.
Being alone isn’t always a bad thing because aloneness (or solitude) can help us figure out who we are, do some vital soul searching, and take a break from the insanity of the world.
Aloneness can be something refreshing, rejuvenating, and open a door into deep inner insight.
Not only can being alone help us figure out who we are at a core level, but it can actually empower us to walk the path less traveled and find our true meaning of life.
Why Aloneness Becomes Loneliness …
Being alone becomes feeling lonely when we can’t find the bridge of connectedness back to humanity.
Aloneness becomes loneliness when we undergo a bout of mental illness, existential crisis, or spiritual awakening that has been so extreme we feel like aliens on this planet.
When you are going through a life crisis or the process of spiritual awakening, you will feel displaced in this world. You’ll come to see through the lies and illusions of society. You’ll see through the “normalized insanity” of other people and will find no interest in what they value. You’ll feel displaced, stripped bare, and deeply isolated from those around you.
You’re Not Going Crazy
You may wonder whether you’re the only one on the planet who feels this way, who feels so isolated and lonely. Perhaps, even a small part of you may wonder if you’re going crazy or if there’s something deeply broken or wrong about you.
What you are going through is perfectly normal in the context of what you’re experiencing. And no, you’re not alone. I have felt the horrible vacuum of existential loneliness, and I have spoken with and witnessed many others who feel the same way.
There Are Others Like You + You Can Use These Feelings to Your Advantage …
There is a group of people out there like you.
They too feel lonely. They too have lost touch with all their friends and possibly even family. They too feel disconnected from the world.
If you don’t believe me, just read the comments under this article.
Although you may feel incapacitated with despair or the gnawing feeling of desolation, please know that you can use these feelings to your advantage.
You can use your loneliness to become stronger, braver, and wiser.
You can tap into your inner wolf who is the primal force within you that knows how to survive on scarce human contact and thrive when life becomes dark and barren.
We’ll explore how to get in touch with that inner wolf soon. But first, let’s demystify and de-pathologize loneliness and reveal just how normal it is.
Is Feeling Alone Normal?
It might feel like you’re the only one experiencing loneliness. But you’re not. YES, it is normal to feel alone – and many people struggle with it.
Here are some stats:
- According to a recent study, nearly half of all Americans feel lonely. And in the same study, loneliness was found to affect younger people more than older people.
- In Australia, a study conducted found that 1 in 4 Australians feel lonely at least one day a week. Again, the stereotype that elderly people are those who feel the loneliest is false. In reality, international research has found that loneliness tends to be the most common among those between the ages of 16 and 25.
- In the UK, 9 million people (nearly one-fifth of the population) report that they are always or often lonely, with almost two-thirds disclosing that they feel uncomfortable admitting it.
Isn’t that amazing? And also tragic?
While these statistics aren’t meant to improve your situation, I hope they help to normalize it. Feeling alone is an experience shared by millions of people worldwide from all backgrounds, ages, and cultures. It’s actually more common than we think it is.
7 Signs You’re Feeling Alone
That’s where loneliness comes from, it isn’t the lack of company that makes us feel lonely, it’s this feeling of emptiness, of having nothing, of extraordinary uncertainty, frustration and a deep inner void…all that is felt when personal meaning is lacking, so we try to distract it, with books, movies, games, socializing, careers, anything to escape facing that void, from focusing our attention within and what is causing our inner black hole. We need distractions from the void, books, movies, socializing, careers, to escape that emptiness we feel within. – Krishnamurti
True loneliness is different from being lonesome – which is what most people experience at some point. Lonesomeness is the feeling of mild discomfort a person has when they spend their Saturday night watching a movie alone when they wish someone was there to share the experience with them.
Loneliness, on the other hand, is chronic. It’s not a temporary feeling that comes and goes: it’s there all the time like a shadow following you around.
So are you feeling alone? Pay attention to these signs:
- You feel lonely in a crowd of people
- You crave quality human interaction
- You feel disappointed with your relationships – you don’t feel a deep sense of connection with others that you crave for
- You tend to shop a lot or binge (to avoid the loneliness you carry inside)
- You struggle to relate to others and feel very different from your peers
- You often feel sad or depressed
- Physically, you may carry a feeling of that there’s an empty hole or void inside of you
How many signs can you relate to? Obviously, the more signs you resonate with, the more lonely you probably feel. Also, it’s okay if you’re experiencing something that isn’t included on this list (it’s just as important and valid).
Why Do I Feel So Alone?
There are many reasons why you may feel alone and disconnected from other people. You might have experienced:
- The death of a loved one
- Changing environments, countries, workplaces, etc.
- Not fitting in with those around you
- Being a primary carer of someone with a disability
- Mental illness (anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc.)
- Physical disability (loss of hearing, sight, movement, etc.)
- Racism or LGBT discrimination
If you feel severely lonely – and have for most of your life – this might be due to:
- Early life abuse (emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically)
- An interruption in your childhood developmental stages
- Hostile/intrusive or withdrawn/misattuned parents
- Learned helplessness
If you feel severely lonely, I strongly encourage you to seek out a therapist (I recommend searching for those who are trauma-informed). While this article can help to give you a place to start, working through trauma-related issues is beyond the scope of what I present here. Trauma-trained spiritual counselors and therapists will help provide space, compassion, and tools for you to heal.
Also, keep in mind that it’s perfectly normal to feel lonely without any clear reason. Even if everything feels fine in your life, suddenly feeling alone out of the blue is not unheard of. Often, the feeling will pass quickly. But if it becomes persistent, it’s time to do some soul searching.
The Spiritual Cause of Feeling Alone
If you were to ask for an antidote to the anguish of human loneliness, I would suggest that you reencounter and reexamine the connection that unites us with the earth, our lost ‘umbilical cord’. I would invite you to recognize the presence of an inexhaustible love that remains unaffected by human affairs. It is not so difficult. Look around, remember the being that sustains us, and realize you are at home, always at home. – The Teachings of Don Carlos
If you’re not interested in the metaphysical, I recommend that you skip this part.
However, if you’d like to discover the underlying spiritual cause of feeling alone, stick around. I’ll try to be brief.
As spiritual beings having a human experience, our connection to the Divine is just as important as our connection to everyday tasks. We are not just meat suits walking around getting shit done: there is a deeper essence, a mysterious spark within all of us. That deeper essence is the Soul, which is part of the Great Spirit (or Life Force) that runs through all things.
Soul Loss and The Dark Night of the Soul
When we are disconnected from our Souls, we feel alone. This spiritual disconnection is called soul loss, and it’s a great epidemic in our current society.
Soul loss occurs when we have lost touch with that Divine essence within us. When life becomes all about the mundane and material, we can feel like something is missing. This sensation of something being fundamentally “off” hides the craving to unite with something deeper and more meaningful.
If you’re currently feeling alone and are going through an existential crisis (where you’re wondering what the point of life is), you might be experiencing something called the Dark Night of the Soul. When we become aware of our soul loss and become conscious of what we’re truly missing out on, it’s common to go through this gloomy and depressing period known as the Dark Night. If you need more guidance, I recommend that you check out our Dark Night of the Soul and Spiritual Emergency articles.
As the monk and psychotherapist Thomas Moore put it:
When going through a dark night, at first, you may feel cut off and alone. Clients in therapy often say they feel isolated and have no one to talk to. They may come to therapy specifically to deal with their isolation. They may wish for deep human connection …
Finally, feeling alone is also part and parcel of having an ego – or a clear sense of self, of “me.” By nature, when we are capable of differentiating ourselves from others, the possibility of feeling alone arises. Animals and very young children don’t often exhibit signs of loneliness for a similar reason: they don’t possess an ego. As such, they feel connected to everything. Life happens fully in the present moment and there is a sense of merging with life.
While not having an ego isn’t the solution here (as it’s impossible unless you become enlightened), becoming mindful of your ego and how it influences you is. We’ll explore how to become more self-aware of your thoughts below.
How to Deal With Loneliness
Feeling alone doesn’t have to be a life sentence.
Although you may feel hopeless, unmotivated, and as though you’ll never connect with anyone meaningfully, remember that this is the inner skeptic/judge talking.
No matter how bad the loneliness gets, remember that you have a primal spark of life inside of you (otherwise, you wouldn’t be living and breathing!). This primal source of energy can take many names and forms, but we choose to see it as the inner wolf.
Your inner wolf is your inner guardian, protector, warrior, and primal source of instinct, intuition, and insight. S/he is the fire within you that keeps going, no matter what, no matter how hard it feels.
Below, I’ll show you how to get in touch with your inner wolf. I’ll also offer other practices you can explore:
1. Creatively express your inner wolf
Your inner wolf will empower you to move through your loneliness without drowning in it. S/he will provide you with a sense of strength, helping you to get in touch with your warrior energy.
One of the best ways to reconnect with this primal force of nature inside of you is through art. You don’t need to be good at drawing to benefit from this practice (it’s irrelevant). Just do your best and draw what you feel.
Art activates the right side of the brain which is connected to creativity and the inner child. Art is also symbolic in nature, so it has a powerful impact on your unconscious mind. This, in turn, can help you quickly move from feelings of powerlessness and desolation, to empowerment and vitality.
For this activity, find a blank piece of paper and some pencils. If you only have a pen handy, that’s fine too. Set aside some time to draw your inner wolf. What does s/he look like? What is the name of your inner wolf? How old is s/he? Draw whatever feels right to you and most importantly, try not to think about it too much.
Once you’re finished, notice how you feel. It’s okay if you don’t feel much of a change – with time, you will. Keep your drawing somewhere important in your house that you’ll see every day. This will help to prime/condition your mind to remember your warrior spirit. You carry a force of nature inside of you and it will help you get through these tough times.
2. Visualize meeting your inner wolf
Another way to manage your loneliness and reconnect with a feeling of inner strength and connectedness is through visualization.
Visualizing can be as easy and simple as you like, or as complex as your heart desires. I recommend keeping your visualization short, sweet, and simple.
To begin your visualization, go into a dark room and put on some atmospheric music. You might like to put on some haunting wolf howls or music that reminds you of the inner warrior. (Search YouTube.)
Lie down and take a few deep breaths to ground yourself and relax. Once you’re ready, let your mind drift off with the music.
Imagine you’re walking down a staircase and at the bottom is the entrance of a forest. As you walk into the forest, you hear a howl in the distance. You keep walking, knowing you’re completely safe and watch as the trees sway and creak around you. Ahead you sense a presence behind a tree. A wolf suddenly emerges and looks at you straight in the eyes. You stop and look back. What does the wolf look like? Drink in the image. If you have any questions, you may like to ask the wolf. Spend some time acquainting yourself with him/her. When you’re finished, thank your inner wolf, say goodbye, and walk back up the staircase to normal waking reality.
You might like to spend some time journaling about your experience. How did you feel? What did your inner wolf tell you? Remember, one major reason why we feel lonely is that we’re disconnected from our inner selves and our source of power. Reconnecting with your inner wolf in this way will help to motivate you and show you that there is hope and you can connect with others like you. It will just take some time and effort.
Once you’ve reconnected with your inner source of power (the inner wolf), you’ll find it easier to put the following general pieces of advice in action.
These tips will help you move through your feelings of loneliness:
3. Take baby steps
If you’re alone and isolated, start small. Throwing yourself into the deep end with other people may be too overwhelming – which could lead to self-isolation. In order to take baby steps, carry out your daily tasks in places where there are people. If you need to walk your dog, for instance, go to the local dog park where other dog owners might be. If you need to do groceries, make small talk with the shop assistants. If you need to exercise more, consider signing up to the local gym. You get the picture.
4. Replace unkind thoughts and repeat gentle ones
When we feel alone, it’s easy to start berating and criticizing ourselves. We may think that we’re “losers,” “recluses,” “broken,” “stunted,” “will never have friends,” etc. If you start feeling horrible about yourself and slip into self-loathing, try to find the underlying thought. Then, replace it with something kinder like “I am a caring and interesting person, and I deserve friends” “I can do this,” “It’s okay to take socializing slowly,” or “I love myself no matter what.” At first, you may feel a bit ridiculous, but when you keep affirming the same gentle thought, you are slowly rewiring your brain.
One of the most powerful ways to use affirmations is through something called mirror work. To practice mirror work, find a mirror in your house, and ensure you have a bit of privacy. As you stand in front of the mirror, take a few conscious breaths and try to relax your body a bit. Gaze into your eyes gently and repeat your affirmation. You can say your affirmation out loud or in your mind, just do what feels comfortable.
It’s normal to experience strong emotions while doing mirror work. Please allow yourself to feel them in an open and non-judgmental way. You might even like to give yourself a hug as you stand in front of the mirror. After about five or ten minutes, finish your mirror work session. I encourage you to practice this ten minutes every day for two weeks and see how you feel!
5. Think about your deepest interests and values
One of the biggest reasons why we feel alone is because we struggle to find other like-minded people. The best way to remedy that is to develop a bit of self-understanding. What are you passionate about? What areas of life interest you? What are your dreams and values? When you answer these questions, you’ll be able to find little pockets of society that you can explore – and perhaps feel a sense of belonging in.
For instance, if you highly value animal rights and love being around dogs, why not volunteer at your local dog shelter? Or you might even like to go to a dog training course in your community. Another example is art and crafts. If you love making things, why not sign up to a local art class?
6. Volunteer your time
It feels good to help people. Helping those less fortunate than you can also help to put your life in perspective. To volunteer, grab your local newspaper or go to your neighborhood’s website. If you can’t find any volunteer listings, your local library and nursing home most likely accept volunteers. If there’s a homeless shelter nearby, you can also try volunteering your time there as well.
7. Get a pet (or cuddle one you have already)
Many people who experience loneliness benefit greatly from having something to nurture and take care of. If you don’t have a pet, why not check out your local animal shelter? It’s much kinder to give an animal a second chance than to purchase one from the pet store. Alternatively, find your cat, dog, rabbit, etc. and give them a big cuddle. Hugging releases happy hormones in the brain and helps you to feel calm and relaxed.
8. Learn a new skill or take a self-help course
One great and productive way to connect with others is through learning a new skill. For instance, if you’ve always been interested in counseling, why not take a counseling course? If you see an ad for a meditation or yoga class, why not go?
9. Go to a support group
If you struggle with a disability, illness or mental health issue, try to find out whether there are any support groups in your community. It feels so nice to be seen and heard. To have someone hold space for you can be wonderfully nourishing and healing. If you’re nervous about going, talk to the organizer beforehand. Ensure that the group is confidential and doesn’t demand a response from you unless you’re ready to talk.
10. Practice self-compassion and self-care
Feeling alone can be one of the hardest things you ever go through. Be caring toward yourself. Listen to your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs as much as possible. Practicing self-care could be as simple as making yourself a soothing cup of tea, going out in nature, or getting adequate sleep. Self-compassion is about treating yourself with love and understanding. If you need help, see our article on how to love yourself.
11. Create a spiritual practice
Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut you more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
as few humans and even
divine ingredients can.
Try to reconnect with the magic and beauty of life again. Although feeling alone can suck, it’s an experience that can actually be harnessed to further your spiritual growth. Some of the wisest and most illuminated souls in history were those who experienced extended periods of solitude. Furthermore, when you connect with your spirit guides, ancestors, and archetypal mentors, the feeling of loneliness can often significantly subside. You may also like to connect with your Soul on a daily basis through meditation, ritual, art, music, prayer, nature immersion, or other sacred practices that call to you.
12. Journal about how you feel
Writing down your thoughts and feelings is a wonderful way to create some inner clarity. When we feel alone, it’s common to have an excess of energy because we don’t have many people to talk to. Try to expel some of that energy through writing. You don’t need to be a talented writer or even good at spelling to journal. Simply express all that you feel in an unfiltered way. Journaling can be a great catharsis, particularly when you feel intense loneliness or despair.
13. Work with your inner child
If you experience chronic loneliness (that lasts for years), it’s likely you have undergone significant trauma as a child. You can read our article on inner child work to get started. But when it comes to trauma, it’s best to find a counselor or therapist to help work through your pain. Please consider this option seriously as it can have an extremely good and transformational impact on your life. I recommend finding a therapist who specializes in trauma. One great approach is something called somatic experiencing. So if you need a place to start, look up some somatic experiencing practitioners in your area.
Perhaps one of the simplest ways to help with your feelings of loneliness is to recognize the shared humanity of it. What you’re experiencing is part of the human condition. Millions of people around the world only have the cat or TV for company – or worse, nothing and no one at all.
You are not alone. You are not broken. And yes, there is hope.
In many cases, being alone can be a positive thing as it helps you to hear the voice of your soul better. But if it’s becoming too much for you, connect with your inner source of power (your inner wolf). You can also read the two wolves story for more inspiration. Understand that you have a warrior within you, and you can make it through anything life throws at you.
I hope the above practices open new pathways for you.