Counselling work has shown me that loneliness can be so much more than lack of physical human connection. Loneliness can run deeply, sometimes subtly intertwining with grief, anxiety or depression. Sometimes it can be all encompassing and visceral, all on its own.
Loneliness can be experienced in a loud and busy home, full of loved ones who don't understand, or perhaps who don't care to try to understand how it is that you're experiencing the world.
Loneliness can be a feeling of not having found your tribe yet - loneliness can also be once having found your tribe, not feeling included.
Loneliness can be feeling lost, and as though it's impossible to ask for some help or direction.
Loneliness can be the drowning suffocation of shame - the feeling that we're the only ones.
It feels important in writing this to recognise that loneliness can also create space to come to know yourself at a deeper level, or for creativity to blossom. It can allow for unexpected discovery or connection, amongst the pain and isolation.
The past couple of years have shone a light on what it means to be lonely in a very physical sense, and in turn highlighted other ways loneliness can manifest itself. We're given practical tips on how to tackle loneliness, but what if the answer isn't in individual action and responsibility, but in societal change and re-commitment to community? When we start to embrace the simple fact that many people, their brains, circumstances and beliefs are the bedrock of a thriving community, as opposed to the one-dimensional image of what it is to be a person deserving of connection in our society, only then maybe will we see the current loneliness epidemic begin to lessen and recover.
Each person will have a different understanding of what loneliness means to them and trying to eliminate loneliness on one's own can feel... well, lonely. But societal change and commitment can begin to gently ease this. As counsellors, what do we do to create change in the face of loneliness?
Perhaps by simply grounding into the core conditions and creating a space for someone to explore their loneliness - could this be enough? Perhaps the act of gently exploring loneliness together, can, for that short time, allow loneliness to shift slightly, into something less... lonely.
Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.