The Dragon is my chosen metaphor to represent the enormity of space that long-time illness occupies in one’s world. I’ve lived with a dragon since 2001. This uninvited beast is a composite of losses, sorrows, fears, aloneness, guilt, anger and all the physical exhaustion and pain that have triggered and fostered those emotions over the years. This series offers simple steps to deal with life issues as just that: life issues, and to address the emotions (the real problems) that sap our precious energy, preventing us from feeling peace and gratitude.
Let’s continue taking those small steps to empower ourselves. Please keep in mind that I too, am learning as we go along because each of us is unique and we all are works in progress.
I would like to begin with an important reminder: Fighting a dragon is an exercise in futility that will leave you completely deflated, so, it is not to be confused with taming one. This process does not require an arsenal. It requires focus on your commitment to tame your dragon the way a cat focuses on a mouse hole – he knows he will succeed and nothing will deter him; he is patient.
Real problem #6: Loneliness
This is probably the most painful of all emotions because we are social beings. Humans are meant to be part of a family unit, a tribe, a village or a group. This sense of belonging brings us a warm feeling that we are safe, that we matter. When their need to belong has not been satisfied in the family unit at a young age, kids will go to any lengths to belong to a group of peers, and that can sometimes lead them into harmful behaviors that will change the course of their life.
Loneliness can strip us of rational thinking when we actually believe that no one loves us and that nobody is there for us, or cares what happens to us. This belief often makes us cling to someone, anyone who shows the slightest interest in us or finds us attractive or acceptable in any way. This kind of relationship fosters dependence, not genuine intimacy.
Prolonged feelings of loneliness can give credence to the belief that we are not worthy of love, that we are defective, even repulsive.
Dragon taming step #6: Realistic self-appreciation
It is a fact of life that not everyone will like you. But just as true, many people will like you when they get to know you, work with you or enjoy activities in your company. For those of us who are housebound or bed-bound, opportunities for these interactions are limited if not altogether absent. Sometimes, it seems our only friends and family are on social media. That’s okay as long as we make an effort to take an honest look at our self. This will help keep feelings of loneliness at bay. Being alone does not have to mean being lonely. Ask your self these questions:
1.What are my three best qualities or talents?
Write out ALL of what makes you a wonderful, fascinating person and then choose the ones that best describe your character. For example: Am I open to others? Do I embrace different points of view? Am I genuinely interested in the life of others, in their stories? Could it be that I am open, accepting, a good listener? Go ahead, make that list!
2. Now, look at your three best qualities and read them out loud: (For example)
“I am a kind person!” “I am a loyal person!” “I am a courageous person!”
Repeat these declarations throughout the day and feel how energizing it is to cheer yourself on. And when you think about it, wouldn’t it be nice to do something to make a person with such precious qualities feel appreciated?
3. Make a list of all the things you enjoy and that are accessible to you. For example, listening to your favorite music, watching a movie you love, drinking a hot chocolate or enjoying an ice cream sundae, wrapping yourself in a soft blanket, cuddling your pet, chatting with a friend in person or on Facebook, taking a warm bath, sitting by the window, enjoying beautiful images on your wall. Make the longest list possible and commit to a deliberate decision to give yourself (maybe with a bit of help) a conscious gift of appreciation at least once a day.
In my book Higher Maintenance, I wrote this in a passage about loneliness: “ I worked hard to silence my ego so that I could just be. Only in the stillness of my mind, could I sometimes hear the voice of my heart that was telling me that I was “enough”, worthy and in the process of healing my life.”
Letting go of loneliness takes a little practice because it requires that we silence the lies from a bruised ego. Solitude can be a gift beyond measure as we learn to discover and celebrate who we really are.
See you on the path of healing and beyond,