When we stop expressing how we feel, we lose, not only that all vital connection to ourselves, but we also end up feeling lonely due to a lack of emotional connection with people who are theoretically in our Circle of Trust. We fear that if we’re honest, that they won’t want to know us, will be angry, or will tell us that we’re wrong, so we don’t express our feelings and opinions as we don’t trust them to handle them.
It’s a vicious circle.
Something similar happens when we determine that we’re not liked, which may not be a statement of fact but more a statement of our perception, which will be skewed by any unhealthy beliefs. Of course, if we believe that we’re not liked then this will stop us from forging intimate relationships, because we’ll fear allowing a person to get close enough that they might know us and find something to dislike. In turn, low intimacy results in feeling lonely and we then judge that loneliness and feel disliked and unlikeable. And round and round we go.
We forget that we’re not our emotions. Feeling sad doesn’t make us a ‘loser’ or ‘bad’, or even inadequate, and we’re not going to be in a position to feel better if we keep judging us for having feelings. Feeling sad is actually a cue to take care of ourselves – to be kinder to us, to reflect, to seek support. Severing emotional connections doesn’t help.
I remember when I was leading a very secretive life. It wasn’t just when I was with the guy with the girlfriend although that was the worst of it; I got into the habit of being secretive about what was going on in my relationships and also within me, because I was afraid that I was going to get the eye roll that said, “Here we go again” but I was even more afraid of what some of my choices and what was going on, said about me, plus I just did not know how to articulate the deep sadness and anger I felt. I wasn’t used to my feelings and opinions being valid and associated honesty and ‘being myself’, with loss and rejection.
Truth be told, this habit of being secretive had started in my teens when I would try to hide how bad things were at home and would pretend that everything was A-OK. It took me a long time to realise that I’d also subconsciously gotten into the habit of distancing myself from People Who Knew Too Much. I felt ashamed and would project this onto them – this was my lonely habits of thinking and behaviour. I had lots of friends and a number of very close friendships and yet, there was only so far that I allowed these people in. The way I felt about me as well as my romantic relationships, was casting me adrift from my relationships. I felt lonely – something that most people would not associate with me – and that only started to recede when I gradually stopped being secretive but also stopped judging me for, well, being human. My relationship with me and others dramatically improved and those fears that had dictated my life were proved wrong. It was unfair for me to base my self-esteem on past mistakes, my background, my exes etc, not least because I didn’t judge my nearest and dearest for the same.
If you don’t like you, this affects your intimate relationship with you, and then you do things that result in self-abandonment, which prompts loneliness, which can make the initial swooping attentions of a toxic person very attractive. That sense of loneliness and just feeling as if there’s something wrong with you, distorts your feelings, especially because in not giving you love, care, trust, and respect, any ‘ole person can come along and showboat with their crumbs and it will still look like more than what you’re doing for you, and so you’ll feel increasingly reliant on this person and they will appear ‘great’ because they’re out of context. If your intimate relationship with you improved, they wouldn’t have a grip on you.
When you’re treated without love, care, trust, and respect, you feel disliked and also unsafe, which leads to protective behaviour, so your intimacy shrinks further, you then feel even more lonely and respond to this with your typical thoughts and actions, and round and round The Disappointment Cycle goes.
And of course the irony is, you can’t form truly intimate relationships with people who don’t treat and regard you with love, care, trust, and respect, because being emotionally honest will leave you unsafe. Toxic people also tend to bulldoze through your existing relationships and commitments so that they can have more influence and control – it’s how you end up feeling isolated, dependent, and shamed.
Loneliness can be a vicious circle because it happens when we stop expressing our feelings, but then we may associate expressing our feelings with negative consequences. When we learn to be more self-compassionate but to also recognise unhealthy people and situations, it’s a lot easier to get a sense of who the safe people are in our lives.
Don’t express your fears and worries to people who detract from your sense of self (they leave you feeling drained and even use what you express against you), and don’t waste your time trying to convince them of your position or justifying your feelings.
If you want the loneliness to recede and to also forge deeper connections, you can’t pretend that you’re not a person in your own right and you have to start allowing you the right to have and express your feelings and opinions. Start by finding two safe people – you and one other person who you will talk honestly and openly about what you’re going through. It will help you to put things into perspective. Treat and regard you as you do others. The moment you stop judging you and allow you to be human, you’re freed of the burden of projecting your perception onto others, or taking what they do and say and seeing it as confirmation of negative beliefs.