The ABCs of Loneliness
A = All of us have been lonely at different times in our lives, even the prom Queen, Hollywood stars, and famous sports figures.
B = Beating loneliness is achievable whether you are lonely part of the time or as a way of life.
C = Copeland – Mary Ellen, that is, who has written a comprehensive book called THE LONELINESS WORKBOOK: A Guide to Developing and Maintaining Lasting Connections, which will take you step-by-step through the maze of loneliness and out the other side to a more friendly and supportive lifestyle.
In the prelude to THE LONELINESS WORKBOOK, Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD, says, "I have wanted to explore how other people resolve the issue of loneliness in their lives for a very long time, for as long as I have been aware of how good it feels to be closely connected with others – and how terrible it feels to be alone and unsupported."
To gather information for this book, Mary Ellen conducted a "Loneliness Study" with volunteers from her workshops, friends, colleagues, and her website – www.mentalhealthrecovery.com. She says, "the key thing she learned from all of them is that there is hope. You can change your life and shape it the way you want it to be."
Because it is a workbook, you can write in it and get the benefit of exercises and activities that will help you understand the dynamics of loneliness and how you can move toward developing the kind of life you want.
THE LONELINESS WORKBOOK explores loneliness and how it relates to you in your life. It helps you determine what kinds of friends and supporters you would like to have and how to build these kinds of relationships. Often loneliness is associated with negative thinking, so positive thinking is addressed. There are many ideas about how to relieve loneliness.
Sometimes when a person feels lonely, it is difficult to appreciate spending time alone. In THE LONELINESS WORKBOOK, there is a chapter on "Enjoying Time Alone". Self-esteem is often another factor in loneliness and that connection is considered. One way to build new relationships is to build communication skills and there are exercises and activities in that area. There is a comprehensive chapter on reaching out -- suggestions on the best ways to do it, ideas about where to reach out, and even how to find the courage to reach out.
When loneliness is the issue, relationships are a big consideration. THE LONELINESS WORKBOOK addresses boundary issues, difficult affiliations, friendship cultivation, intimate relationships (not necessarily sexual), and family relationships. There is even a section called – "Setting Up a New Family". I wanted to shout "Hooray!" when I saw that because, even though I have a wonderful and loving family, I also have an amazing family of friends. I know people who were not so lucky in their family of origin and have found friends who fill the gaps that some toxic family members have left. I read an article long ago that made the point that most of us feel, when we get to a certain age, that our parents were not exactly everything we had hoped they might have been. Therefore, most people seek the qualities in their friends and other family members that were lacking in their parents. I really connected with the idea that no one person can be everything you ever hoped for in a parent, or other family member, or friend. We can learn to be content with the good qualities we find in each person in our lives without expecting them to live up to unrealistic expectations.
THE LONELINESS WORKBOOK addresses many more challenges of loneliness – your living space, holidays, grief, disability or illness, and getting older. With this friendly workbook, you will have a chance to recreate your life in ways you may not have thought possible before.
I recently had a conversation with Bev Barney, whose specialty is outreach. She talked about how she has made it a mission to create and make new friends. She spends half the year in New Hampshire and half the year in Arizona. When she is in Arizona, she keeps in touch with her friends in New Hampshire and when she is in New Hampshire, she keeps in touch with her friends in Arizona. She keeps trying even when they don't respond so they don't slip away.
When Bev contacts her friends, she seldom talks about herself. She has become a very skilled listener. When she knows that new people are moving into her area, she gets them connected by introducing them around and letting them know about services in the neighborhood. She really likes to get people together.
Bev's tips on avoiding loneliness:
-- reach out
-- invite people over to eat (no one turns down dinner)
-- keep a record of people you talk to
-- no one is going to ask to be your friend – be proactive
-- do an activity
-- start a conversation
-- be perceptive and listen
-- ask people to show off their talents
As you can tell from Bev's many approaches to outreach, it has become a natural way of living for her. I bet there are many grateful people in Bev's very wide circle of friends. Because of the friendly and consistent ways she has reached out to others, I am sure she has caused her friends to reach out in other directions themselves. I have also noticed that people who do a lot of outreach are very seldom lonely themselves and seem to have a high degree of wellness happening in their own lives.
When Mickey Rourke recently accepted a Golden Globe award, he said, "I'd like to thank all my dogs – the ones that are here and the ones that are gone. Sometimes when a man's alone, all he's got are his dogs, and they've meant the world to me". The audience laughed, but it was not a joke. His dogs were there for him when many people weren't. Mickey Rourke had become a Hollywood outsider, almost a recluse, and winning this award was an enormous achievement. I'm glad he thanked his dogs!
No one is exempt from loneliness – rich, poor, young, or old. One of our best defenses is to build a network of people, and yes pets, so we can help each other through the daily times, the tough experiences, and to celebrate the best occasions with. Loneliness does not have to be forever for anyone.
For information about how to order THE LONELINESS WORKBOOK: A Guide to Developing and Maintaining Lasting Connections by Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD and other books, DVDs, CDroms and CDs:
And I can't resist saying, if you want to learn to be more comfortable with yourself and learn how to develop a support system to help you when times are difficult, check the website for information on the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). It is a friendly, simple, empowering plan that can help you achieve more balance and well-being in your life.
Take good care,
Carol Bailey Floyd
Director of Programs
Mental Health Recovery and WRAP
P.O. Box 301
West Dummerston, VT 05357-0301
Phone: 330-836-4456 or 802-254-2092
Order online: www.mentalhealthrecovery.com/shop/index.php
Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery
Stephen Pocklington, Executive Director
PO Box 6464
Chandler, AZ 85246
Toll Free: 866 I DO WRAP (866-436-9727)