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How to stop feeling lonely (wtsui.org)
206 points by wtsui 1375 days ago | hide | past | web | 97 comments | favorite

This article is an excellent start :-)

It is particularly relevant in relation to that article that surfaced here, about mapping out emotions arising from a large sampling of people.

I will say though, that thoughts do not simply arise from emotions in introverted people -- it arises like that in pretty much everyone. Some extraverts are just that in tuned with their bodies, emotions, and intuitions; others use talking as a way to avoid getting in touch with feelings, much that same many thinkers use thoughts to avoid getting in touch with feelings.

Lastly, loneliness tends to be a particular feeling lodged in the chest (for a lot of people). Regardless of whether you label that sensation as loneliness or not, there are physical exercises that can work with it directly. The main thing is to relax the muscles and tissues surrounding the chest cavity and give those sensations an opportunity to move and flow. It is best done when your arms are (physically) wide open.

Loneliness comes from a feeling of not getting sufficient emotional connection from others. There are lots of configurations that can lead to that. One of the main ones is that, the very act of connecting to someone else requires opening up, and opening up usually leads people to feeling the vulnerability that they don't want. Physically opening up the arms and the body helps you get used to feeling open, and being so, it becomes easier to connect with others.

Hope this help some of you folks -- good times :-)

You seem to be knowledgeable about this topic. Have you ever heard about bioenergetics?

If not, the general premise is that neurosis is expressed physically in the musculature. Specific kinds of movements can target and eliminate neurosis, which emerges as tension in chronically contracted muscles. Any exercise is bound to help somewhat, probably for more reasons than something like bioenergetics can claim, but still there are specific approaches for eliminating neurotic behavior in different character types. These specific exercises are accompanied by psychoanalysis in order to cultivate a conscious relationship between the mental and physical constructs of the patient's neurosis.

It seems like a pretty obvious insight to me now, having read a little bit about the subject. For example, flinching is a very pronounced, instinctual movement, and occurs in response to danger, right? So, if our environment can impel us to move, then certainly there are other movements, like flinches, that are more subtle in their expression, but reflect some internal, psychological mechanism, like a response to fear. Perception of body language, such as bad posture, supports this.

I have yet to read a satisfactory amount of info about the subject, but I can recommend what little I've read if anyone's interested.

Yes I have, I just generally don't talk about it much on Y(HN) or public forums in general.

Meditation, qigong (as someone had mentioned further down in this thread), and other modalities work on this. So can psychedelics, if you pay attention to your body during your experience.

Although any exercise can help much, there are some that are specific for a class of emotion and body sensations. The arms opening wide is an example, and what I wrote was the watered down version. The fuller version has you flexing your shoulder blades while simultaneously rotating your shoulders (either forward and backward) and concentrating with your mind on openness. That's probably too much to try for folks who are just getting their feet wet in this.

Likewise, hatha yoga is all about assuming body postures and emotional attitudes. I have friends who use hatha yoga to recover from their extreme sporting activities (:D) but it's actually meant to take you beyond what people typically think of as "health".

So there is quite a bit on this literature, some of them going pretty deep in the woo.

Do you have any experience with embryonic breathing? I'd be really interested in reading more about what you have to say on this topic.

FYI, an embryo is just a tiny lump of cells. It doesn't do any breathing until well into the foetus stage.

Similarly I've heard some yoga position described as "embryonic torsion", when it's obviously intended to refer to the foetal position :)

"Embryonic breathing" is a specific term badly translated from a Chinese technical jargon.

I'm sure you mean well in educating people about scientific facts, but we're not discussing anything in the scientific literature.

> I'm sure you mean well in educating people about scientific facts

Well there's that, but I also prefer my spirituality funny side up.

Let's take it to PM -- either on Quora or on Twitter (@hosheng). I don't usually check Twitter, but I'll poke around the next couple days.

I'd be really interested in scientific information about this.

I have been practicing Qigong for a little more than a year and a half and I can absolutely say that it is the best thing that has ever happened to me. It feels like it's tapping right into what it seems you're talking about. It's amazing, the power of the body (which, in a dualistic culture like I've grown up in may be an overly reductive word).

You won't find scientific information about it, because like Qigong, it's pseudoscience.

For approximately 500 years [science's] argument for its pre-eminence was that it could create beautiful toys: aircraft, railroads, global economies, television, spacecraft. But that is a fool’s argument for truth! I mean, that’s after all how a medicine show operates, you know: the juggler is so good, the medicine must be even better! This is not an entirely rational way to proceed.

-Terrence Mckenna

"Chi" "flowing through the body"? And, from another comment "quasi-quantum biological enzymes"? (NB: quantum theory pseudo-scientific-bollocks klaxon)

Qigong may get results, but it's certainly pseudoscience. And I bet science will be what eventually explains why it gets results.

Apparently, you have not read that that bollocks klaxon of a paper on arxiv :-) I know a lot of folks see the words, react with aversion, and stop thinking, simply dismissing it out of hand. Bots and all.

As for scientific explanations of qigong: there are a few things that cannot be explained, as it hits the limitations and nature of linguistics and narrative. There will probably be adequate, scientific models of Qigong, but by its very nature, scientific method requires a separation of observer from the observed, and is therefore simply inadequate for explaining anything related to existence or experiencing. You can talk all you want about gravity, but it isn't the same as taking a dive off of a cliff. As such, even though scientific theories may have great predictive powers, they are ultimately not essentially any different than folklore and myth.

And just to be clear: I don't particularly consider qigong as science or even pseudoscience. I consider it a method, or perhaps a strategic advantage. People try to use the "pseudo-science" to persuade others to try qigong. I have no incentive or desire to try to persuade you of the efficacy and validity of qigong.

.. but I think we can all say with certainty there is nothing particularly "quantum" about it.

what's the name for things in science that will be proven in 20 years, but can't be proven today?

what are the limits of science?

i'd also recommend the book "the divided mind" by john sarno to readers of this thread.

"Ghosts are simply the dark-matter manifestations of a quantum string theory enzyme" is an example of pseudo science. Pseudo science is the wittering of sciency sounding nonsense that purports to be an explanation for something. Any vague chat about "energy" "flowing" like the above is pseudo science.

I think that you're just quibbling over lexiconic ownership rights. You seem to think that the domain of science owns all of the words that modern man needs in order to describe the direct felt experience of what science has not yet been able to measure.

Words like energy and flow are often used as metaphors so their use does not automatically imply that one is trying to pass anything off as hard science.

Even the word quantum can be used as a pointer to the idea of non-duality or non-locality without implying a direct connection to hard science. It all just depends on how it's used and what the person was actually trying to get across.

I think that the label 'pseudo science' should be reserved for when a person is definitely trying to invoke hard science when it is uncalled for. It should not be applied haphazardly whenever a person uses a particular set of keywords. After all we are thinking human beings capable of extracting many layers of meaning from sentences beyond a mere analysis of keywords aren't we ?

Then again I suppose there are quite a large number of bots posting on the Internet these days. sigh

>Then again I suppose there are quite a large number of bots posting on the Internet these days. sigh

@h1karu Are you suggesting that humans are now failing the Turing Test? :-D

Qigong and neigong do tap into this, so you are in good company :-)

I doubt we will see any significant scientific research on this until our models of consciousness get sophisticated enough. I have seen a promising theory about quasi-quantum effects of biological enzymes, some of which resemble the non-dual states you can get while in deep vipassana jnana. It involves a complex-adaptive interaction between observer effects and non-localities that essentially "searches" different possibility and solves optimization problems. However, talking with some friends knowledgable about that, they say these theories are difficult to verify.

At the end of the day, this stuff is all about experiencing, and we don't have adequate science around the nature and mechanism of experiencing. Most of the research is around behavior because behavior is easy to observe and measure. Self-reporting has problems, though that study on emotional mapping seemed to have gotten around that. But until we figure out the methods to observe experience directly (and doesn't that sound like a contradiction?), I am not sure we will make much progress on it.

Besides, you don't need to know how the light switch work to turn it on. (Though you do need to know if you want to design a better light switch).

You reminded me of a ted talk. Lifting your arms up for two minutes boosts ones confidence. The speaker recommends that before interview if one can find a place to lift their arms for 2 minutes (like in a restroom), the interview goes much better.

Sure. Even better if you are raising it up like you are pumping your arms for victory.

I once did a qigong practice in front of the kid. The kid copied me, stretched his arms all the way up, on tiptoes, with a big grin on his face. Obviously, I learned more from the kid than the kid learned from me.

here's said talk http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes...

ps: I'll add that doing physical activity gives good posture for "free". I'll suggest anybody to gradually go up to sets of 10 {pushups, crunches, squat} and a bit of stretching hip and back, and shoulder. It won't take long, 10 crunches ~= 30 seconds, will make you warm, relaxed and stand straight.

Do you happen to have a link to that mapping article? It sounds interesting.

This was the article I read: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/12/30/258313116/mapping...

However, I lost track of the arxiv URL. The Y(HN) links directly to the paper.

There is a cultural undercurrent to loneliness too

In my previous job (with others from India) at a North European company which ran out of one of their towns. The loneliness of a beautiful North European town (100% conservative white population with a sprinkling of chinese immigrants, we were the first brown people to be seen there) (during short biz visits) was a striking contrast to our lives in India. So much so that in weekends, we rushed to get up and catch morning trains to the nearest city, just to be around a crowd of people (even in the city, we could find what we needed only in their excellent railway stations cum malls)

The same experience in San Jose, US but worse still as you practically good as dead without your own car. We (a female colleague and I) tried the fledgling (2001) train service there and ended up wishing we were wiser. Public transport in US West seemed to be used only by the socially discarded. I had to coax our hosts to get a car rented by a US colleague with me as a secondary driver (due to my foreign car license!) and then only it was FREEDOM! :-)

New York on the other hand, I felt at home. Get down from your hotel and you are into a sea of walking people Yay!

So an additional point can be being in a place with substantial amount of people, even if they are strangers gives you a relief from loneliness.

Very interesting! I'm from one of those beautiful frozen North European towns and I have the opposite problem when I visit places like China or Japan :) I do think it's easier to get used to living in crowded places than the other way around though. What town/country did you live in if I may ask?

Putten, Netherlands

This is basically the perfect collection of thoughts for me to be reading right now. I, and extreme introvert, just moved into my brother's new house. He is an extreme extrovert.

What struck me most was point "2. Find people who give you time to speak".

I find myself often surrounded by those people who don't have any of the empathy to realize I need to let me thoughts work their way to the surface. It has created a lot of failed attempts to reach out to other people. I get frustrated, because it leads me to feel like the other person just isn't listening, because as soon as I do start saying something the other person will usually jump to a(n incorrect) conclusion about what I'm starting to say, and interject based on what thought just entered their mind. As a result, I've spent years with those types never getting to know me, and my attempts to open up becoming more curt and infrequent.

Conversely, maybe this empathy is why so many people tell me I'm a good listener. I don't jump to conclusions about what another person is saying. I rarely even try to work out my response while the other person is still talking. I let them think, speak, and reason all before reacting. Of course, with real Type-A personalities this means they will tend to go on forever, and I don't know how to get them to shut up. Ha. But, they still come away feeling like I get them. And the effect is quite magnified with anyone who is less than 100% Type-A.

And perhaps validating this article, taking the time to let these "feelings" and "thoughts" rise up, I'm finding myself in much greater agreement (and understanding of self) and will recommit to attempting to surround myself (most of the time, thought not all of the time) with people who can help me work in my strengths. The great challenge that will prove while living with my brother.

I think #2 is awesome. But I've also had to learn to assert my need to be heard. Sometimes I do that explicitly. E.g., "When you interrupt me like that, I feel like you're not interested in what I have to say."

But some of it has been observing extroverts interact with one another and learning their conversational protocols. A lot of people take not-interrupting as a signal to continue endlessly, and are perfectly happy to be interrupted if done in certain ways.

Adopting their protocol never feels perfectly comfortable to me. But, then, neither does trying to figure out how to fake a heart attack so I can get out of somebody's monologue.

So you might try watching your brother with his friends and see how they manage to get heard and/or not kill him.

> Sometimes I do that explicitly. E.g., "When you interrupt me like that, I feel like you're not interested in what I have to say."

Please keep doing that! I struggle with shutting up or not interrupting people, because I get carried away and because I grew up in a household where everyone always forcefully asserted themselves (to the point where less-forceful friends thought we were fighting all the time).

I often feel quite bad afterwards when I realize that I hogged the conversation, especially because I've had periods in my life where I was excessively shy and felt awful when people did this to me. My only saving grace, perhaps, is that while I might not seem to be listening, I soak up everything the other says, and often get back to that or let it influence my opinions. It's mostly a conversational 'style'.

But please tell people like me to shut up. It works, we deserve it, it makes us aware that we get carried away and, from what I've seen, most of 'us' quickly get over the reprimand.

That is some really good feedback/advice. Thank you.

Like many cultural differences, what seems offensive to some is natural and expected by others. When in a different cultural environment, it's only natural to adjust to the norms. So of course, why wouldn't the same apply to personality types? Makes great sense to me.

It's hard for me to tell the difference between conversational bulldozers that want to own all the air in the room and the common boor. If people talk over me when I'm trying to make a point, I'll say "that wasn't what I was saying", and start over where cut off - once. After that I'll just leave.

I gave up on that, ie trying to fit in. One time, when talking to a co worker who I was fed up with, I just kept raising my voice and repeating what I said until I was yelling, he was stunned, and my co workers looked on admiringly.

Regarding #2, it may be good to search for people/friends who are good listeners.

That resonated with me as well. Part of my own personal struggle with connecting with other people is failing to feel totally authentic in conversation. I think that this idea of allowing myself to fully feel my own response before saying anything will help a great deal.

Often, when I'm with people who have strong opinions and voice them aggressively (which is many people I know), I feel stifled. It's almost as though I'm being completely removed from the situation and my true feelings are irrelevant to those in my company. It makes it very easy to close up and withdraw.

Authenticity is something I am working on. Too many times I find myself reflecting afterwards and realizing how inauthentic I was because I hit that point where I closed up and withdrew.

This particular issue really affected me in a previous, though past, work environment where a bunch of total knuckleheads were the loud, aggressive voices in every meeting (surely I kid, that doesn't really happen, does it?).

I read somewhere about an introvert leader who said that they would require themselves to contribute something within the first 5 minutes of any meeting, because if they didn't, they knew they would never say anything. This proved very helpful to me, and when I followed it, I was able to steer a lot of decisions in a meaningful direction, even if I then went and said nothing else during the meeting.

And of course, the real benefit was then getting back to work with a course of action that made sense. Which made the work much more enjoyable. I guess that was one of the benefits of authenticity.

Now I'm in different circumstances, and facing the need to be authentic all over again. Stay strong, and keep working at it. I will.

You're not alone.

Edit: I did not intend to make that a pun.

There was a time I was under a lot of stress and thought of just going to an AA meeting just to vent (I could have passed for an alcoholic at the time).

Perhaps we need a Listeners Anonymous.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that being able to share secrets with someone (the last point by the author) is the most important aspect not feeling lonely. Knowing that someone cares about you enough to listen to your problems, and respect you enough to not blab them everyone means that you aren't in this alone.

One thing I'd highly recommend is looking at is: 1 what are* your secrets 2 is there a way you can make it so you have fewer of them

secrets are incredibly parasitic and ultimately stressful. There was a recent post on HN about this (though 90% of the comments missed the point he was making) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6891311

Sharing painful secrets anonymously with random disposable strangers on the internet via chatroom helped me a lot when I had to un-love a girl and had no friends to help me go through this. After less than a year of such chats when I felt especially sad and lonely I got bored with my own sad story and people in general and I was cured of my loneliness.

By definition, I am a chronic loner. I've been a loner for most of my life. I've had periods when I'd stay awake at night because it would scare the hell out of me. Lonely people will inevitably start questioning themselves. They'll start thinking that something is wrong with them. They'll start ripping chunks out of their soul. Eventually the confidence diminishes and things go downhill from here.

I said earlier i am a loner by definition. However, I don't consider myself one. A few years ago I decided to change things. I pushed myself to do something outside of my comfort zone. In an attempt to lift my confidence I decided to fly out to France and walk all the way across Spain to the Atlantic coast on the trail of El Camino de Santiago. After a little over a month of walking in all kinds of ungodly conditions with nothing but a backpack full of essentials and meeting and hearing amazing people and their stories, i came back with an entirely different outlook on life. I came back with my life priorities figured out. I stopped worrying about life. But most important of all, i gained my confidence back and i knew that no matter where i am tomorrow - i will be okay. As a result of all this, i started traveling more and soaking in as much of the world around me as i could. I decided to live healthy and entirely transformed my body. Recently, I picked up paragliding and I'm now working on a paraglider pilot license and hopefully start flying solo this summer. I wouldn't have dreamed about any of this a few years back.

Alone? Fuck alone! Look at the world around you!! Do something crazy for once and discover how many doors this opens and what you'll learn about yourself that's currently hiding behind 10 layers of self-pity.

Your reply reminds me of the fact that people often confound loneliness and boredom. When your life isn't very engaging you start to feel like you don't have enough people in your life, and you need people to vent your frustrations to.

I think if you look at people that have very full busy lives they are not the sort of people that will often complain about loneliness.

If you look at the top comment for this thread - the suggestion of getting a significant other is actually about fighting boredom. It's about filling in all the gaps in your life with what he characterizes as trivial conversations and concerns.

The feeling of loneliness is one thing. The article gives good advice on how to feel lonely less often.

Being alone is another and much more fundamental. For what I've learned, accepting the fact that you're here, in this life, alone is the precursor to any meaningful relationships. Connections with other people are limited, you've got some things together with one friend and some other things together with another friend. You probably have lots of things together with your spouse but there's nobody just like you, and there's no missing half of you out there that would make you whole.

Everything you need on this journey is within yourself.

And in the end, being alone in this whole world is something that you need to accept first before integrating other people in your life in any meaningful (i.e. non-superficial) way. If you know you can handle it: if you know you can deal with yourself and your life even if you never meet anyone who can give you all, or at least most of what you need then you're probably set for a good life -- a life where you have something to give to others too, and where you have people who give to you as well.

Kind of like learning to love yourself before others can love you.

> A big part of my loneliness was I refused to accept that I am actually a pretty introverted, non-verbal person

The author was a senior when I was a freshman in college. He was one of the upperclassmen that I looked up to. He was very smart, good looking and we hung out sometimes when he would give me good advice. It never occurred to me that he's introverted and that he should have a reason to feel lonely. Quite a strange feeling when I saw this post from twitter. I feel guilty for not understanding him enough but it's nice to see this useful and positive post.

There is a famous book saying loneliness is the ultimate feeling coming along with us. So don't be afraid of being lonely. I read another blog post here talking about enjoy aloneness, which is also great.

If you are confident from inside, ultimately you can overcome the negative feeling, but enjoy the peaceful feeling for being lonely. At least there is no hurt from other people.

I agree that you have to give them time to surface. Actually frequently practicing meditation will help you clear up your mind and let the feeling surface. Make ourselves strong psychologically will keep us away from feeling lonely. Of course, always having goal to pursue, you don't have time to feel lonely.

I almost never get lonely, and love being alone. A big part of this is just personality, I think, but there are two other factors that contribute. First of all, as you mention, I practiced being comfortably alone. I intentionally traveled alone, and sometimes chose to sit in a bar all by myself, just taking in the sights and (initially) feeling very self-conscious. But another important factor is that being alone is a choice for me. If I don't want to be alone, I have plenty of close friends, acquaintances, and activities that would alleviate loneliness.

In fact, the latter might be a much bigger factor that I've realized. The only times I recall feeling lonely were when I felt a need to socialize or talk to a friend, but couldn't, or being at a party with nobody to talk to.

You are socially and mentally rich since you can really choose and enjoy being alone and rarely feel lonely. Good for you. But for some other people, when they feel a need to socialize or talk to a friend, like you said, they may not be able to find somebody to talk to or share their feelings with. I guess this is what the blog post meant.

I wish that all of us could enjoy aloneness, this is really something precious, not only from productivity point of view. When we spend too much time living or socializing with other people, we enjoy the sharing of the information and emotion, but we may also lost ourselves. And only when we are alone, tons of ideas come to us. If you we always are surrounded by some people, we are drown like drunk. So we need to have time to keep us alone.

However, some people are more or less mentally relying on other people. They almost need other people's attention every day from time to time, otherwise they feel lonely. That's why a lot of people are addictive to FB. That's why I said we need to learn to be mentally and psychologically strong, like you, so that we don't feel lonely is negative. Hope this is helpful.

Exactly! I am happy being alone because it's a choice. And you're right that the blog post is about loneliness, not solitude.

I had the luck of being dragged out of my loneliness by some wonderful people (I'm not necessarily mentally and psychologically strong at all), and I only learned to be happily alone after that. But the ability to choose is crucial indeed.

Me too! I learned over the years and met some people when I was extremely lonely. I still remember the spark of light when I was "dragged out", it's unbelievable.

If people are not lucky enough and still feel lonely, I think mediation can help a little at least. When I first tried to do that, even sometime later, once I'm in the deep mood, all the feelings from the sub-consciousness level burst out. Then I become calm and peaceful, because my mind is cleared up. This is the way we can help ourselves, sometime is even better than helped by other people.

Some people told me that happiness is a choice. Initially it's hard for me to accept. But now I feel that if we can make happiness and aloneness as our choices, we become so powerful in our inner world which makes us really strong in spirit. But it take time and effort to reach there and stay there.

my favorite quotation on loneliness:


You have a point about how if one always has a goal to pursue one never allows himself to feel his deepest sense of loneliness and therefor he doesn't fully process it and learn from it. It's tough though as a software developer because if you have "free time" you could always be using it to "be productive".. to create a product, make fortune, etc. One has to schedule in the time to sit with his loneliness I suppose. sigh

I clicked the link and I believe your reference is good, but don't have time to read through.

I agree with you that we need to find sometime to sit with our loneliness. But I tried to avoid to experience it too deep. Rather than feel it, I'd rather to see what I can do to get rid of it, say, find the root cause and remove the root cause.

For example, we may feel lonely when our business does not soar with enough supporters and customers, or when we have an idea, but nobody likes it. We can do something to resolve this problem.

Or When we feel lacking of objective to pursue, or we simple need to express our feelings. If it's pure emotional, but we have no SO (Significant Others, as some previous post mentioned) to share with, we have to distract ourselves by some other exciting things.

For me, two things are essential to stay away from loneliness: SO and something to pursue. They make myself fill confident with self-esteem, also make my life more meaningful. Having a good SO is hard, but important. All the rest kinds are not critical. Always be myself, don't rely on other people too much, even with SO. Build something cool is also very rewarded. http://kck.st/JNqv8z

The belief that it's an obvious choice for a developer to spend his free time exploring ideas in hopes of getting rich is a fallacy IMO. After all, we don't advice every literate person to spend their time trying to get rich via writing a best-seller.

Yes, I agree with you that not everybody may be able to have some best selling ideas.

What I meant to have something to pursue is not necessarily some successful technical or business solutions, it could be any hobby or interesting things.

If it were me and I didn't have a great idea, that's fine. Since I have energy and capability to work out things, I can invest my energy into something or some idea other people have. Actually it's lower risk but may have some return in the future.

I really encourage people to participate in any sort of interesting projects available on HN, including mine.

My experience with curing loneliness is very contrary to what the article states in the sense that I found a way to not feel lonely by being more disconnected from other people. I realized that I only felt lonely when my expectations as to how other people should give me their time/attention were not met, so I purposefully decided to decrease the number and intensity of interactions with other people.

I haven't felt that soul crushing loneliness that cripples you in about a year now, and I like to think that that only happened because of lowered expectations (over time as you interact less intensely with people you'll naturally come to expect less of them) and because of learning how to be alone (being alone and being lonely are not the same thing). The article states you should be around people you know every day and I find that pretty weird. I think the best way to learn how to not feel lonely is to learn to be content with yourself, otherwise you'll always rely on other people and so your feelings of loneliness will fail to go away as soon as other people fail you.

Kinda related: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HbYScltf1c&hd=1

Yes, I think you have the two points:

1) Lower your expectation. Most of our feeling comes with our expectation. If we adjust our expectation, things will be much different.

2) Do not rely on other people. It's not only for loneliness. We should rely on ourselves more and be more confident.

One of the solutions is to find something you can really dedicate to work on that sucks most of your energy. You will feel less lonely but more rewarded by the outcome of the work, may it be a game or a business.

I completely agree with your number one, but personally I find number two to miss the mark.

One of my resolutions for 2014 is to be less independent. To be open with the people that I love about what is happening with me, and to have the hard conversations, instead of letting my hurt stew inside of me.

I made a similar decision, also almost a year ago.

I should mention that I had moved to another country 3 years ago. The first year I was very social. It was fun and satisfying. But then I started to realize there was a fundamental philosophical difference between me and pretty much everyone else. It's hard to explain objectively. But my observation is `truth is less important than peace and order`. It took me some time to formulate this because I was giving the benefit of doubt to my friends and only responding to what they were actually saying. But when truth is no longer the goal, pretty much anything goes. The second year went by with these awkward conversations.

Then I started to question the value of my friendships. Of course it was the value I was getting at first. But that line of thinking wasn't very useful from a practical perspective. It dawned on me when I started looking at the equation from the other side. What I had to offer wasn't valuable for them. Not only that, it was confusing and sometimes hurtful. It's like you get to paint the world any color you want, then someone comes tells you that the sun shouldn't be green. Of course this was all in my head, it had to be tested.

If you are a valuable friend to me, if you contribute something worthy to my life, I thought, I would at least care if you are dead or not. That was my thesis. So I disconnected from the `cheap communication` channels but kept my phone and of course my email. And that's pretty much the whole story. No one called. Except a few friends that I didn't have doubts about, but I have always been in contact with them, facebook or no facebook.

I sometimes feel lonely. But I will not lower my expectations. Because that would mean asking me to stop saying the world revolves around sun, or that it's not flat. I don't want to pretend everybody is right `in their own way`, no matter how stupid the stuff coming out of their mouth. That would make me unhappy. Now, at least I can be happy.

I agree with you in that independence is valuable trait. Much of the advice is focusing on the offense, meet more people, be more nice. I think independence and self-esteem are better starting points. I would say; work on yourself. If you are bettering yourself, you wouldn't have too much time to feel lonely. Eventually you might meet new people and maybe make some friends. But I think the key is to build yourself up.

Loneliness is severe. Stopping this feeling is quite hard and I slightly doubt that the article's content will help but as somebody wrote, it's a great start to dig deeper.

1. What one needs: ideally, you have a significant other (SO) -- I know it's damn hard to get one but let's first understand why a SO is the number one fix for loneliness. The SO is somebody no one else can replace, even not your best friends. Why? There are many reasons but the most important is that we all require a lot of communication and interaction with like-minded people to be happy -- this is one of our core needs and if this is lacking just one (!) day we get depressed. A SO fulfills those communication and interaction needs much better than any other person because the quantity of communication with your SO can be very high while the quality can be low. So, what does it mean? You can call your SO anytime and tell her really minor stuff like 'they have awesome apples in the store, shall I get some?' or when going to bed you can talk about how the day went, that traffic today was a pain or you show her some funny posts on Reddit. Just imagine how many words of unimportant communication you exchange with an SO in a week vacation. All this sounds nitty-gritty and totally irrelevant, but the SO is 'always-on', will listen to any crap and this is something we terribly need. And you can't call or text your best friend or close co-workers before going to bed to tell them that today's apples were really juicy. Moreover, we get other amenities like sex or endearment.

2. If no SO is present then the next thing you need to not feel lonely are good or very good friends or let's call them best friends, people who you really connect to. To find those is as hard as finding your SO and usually you don't get that a person is about to be your best friend before meeting him/her over a long period of time. But 'best friends' won't stay -- it doesn't take too long and the connection you had with them loosens up but you still stick to them (because they 'are' your best friends), so don't spend too much time on finding the 'best' friend, any friend will do. However, best friends are important but can not replace a SO.

3. The next level of people you need or are rather nice to have are close or like-minded co-workers. But this is something you shouldn't aspire for and those connections are very fragile/dynamic because work and life sometimes doesn't play well together and disappointment is hard-wired. Still, best friends can be won from co-workers.

So, we know now what we need, let's now find an answer to the question how to get there.

Finding a SO is very hard and the best way is to go out and create as many leads as possible -- very helpful is the PUA literature, just google it and find tons of wisdoms. A lot of stuff is crappy but you will find as much excellent advice there. And don't think that good looks is the key to find your SO, it makes life a bit easier but it's definitely not the key.

Similar to before you should go out and meet many, many people -- very good for this are meet-ups.

But the most important thing: you should NEVER go out and look for the SO or the best friend. This doesn't work and makes you ultra needy and people will find you awkward. Simultaneously, you will be disappointed because everybody you meet seems to be a douche, so start slowly and don't expect wonders. Connect to MANY people and try to keep relationships superficial, slowly intense those relationship which look promising but look that you still connect to MANY people because most people won't match (for being a SO or best friend). A hint: good matches are usually your close peers, people who are in similar situations, contexts and/or face same challenges. However, to have a good evening often you do not need a best friend (of course it's better and more convenient to have one) but sometimes just some random people work out too. What can also help: find a personal mission you pursue which is NOT 'finding best friends', starting a startup, a meetup, whatever -- to create a relationship you need always some hook.

And then after few months everything will come by itself. It's definitely some work involved but everybody can master it, even the introverts (which is just often a weak excuse).

To survive the lonely times before -> exercise every day, eat and live well and most important, stop any kind of drugs, they make your lonely times even worse.

A side note regarding founders, when starting their business entrepreneurs have a hard time but this struggle will be rewarded in future and feeling lonely is often part of the job.

I understand what you are trying to say, but I think mercer (in a sibling thread) has it right. A lot of us are in environments that feel like they are designed to keep us separated after we enter our professional life. This is particularly true for people that have moved by themselves to a different state or country and basically need to build a social circle from scratch. And this gets more difficult as you grow older.

I live in a central European country for four years now and I find it extremely hard to meet new people even for a superficial friendship.

- I have very few coworkers, but even if I didn’t, people tend to keep professional and private life very separate here. Some actually think they have “enough” friends and you might never get through to them no matter how much you try.

- In my home country I would usually meet people through friends of friends, but here my friends will rarely bring anyone else of their circle when we go out (even when asked).

- Meetups are also a big failure for me. Most of the time they involve huge groups that are very impersonal. They involve people that are here for a month up to people that have been here for 20-30 years and have their own cliques within the meetup. The first year I kept going to the same meetup and kept introducing myself to the same (more or less) people and held the same discussion over and over. Each meetup was as if I was there for the first time and needless to say, I didn’t make a single friend from that. Even in the smaller ones, it seems that most participate either to spend a night away from their spouse/“real” friends or just for the activity.

- Going up to talk to random strangers is also not very common here, but even if it was, it is unfortunately impossible for me. I feel incredibly self-conscious and uncomfortable. I tried it when I was in the US where people are more open and I honestly hated myself. I doubt PUA literature would help.

Anyway, I don't want to be too negative and I also have me to blame for the situation. What I wanted to highlight is that it also depends on the cultural environment and the particular circumstances. To me, it is quite indicative that we have dating websites and meetups and social web sites and whatnot but we are generally more lonely.

Thanks for your reply. I don't have the time to answer your post in detail, so I give some brief thoughts. I don't know how big your city is but maybe you should consider to relocate. Capitals are usually the way to go, most people, open minds. Also some countries/mentalities are more open and some not, so maybe you should change the country, too. Don't get me wrong but your post sounds pretty negative, I agree that getting out of loneliness is hard but it's not impossible. And believe me there is some life-changing pua literature out there which is very sophisticated and rather about deep psychological concepts. So, don't judge them before reading them yourself.

> it also depends on the cultural environment and the particular circumstances

Then, why don't you change them?

> I agree that getting out of loneliness is hard but it's not impossible.

I don't disagree there. My point (which I probably didn't really make) was that you can't have a recipe for it. Too much depends on the particularities of the person and their situation.

> I don't know how big your city is

I live in Munich, which for Germany is big and quite international.

> Don't get me wrong but your post sounds pretty negative

Maybe I focused too much on the bad stuff. I do have some friends, I do have the opportunity to go out from time to time. It is just that these relationships are superficial and not as fulfilling. Curiously, others do not seem to mind at all.

> Then, why don't you change them?

I am actually in the process of doing that even though, professionally, it is probably a bad move. I've been applying to different places and positions for some time now, unfortunately I haven't had much luck so far due to various reasons.

Munich is neither bad nor small but still I can imagine that finding friends there is hard: in Munich you find those networks and circles which exist for decades and over generations. The people are nice but the fluctuation is too small, the city is not dynamic, night-life is quite limited, you would need 10 years to get into the society and still some parts would not welcome you.

=> change quickly to a real capital

  Munich is neither bad nor small but still I can imagine
  that finding friends there is hard: in Munich you find
  those networks and circles which exist for decades and over
  generations. The people are nice but the fluctuation is too
Compared to the US, you find decades old networks and circles nearly in every part/city of Europe (at least in Germany). This is just a result of a quite immobile society until recently. In Munich, fluctuation among young professionals (20-40) is actually pretty high, or at least higher as you describe: Munich is one of Germany's economic powerhouses with lots of German graduates and professionals from the rest of Europe moving to.

  the city is not dynamic, night-life is quite limited, you
  would need 10 years to get into the society and still some
  parts would not welcome you.
I don't really know what you want to imply here: how do you define dynamic? And what should it mean in this context? Munich might not be as dynamic as London/NYC/SF/Berlin/whatever, but calling it not dynamic doesn't do it justice.

The rest of your statement is also very prejudiced: it does not take you 10 years to get into the society, and that some parts of every society are not open to foreigners is neither unique to Munich, nor to Germany or Europe.

Regarding Munich night-life: it is definitely not comparable to Berlin night-life, but still it is quite vibrant. There are two of Germany's biggest universities in Munich, and roughly >110k students in the city. In summer time the whole city is out drinking/eating in one of the millions of beer gardens where it is quite common to sit with total strangers at the same table.

  => change quickly to a real capital
Depending on your field, Munich sometimes is THE place to go/work in Germany: i.e. you won't find a lot of engineering positions in Berlin, but lots of in Munich (or generally speaking in southern Germany; but then Munich most probably is the most open/international city there).

> And believe me there is some life-changing pua literature out there which is very sophisticated and rather about deep psychological concepts.

Thanks for your post. Do you have any recommendations for good pua literature?

There's tons of good stuff out there and what I still remember are the posts from Tyler (RSD), they changed me and his works are way beyond pick-up lines, check his material and his peer group and you find many more talented guys. I'd even consider to book one of those seminars, they are incredibly expensive and look like scam (they are not) but they perfectly brainwash you, reframe your mind and this is what most need. Most concepts are so contrary to what you have been socialized with, so you desperately need this stuff to get on the right track. And more important, it's extremely motivating and eye-opening -- going through that material is like finding the error after days of debugging.

Before I got into PUA 10 years ago I did really everything wrong.

I think your point number 1 is one of the quickest ways TO feel lonely. I've found my personal happiness and satisfaction should absolutely not be fully dependent on having a girlfriend. That mentality often causes people to settle or remain in relationships when they shouldn't.

When you have habits that keep you happy and healthy, then often times things fall into place like getting an SO, but I hope I never "get" a girlfriend to make me stop feeling lonely. I should have daily habits that provide me with a fulfilling life, then I won't feel loneliness. I prefer entering relationships as a balanced, happy person.

That sounds good and I also tried once not to make a relationship my number one priority but at the end of the day I lied to myself. This might work for some time and substitutes like good friends, a challenging work will make your time easier but won't fix your real problem.

Still I agree that one needs to have daily habits even when in a relationship.

> stop any kind of drugs, they make your lonely times even worse.

Been there, done that. It's sound advice, folks!

What about parents and siblings? They should arguably be above SO. If you need somebody to talk to, don't forget your family!

I was surprised that the SO was defined as to have high quantity but low quality of communication. I guess he needs family more than an SO, like you said. And this is why FB is so helpful for that kind of people because they can find a place to tell people the apple is so juicy today. This is something you can share with your family everyday.

SO is supposed to be both your body and soul mate who is not easy to find and being exclusive. If everyday, instead of sharing the best with your SO, but dumping everything onto your SO, I'm afraid how long the relationship can last. Think about if your SO does the same on you, do you have that much time to listen as well?

I believe relationship should be maintained in such as way that mutually benefit with each other and inspire on each other to make the other party happy in his/her way. Sharing, inspiring and surprising are so much important between the exclusive pair. But that is out of the topic here.

I think the parent meant "high quantity even if it is low quality".


Loneliness has been one of the issues consistently on my mind for at least the past few years. From my early twenties on I've always lived in big cities. During my studies I was part of a student organization (very much like a fraternity), and after that I moved around between cities and as a result I made many friends, particularly 'expats'.

As I got closer to them, no matter what personality or lifestyle they had, loneliness was a common feeling. This often led to intense unhappiness and even outright depression, and some of these friends eventually returned to their home cities or college cities because they missed their friends.

Over time I started thinking more and more about this issue, as it clearly seems to be a problem, and a big one at that. I thought about the causes, but most importantly I tried to think of solutions.

When it comes to causes, one tentative conclusion I have come to is that the (post-?) modern Western European lifestyle basically sets us up to be lonely. We compartmentalize our lives to a degree that I haven't experienced as much in developing nations. Our work is separate from our 'personal' life, as are our variety of relationships. Our spouses might have never met our colleagues, our colleagues never met our friends, our friends might never meet our parents, and so on. The result is a fragmented life where you aren't automatically part of some community, but where you actively have to maintain individual and group relationships.

Another effect is that we can (and might have to) be so many different people in so many different situations, and that we often have to start from scratch because we move, change jobs, break up, and so on. On top of that, we often live alone, and put a big emphasis on our individual goals and happiness.

Contrast this with a more 'traditional' society with many family-run shops, often inside or near the house, huge families that often live in proximity, and a strong sense of responsibility for these family ties. It's hard to be lonely in such a situation (although it does exist, and when it does it can be quite severe).

I've reached a point where I sometimes wonder if our individualism and emphasis on freedom is worth the drawbacks, of which loneliness is a big one.

In my surroundings at least, loneliness needs to be actively fought. And one could argue that the pressure resting on a partnership or starting a family is sometimes too much of a burden, precisely because it is, at least in my world, one of the few remaining approaches (or at least 'convenient' approaches) to not be alone.

I've been thinking a lot about experimenting with different ways of living together and creating new forms of community. I've seen successful neighbourhood initiatives, for example, where people start interacting more on a local level. I've seen many flatshares that play a part in keeping loneliness away. And I've spent much of my life living in 'communal' environments that were wonderful, especially growing up.

The odd thing about all this is that I am quite solitary and don't generally feel lonely. I can easily spend days, even weeks, mostly by myself. And yet this problem bothers me tremendously.

I've been rambling and my apologies for any lack of coherence or over-generalizing. Let me end with a quote that hopefully does contribute something. It prescribes what I've personally experienced to be a surefire way to avoid loneliness, and to foster real connections (and fast, often!):

"We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.

When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.

It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable."

> I've been thinking a lot about experimenting with different ways of living together and creating new forms of community.

When I was in college, I lived in a student cooperative during my senior year. (Ridge House in Berkeley — any co-opers up in here?!) Living, studying, working, cooking, and partying together with 37 other people in a beautiful old house that was, however briefly, our collective property, was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. For once, even as a life-long introvert and loner, I felt like I was part of a close-knit community that stretched back for decades. I saw so many lifelong friendships and relationships form during my brief time there, and I've been looking to recreate that experience in my adult life ever since. (From what I've seen of my fellow ex-co-oopers, many of them feel the same way.)

There are housing co-ops that are not student only, so that would be one option. I'm far from an expert on this, never lived in a co-op myself, there may income restrictions, etc. But there are people interested in co-operative/communal living past college.

I love the concept, unfortunately I find living with lots of people pretty stressful, though fun.

Here in Berlin living in shared housing post-college is quite acceptable. It doesn't necessarily mean that you share much, but it's always more communal than living alone. I think it's a very good thing, and I'm happy to see that this is becoming more common in other cities too (sometimes for 'bad' reasons like housing prices, but still).

Let me know if you get anywhere recreating it!

That's a beautiful quote. Got a source for it?


I can't vouch for the book as I only read a few pages, but the quote is one of my favorite quotes.

Is there any more information about #1, "listen to what your body has to say"? I've come across this idea in several places lately and want to understand it better, but haven't found any good resources. Maybe something from cognitive or somatic psychology? Where does it originally come from? (Psychology? Meditation?)

I can't help you with a defined origin, but check out the book "Focusing" by E. Gendlin for a good start on experiencing/understanding the concept.

I agree, point #1 comes straight from Gendlin and should be attributed.

Vipassana meditation. Check out dhamma.org

Interesting understanding. For me this article would be better named "how to be less shy". I fight the feeling of loneliness not with other people but by finding it's source and improving my emotional balance through doing other things like sport, discovery of new stuff etc. Fighting the feeling of loneliness with people for an introvert is like fighting the desire to eat with food for fat people. It solves the feeling problem but not everything else. For example when I am around other people I often don't feel less lonely and instead also feel under stress, boringness etc.

Some people think you are lonely if your way of living is different from theirs. More annoyingly, they repetitively tell you that you are lonely. If you yield to this brainwashing, then you really feel lonely.

Some people are needy and always expect to entertained. They keep telling you not because you are lonely, but they are. If you have this kind of friends, probably you have to provide something to fill in their loneliness and make them happy.

Years ago my (now ex) wife and my friends would tell venial sins on road trips. It started out as a bit of a joke, but as we got going the level of intimacy grew quickly.

Where does a venial sin stop and a serious sin begin?

For us, we realized we entered into something when we starting discussing why we viewed the particular 'venial sin' in that certain light.

Like everything dealing with morality and what-not, there's no clear division. From a traditionally religious standpoint, there isn't really much of a division either. Christians would say that Jesus died for all sins, not just a handful of the most interesting ones.

I would say that the line between venial and mortal was a line drawn by man to feel something.

Interesting. Thanks for the reply. I think you're a whole 'nother level than me in regards to thinking about this.

...or get marry.

... results may vary.

Beautiful writing - thank you for sharing.

If anything I probably should be more lonely. Like a person who bleeds to death without knowing it because he has no pain receptors where the cut occured.

Well, that came out a bit too over-dramatic. But I still like the pain receptor analogy.

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