Let’s start at the most basic level.
You might feel alone because you are, in fact, alone.
In other words, there is literally no one around you. You’re physically by yourself.
This is a good place to start, but it’s very surface level.
What you see around you is only part of your reality.
The physical shapes and surfaces that float in and out of your periphery are the “known knowns,” if you will. They’re obvious.
But I’ve found that I can be in front of a group of people, so clearly this is not the end of the search.
There’s more to feeling alone than social isolation.
What are the “known unknowns” and the “unknown unknowns?”
More Than a Sense of Isolation
There’s something about the word “meaning”–a word I write about all the time and which forms the basis of my mission with The Mental Health Update–that is at the center of feelings of loneliness.
What is meaning?
What does it MEAN to create meaning in life?
To start, meaning is unique to each of us. What you find meaningful is not necessarily going to be what I find meaningful.
To you, meaningful connections might be with your family and friends, and I might, well, be obsessed with my cats. (I am, but I also love my family, by the way.)
Another great source of meaning for most people is being with a significant other in an intimate relationship, otherwise known as the Great Romantic Relationship.
Sharing your hopes, dreams, and doubts with someone you love can absolutely be a meaningful experience.
But it still doesn’t describe what meaning actually is.
I would argue that meaning is about connectedness.
It’s a connection to something greater, whether that’s a higher power, a community activity, or a relationship with another person.
Here are some other descriptive signs of meaning for me:
1. An emotional connection
2. A social connection
3. Taking part in something on a regular basis in order to gain familiarity and skill
I’ve found that my greatest loneliness stemmed from not having meaning in my life.
When I didn’t have meaning, I could be in a room full of people and still feel completely lost.
I discovered that feeling alone had less to do with social isolation and more to do with something going on deep inside of me.
It’s what drove me to write and share what I’ve learned years ago.
Even the weirdest emotions and experiences become familiar when shared with others online.
I never thought that would be the case, but talking about my experiences made me realize just how common they are.
And I know now that I don’t actually need that much human contact. I can create meaning by being creative and sharing my creations with others.
Now, I’m very fortunate because I have a wonderful relationship with my wife of five years. That is a huge source of strength and stability for me. Without that, I might need more social time with others.
Life is always in flux, and you’ll need to do the work I’ve done to figure out what’s meaningful to you–and what you need to feel confident and whole.