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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

A Path to Healing Loneliness

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Nov 14th 2012

 

person and treeEmotional pain is a part of life, but it’s the brain’s imperative to try and keep us away from it and safe. So when an emotional pain arises the reaction of the brain will be to try and create a way to get away from it and in doing so keeps it around forevermore. 

What do I mean by this? 

Let’s use loneliness for example. After all it’s pretty pervasive in our culture. When someone is lonely, the feeling of loneliness is like a thorn in our skin. But we do whatever we can to try and stay away from that thorn. We get into relationships in order to stave off the loneliness only to find ourselves desperate when the person is either away or no longer there. Or maybe we use the television or obsessively surfing social media as a means to not feel alone and when that isn’t working the loneliness creeps in. 

What do we do about this? 

The first thing to do is recognize the thorn of loneliness and pay attention to it. Ask yourself, when loneliness arises, is awareness of the loneliness lonely? Meaning loneliness is a feeling that arises in the body that’s connected to certain thoughts that something in this present moment is not enough. 

Fundamentally we are awareness, that’s an irrefutable fact. If I took awareness away would you notice your thoughts? No, because there’d be no awareness to notice them from. If I took away your thoughts, would you still have awareness? Sure, you can be aware of sensations of pain or joy without thoughts. 

What we need to work on is simply stepping into this understanding that we are not the loneliness, that’s something is occurring in this moment and we can be curious about it, even investigate it with a caring attention. If self-judgment arises that’s just another mental event that’s occurring within that fundamental awareness.

This is not to say being in a relationship or hanging out with friends is unhealthy, in fact, it’s often an integral part to well-being, but we have to investigate our motivation. Is it to escape loneliness or because we care about being with people?

We all have the ability to step into this natural awareness and gaining freedom from the habitual conditioning that keeps us enslaved in suffering. 

This may seem simple but not alway easy, but it's a worthwhile practice.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from. 

 

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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