When we feel most alone, there is always the potential within us to discover that in fact, we are never truly alone: Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

by Debbie Fisher

The theme for Mental Health Awareness week this year is Loneliness, the distressing experience that occurs when a person perceives their social relationships to be less in quantity and quality, than desired.

We know that Loneliness is one of the most common afflictions we face in society today, that it is on the increase and a contributing factor in the mental health epidemic we are facing globally.

We are social beings who thrive on human connection, and although social media can be a powerful connector, too many hours on our screens invariably leaves us feeling more isolated and disconnected from each other.  

The iheart approach to mental health is not just focused on awareness but rather on prevention and education, teaching a person about the logic of how their minds work, why they think, feel and behave as they do and about the fact that their wellbeing and resilience is innate, rather than dependent on factors such as the relative quantity or quality of the company we keep. The iheart approach respectfully challenges the popular belief, that we are psychologically bound by the circumstances of our lives with no option but to suffer when those circumstances are not what we would like them to be. 

 It is important to make the distinction between solitude, the state of being alone which can be peaceful, even joyous, as Henry Thoreau said: “I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude” as opposed to loneliness, the psychological suffering that we experience when we have lost sight of our innate wellbeing and have innocently attached it to something like the need for validation, fitting in, for more or better friendships than we have.  

As much as it may seem unavoidable that our wellbeing suffers from being alone,

isn’t it interesting that we can feel painfully lonely in a crowd, or even surrounded by family and community? And yet, we can feel perfectly content when in our own company?

Surely this proves that it is not the fact of being alone or in company that dictates what we feel, but rather the meaning we make of it in relation to our wellbeing. 

Whichever experience we are having, it will inevitably be determined by the premise our mind is coming from, either the deep knowing that our psychological wellbeing is innate or the belief that it is conditional on certain external factors. The implications of these beliefs will determine whether we suffer from loneliness and feel victimised by being alone, or whether we can connect with the innate qualities of love, peace of mind, gratitude, hope, and wisdom that allows us to navigate life with more grace and ease, enabling us to respond to the situation in a more responsive and constructive manner. 

After learning of the deaths of his parents, siblings, and wife in the Nazi Death Camps, Victor Frankl, the great Austrian psychotherapist, wrote the following: “So now I’m all alone. Whoever has not shared a similar fate cannot understand me. I am terribly tired, terribly sad, terribly lonely.”

However, as time passed Viktor Frankl moved from the despair of loneliness to the inner strength he uncovered in his solitude and he came to see that,

Solitude is a source of healing that makes my life worth living.”

When we all feel most alone, there is always the potential within us to discover that in fact, we are never truly alone. May we all experience this healing within ourselves and use it like Viktor Frankl did, to help others to uncover it within themselves too. 

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