Can loneliness become a self-fulfilling prophesy?Stress for Success
For February 19, 2013
Can believing something like, “No one likes me,” become a self-fulfilling prophesy and ultimately cause loneliness?
Researchers in 1981, Jones, Freemon and Goswick, found that lonely people often think about themselves with distorted logic, such as: “I’m alone. No one wants to be with me and no one is willing to help me escape my loneliness, so I will reject others, too.”
In fact, they found that lonely people are more rejecting of others than others are of them. They tend to chase away what they need the most to heal their loneliness - other people. Lonely people also tend to be more critical and therefore rejecting of others. So, they remain isolated without understanding that they are in large part responsible for their lonely state.
Lonesome people may also lack the social skills necessary for connecting with others. They tend to be more introverted and self-conscious about approaching others due to excessive fear of being rejected. They often set themselves up for disappointments through unrealistic expectations about relationships by assuming:
• They should always have dates or be popular, beautiful or successful;
• Friends should always be available;
These unrealistic expectations create major disappointments and lead to chronic, negative emotional states, even depression.
Finally, even though lonesome people may be perfectly good problem solvers in many aspects of their lives, they tend to be unsuccessful in solving interpersonal issues. In 1982 research, Horowitz, French and Anderson gave a test that measured loneliness. They found that, unlike those participants who felt well connected to others, lonely people were unable to generate enough quality alternative problem-solving options to resolve their interpersonal dilemmas. When faced with conflicts they continued with their flawed assumptions about themselves and others and stewed in their own stressful thinking.
Challenging flawed thinking is the first step to overcoming loneliness. Moving beyond faulty lonely assumptions can then improve your problem solving in dealing with isolation. You must first become aware that you are thinking lonely thoughts and be willing to challenge them. For example:
“I feel alone but that doesn’t mean I have to be alone. Why should I expect other people to help me out of this feeling when it’s my responsibility to do something about it? I need to figure out my options to develop more and better relationships.”
Challenging your own thoughts must happen over and over again, day after day after day. To help you become more skilled with this, write down your lonely thoughts on the left side of a page. After, challenge them on the right side of the page. Doing this fifteen or so minutes a day will gradually help you see other ways of thinking, leading to a greater number of problem solving options.
Feeling lonely can be very intense. The accompanying cognitive distortions can and do lead to persistent hopelessness. Even though it’s not a diagnosable psychological condition, it can still be treated by good counselors. If you feel significant stress from being lonely, consider seeking professional help. A therapist could help you with your thinking distortions more quickly than doing it on your own and teach you better problem solving. The alternative is to continue to drown in your lonely ruminations.
Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S. is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at firstname.lastname@example.org.