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There is a HUGE difference between taking personal processing timeout when you need to think, assess or relax and isolating. Isolating is where you don’t communicate and connect with others for a long period of time. For example; a person may focus on work and then after work instead of interacting with those close to them, they shut themselves down and numb out with food, TV, video games or a drink.
After my relationship ended, feeling sad and numb I moved to a new apartment and pretty much became a robot moving from a screen in the office to a screen at home. I’d work long hours come home, watch TV and comfort eat or drink alcohol alone. I had never felt so lonely and yet I was the cause of my own loneliness.
Because I kept on choosing to stay in over seeing people, I wanted to get home and do the same routine of eating and drinking, often eating exactly the same food, it was a little ritual I had become attached to for comfort. Yet at the same time isolating was not a comfort it was making me feel more and more alone and down.
I had learnt this habit from a young age. My mother was always shouting and moaning about everything and often this was directed at me. So, I used to hide in my room and be on my own all night. It was more peaceful there but also incredibly lonely. Unconsciously, without realising I had developed this pattern in adulthood– that was when hurt distance yourself and be alone, when conflict hide.
This habit of isolating when hurt, led me to feel even more empty and low. Sometimes the loneliness would really get to me where I would think what’s the point, what’s this all for if I have no one to share it with, yet I kept isolating. In fact, whenever I felt down, I’d shut myself off, I’d refuse to talk, turn my phone off even it became such a way of dealing with pain, I’d do it automatically without even thinking.
I believe this unhelpful way of coping led to my addictive patterns, instead of having close relationships to share my feelings with, I was married to food and a bottle of wine. These became my tools to keep going. I remember one time being totally confused about where to live, whether to stay in my relationship, what job to do, I was scrambling for clues and a solution to fix my life and I decided to spend 3 days in isolation to work it out with a bottle of vodka and pizza. Needless to say, I did not feel any better or clearer about the situation.I’d also isolate to avoid conflict in my romantic relationships. I’d distance myself, not communicate with my partner to avoid confrontation. Deep down I knew this was not serving me, but didn’t know know how to stand up for myself or want to. I’d hide rather than address issues. The trouble is often isolating stops us from healing and resolving problems, so it can cause harm to us and relationships.
Time and time again I see this pattern in the marriages I help transform. One or both in the marriage avoid each other, hoping that the underlying issues will fix themselves. They rarely do when one or both emotionally shut the person out it causes doubt, disappointment and despair.
Feelings unless felt – leads them to linger
Hurt unless expressed – leads us to hold resentment
Isolation leads to loneliness, emptiness and can damage relationships
What motivated me to write about this was a couple who came to me last week. Jackie was at her wit’s end because every time they argued her husband would disappear, it started off as a few hours away and then once to a hotel and she came to me because her husband Dan had booked a flight and flew to another country.
He then sent her a text message asking her to come over to the place he went to. When she raised it with him, he said it was her fault, she was driving him away with her anger. She felt abandoned and furious that whenever she stood up for herself it would lead to hours days or weeks of the silent treatment or him fleeing.
She also was sick and tired of being the one to back down and apologise. They had tried one marriage counsellor and felt more annoyed after because all they did was take the horrible arguments they were having at home to the counsellor’s office instead of actually finding a solution. It was clear that Dan needed to break his habit of running away.
Another lady I helped to communicate differently would always avoid her family if she thought there might be conflict. For example, if she got drunk at a family gathering, worried about what she said or did, she would avoid everyone for months. If her husband annoyed her she would fill her time with her children and sleep in separate rooms.
Then there are people who isolate because they are depressed. When I was diagnosed with depression and insomnia 16 years ago in my final year of university this is what I did.
I isolated myself from everyone and everything I enjoyed. I would not even cook in my own kitchen, in the shared accommodation I was in. Instead, I would eat my meals locked away in my room.
Isolating makes depression worse, it makes everything worse because we are social creatures and need to be with others and around others. Anthony Robbins describes love and connection as one of the four basic human needs.
That is all humans need connection with others to be happy across all cultures. During the short time, I felt depressed about what I was really craving which was more love and support, yet through my isolating habit, all I got was more loneliness.
Depression is difficult because you lose interest in being with other people and doing things and yet not doing these things ends up in us feeling more hopeless and even less like being with other people. As loneliness is a low vibe energy and feeling. It can become a vicious cycle.
That’s why right now I am going to share some other alternatives to isolating when feeling depressed, hurt or angry, so you can be happier and have happier relationships. Try some of the below that have worked for me and countless others.
Talk it out
Find a trusted friend, family member or coach to talk to, where you won’t be judged. Problems left in our own head go round and round and can be overwhelming. I’ve spent countless hours and days even weeks trying to work out what I am feeling or not feeling and it’s hard to see things clearly. Yet when you express it to someone safe, the answers naturally come.
Face relationship challenges head-on
When we avoid our relationship troubles, they tend to grow. Both in our mind as it becomes bigger than it has to be, plus it doesn’t feel good to bottle everything inside. Relationship troubles also grow bigger the longer we leave them, as more distance the harder it becomes to reconnect with that person. Strength and self-respect come from owning our issues and dealing with them.
Join a group
There is something about a community of people coming together to share something they enjoy. Being in the energy of others can lift us up, give us ideas and stop loneliness. This can give you regular contact with others where you do not have to share personal things but are fulfilling the human need for connection.
There are many groups those I have supported have signed up to form volunteer groups, book clubs, church groups, cooking groups, writing, running, swimming or cycling groups, photography, meditation and support groups for any habits they wanted to change.
I have been a member of many groups that meet up and being around people who share a similar interest is great, some of mine have been ice-skating, dancing, plant-based eating, counselling and walking groups. This year I am creating my own group to study textbooks I feel drawn to, one is a course in miracles and the other is the power of the subconscious mind, as it’s something I want to study whilst sharing with others.
As mentioned there is a huge difference between taking a little personal space and isolating yourself for long periods of time and avoiding others. When you do take time for yourself, make sure that you do so in a way that is going to support you and your mood. I call this a self-love sanctuary. A self-love sanctuary is a place where you can feel a positive energy, where you can relax and feel good.
My self-love sanctuaries are my bed because I feel supported, peaceful and comforted there. The beach (any beach) as I love being in nature and hearing the sounds of the sea, especially if I see the sunrise or sunset, it’s beautiful. My armchair at home, where I read, chill out and have my favourite herbal liquorice tea. My yoga mat where I feel centred and calm. What are the self-love sanctuaries that you go to regularly to feel at peace? If you do not have any create some now, a place that makes you feel safe and connected. As you can see from mine, it does not have to be somewhere fancy, it’s just somewhere you can visit at least once a week.
Schedule it in your calendar
Schedule alone time as well as time to interact with others if isolating and loneliness is coming up for you. I find that unless something is blocked in my calendar, it rarely happens. By setting a routine and sticking to it, you make it easier to maintain contact with the world and yourself in a positive way.
I hope this has been useful to you do get in touch with me if you have any questions. If you are isolating because you no longer trust anyone after being hurt.
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