We all want to be loved. We search all our lives for that special person who will make our lives complete. There's an entire industry of books and videos and seminars centered on the themes of finding “true love” and “soul mates”.
Many years ago in his book Soul Mates, Thomas Moore summed up the concept by saying, “a soulmate is someone to whom we feel profoundly connected, as though the communicating and communing that take place between us were not the product of intentional efforts, but rather a divine grace.” It is presented as a relationship where you will feel love and desire for this person no matter what and all conflicts will end in peaceful, loving and with both parties feeling satisfied.
We're told that once we find the right partner, we will never be alone or feel lonely again. Novels, movies, and even magazine articles state this as the goal for every relationship and claim that if you find anything less you are settling, that you deserve more. These idea leave us with even more questions: What happens if we do not find our soul mates? How do we fill that empty place inside? What if we have a relationship that does not quite fit the bill? What if we have committed our lives to someone who does not satisfy us and there is still a lonely place inside? How do we have a life of joy and fulfillment?
There are plenty of books and seminars that will try to answer each of those questions as well. However, I would like to take us down another path – one that argues a soul mate is actually a negative concept. The idea of one person who fulfills all your needs is an impossible standard to meet, and it leads to dissatisfaction in life, a sense of failure and loneliness. No one person or relationship can live up to that ideal. No person or relationship can make you complete or fill the loneliness inside. I would suggest that task starts with you, and identifying the root of the emptiness that you want to fill or the loneliness that needs attention is the first step to improving all of your relationships, and not simply your love life.
Good Choices That Still Don't Work
Janie has been divorced twice and is now and married to her third husband. She
believed she kept making bad choices and felt that after therapy she would be able to make a better choice. Her third husband is a man with whom she had great passion and common interests. Unlike her first husband, he was interesting and ambitious. Unlike her second husband, he did not have a drinking problem. Finally, she felt she made a good choice.
All went well for the first year, then slowly the picture began to change. He was interesting, but when they were out in public, he would rush off to find new people to meet, leaving her behind. He was ambitious; but he was more interested in his job than being at home with her. She began to realize that the passion she felt for him prevented her seeing from how distant and unavailable he was. She remained lonely with her “good choice”.
The Origin of Loneliness
This kind of loneliness comes from unmet needs. It comes from our childhood experiences of loss and neglect. Remember – as children, the threshold for traumatic experiences is significantly lower than we see it as adults. These feelings could have developed from circumstances when a child's needs were not met in a timely way or a way that did not fit our temperament. That is to say, unmet needs come from anything as significant as abuse to something as common being misunderstood or misunderstanding parent’s intentions.
Regardless of how it occurs, there is a part of you, the child you are and were, that feels alone and is looking for the love you felt you needed and did not get as a child. That child that still lives inside of us is constantly looking for the love and connection we did not get.
The first thing we must do to fill the loneliness and help this child inside us is to find our true self; a self who we can feel and recognize inside of us and who is with us all the time. It is the ability to love yourself. It is a part of you that can honor, respect and value yourself. Only when you love yourself can you recognize when other people care about you, and just as importantly, when they don't.
If Not Soul Mates, Then What?
So if I'm asking you to discard the idea of one true soul mate, some of you might be asking what kind of relationship you should be seeking. I suggest the alternative idea of finding a person or people whom you can lean on and trust.
For example, Hal was telling me that he often feels alone and that no one cares about him. He said Alan, his closest friend, had said he found it difficult to show Hal affection. Every time Alan tried to help, encourage or support Hal, he felt a wall go up. Without realizing it, Hal blocked every effort that was made to help him. Hal had relationships from a distance. He needed to feel that he was in control all the time. Alan had told him there were people who cared deeply about him, but he had to allow them to show it.
People. Plural. Instead of depending on one person for all your needs, be open to multiple people in that role. Construct a network of people with varying roles and connections to you. A life partner, a friend, a family of choice – all part of a network of people who, through their varying strengths and weaknesses, can fill the shoes of that soul mate concept to help you through life. In that network, there is a mutual feeling of love and respect. Each person strives to respect and understand each others needs and wants. This is not necessarily a romantic partner or someone who lives with you. In this vein, Alan was doing his best to become Hal’s friend and partner.
Barbara was in therapy for several years, and during that time she worked to develop her family of choice, a group of individuals that she felt that she could depend on to be there for her when she needed them. Just like Barbara, we all need to find people to whom we can turn when we want companionship, care and love;
relationships that we nurture and grow.
Hal’s friend told him that there were people who cared about him. In order to open himself to others, Hal needed to soothe his fear that was rooted in the child who felt so neglected and alone.
The answer to loneliness that we feel does not come in a single-serving package, no matter how hard we search. The answer starts from within, and spreads quickly to those around your. In order for others to care for us, we must be open to the idea. The only way to fill loneliness is to look inside find ourselves and then to find people to join our life. Are you struggling with loneliness and relationships? I can help you find your true self. Call me at (919)881-2001.