I recently attended a short teleconference on ending loneliness put on by Dr. Jon Carlson and the TapTalk lecture series from NASAP (North American Society of Adlerian Psychology). Alfred Adler was a big fan of spreading useful psychological tips to the general public and so I post these notes here for your use.
Dr. Carlson made the points that — in his opinion — loneliness is not the same thing as depression, and that telling someone to “make a friend” just is not good enough. He offered a five-step approach to curing loneliness based upon Adlerian psychology and Buddhism (and his recent book Never Be Lonely Again: The Way Out of Emptiness, Isolation, and a Live Unfulfilled). He also believes that our increasing reliance on social media for companionship gives a false sense of connection while increasing loneliness.
While I am not Dr. Carlson, obviously his approach outlined below is similar enough to my existential/spiritual approach so I am comfortable posting his thoughts.
Five Life Tasks to Combat Loneliness in Baltimore Maryland:
1. Discover “Who am I?”
Some questions you might ask yourself include:
- What did you want to be when you were young?
- If you die, what do you want on your tombstone?
Dr. Carlson suggests meditation as a helpful technique towards this discovery.
Make 3-5 close friends that you talk with on a regular basis face-to-face. This might profitably be pursued by looking into what hobbies you find interesting and then finding people who share the interest. It might be pursued by looking to serve others (see #3 below).
3. Live in community.
By which he meant give back to some cause selflessly. He directs those needing companionship to stop looking for their own needs and serve other people’s needs (thereby taking care of their own loneliness needs indirectly.)
If you are feeling sorry for yourself… get up and bring your partner a cup of coffee in bed in the morning… Shift your paradigm to helping and focusing outwards instead of inwards in order to help loneliness.
4. Use your talents in meaningful work.
For those stuck in a dead-end job or blue collar shift work job — find meaning in what you do with the money you make. Find meaningful “work” outside of employment — such as coaching volleyball.
5. Live out your purpose in life.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Why are you here?
- Are you living it?
- Are you doing something everyday towards it?
There was a brief Q&A session at the end.
Q: What is the purpose of loneliness?
A: It’s different for different people. Could be to cover up something, to hide, revenge…
Q: What is love?
A: Love is the wish to make another happy. (A Dalai Lama paraphrased quote)
Dr. Carlson then taught the Metta Meditation — also known as the Loving Kindness Meditation. You start with yourself and then move outwards. You picture yourself or the person in your mind as you do this. You say or think “may I be peaceful, may I be safe, may I be free, may I be happy”.
- Then expand to family
- Then expand to friends
- Then expand to acquaintances
At the end of 2 weeks he says you will feel differently about the world.
I hope that his thoughts will be useful to people around the Baltimore Maryland area looking for help to end or stop loneliness and depression.