The hardest feeling is feeling alone.
we need interaction, a different kind of interaction
I don’t tend to make declarations, but here is one: the hardest feeling is feeling alone.
You will probably say: what about fear? Sadness? Rage? Jealousy?
Here is a method for you to check if I am right: try to sense - what is more difficult for you: when your child is afraid of a monster hiding underneath the bed? When she is in the middle of a tantrum? When he says 'it’s not fair! Why her and not me?' Or when she comes home and says that no one wanted to play with her at prescholl. again.
Feeling alone is the hardest feeling because Interaction, relationship, is a formative part of our lives. We are by definition part of an interaction, even when we are alone; there is always someone else there, someone significant in our lives, even if he or she is not right here, even if our relationship with them is terrible, even if they left a hole in us. We are always someone’s children, we have all originated from interaction, we all need Interaction, we need someone to be with us.
Feeling alone is so hard that most of us don’t allow ourselves to really experience it. Different addictions – to food, drugs, bad relationships – are an attempt to find refuge from this aloneness. The Information superhighway and the interpersonal relationships of our time – on Facebook, Tweeter, or Whatsapp – enable us to avoid being alone for even one split of a second.
But does it all obliterate loneliness? Does it make it go away? Not really. It anesthetizes, distances it for a moment, creates white noise and screening so we don’t see the abyss, so we don’t hear the silence. And then it slightly raises its head again, and we have to hurry up and take another dose of whatever it may be so we don’t feel that we're alone.
The few people who do feel loneliness describe it as a desert, as a deep hole, emptiness. Nothing resonates in the empty chambers of our heart. Loneliness is probably the feeling most resembling Death.
A small latching animal
The interesting thing about loneliness, though, is that it is rarely on its own. Other hard feelings such as fear, sadness, rage, and jealousy are painful. But they are particularly painful because loneliness is at their side, stuck without the ability to part. It has been there for many years, each and every moment.
Because when we were 8-months old, when we burst into tears at the sight of someone that provoked something inside of us (it was all unclear back then) they smiled awkwardly and told us: 'Don’t cry, It's only Uncle Simon!'.
And at the age of five, when we ran fast and fell down, we have been told: ‘I told you not to run!’ or ‘It's ok, it will pass soon enough’!
And at the age of ten, when we came home and said that someone called us fat, we have been told: ‘Don’t pay attention to them, they are stupid’, or ‘Maybe it is time for a diet…'.
And at the age of 16, when our heart was broken we didn’t tell anyone anymore. We knew that no one would listen, that there would be no one who could contain the pain. Because loneliness was already there, like a wallpaper, like a transparent screen.
Loneliness is like a small latching animal. The pain that has been experienced when we were children, the movement that has been stopped have left their scars. Chances are that they are still there, inside of us, holed up behind walls of defense that can only be approached carefully and gently.
But if we look closely, attached to that deep and ancient pain, we will be able to find that loneliness. From afar, they seem to be one, but in fact they are two, and they are both extremely aged and sad: the pain and the feeling of no one hearing, no one seeing, no one being there to say: "Yes, it hurts. It is sad. I am with you".
Searching for someone to blame is useless. Our parents, if they were even around, only wanted us not to hurt. “Nothing happened! Everything's fine!” were common phrases, and they truly wanted to believe that nothing happened, that it will go away soon.
But something did happen, and even if it has passed, even if the pain has faded or weakened or has been mixed with other things – it is still there, together with that loneliness.
So today, when we are all grownup and experience difficulty in our relationships, or are stuck in our careers, or have parenting challanges, or recurring migraines, or simply feel a sort of heaviness in our stomach or a lump in our throat and tears that come for no reason on random occasions, we can start getting closer.
We can start befriending; first of all with our walls of defense, with the internal criticism (what is wrong with me that I can’t hold on to a relationship? I failed my diet again...) with habits and addictions (so I’ll take a cigarette, or a chocolate, and at least I would feel better for now). Then slowly and very gently, we are able to get close to that pain, the pain no one has gotten close to in years, or perhaps ever; No one wanted to listen to it without trying to make it go away. And along with the movement, we will start dissipating the loneliness by its side.
This is how Focusing works. Focusing enables us to have a different kind of interaction, a healing interaction. That’s right, you can focus on your own, but the best way to cure the pain and loneliness is with another person. Because just like what had them locked together in the first place was (failed) interaction, what can relieve and cure them, what can allow the start of a gentle unweaving, growing deeper into a healing process, is interaction.
Even more than I believe in Focusing, I believe in interaction. Because the greatest gift we can give ourselves is a healing interaction with someone close. Someone to run with, and also to rest with. Someone to trust. Someone who listens. Someone who agrees to be there even when it hurts; that doesn’t run away, that doesn’t try to drive the pain away. Someone who agrees to be with us.