Category Archives: Relationships

Loneliness (Part 3)

For the last two weeks, I’ve been going over the topic of loneliness. In part 1, I talked about what loneliness is. In part 2, I went over some of our common unhealthy ways of dealing with loneliness. And finally, in part 3, I’ll be talking about how to deal with loneliness in a healthier way.

In this life, you will see that others have more of something than you do. It’s unavoidable. Get used to it. Just as there will always be someone who appears to have more money than you, there will always be someone who appears to have more people around them than you do. You might be scrolling down your social media feed and it seems like everyone else is in relationships, everyone else is having a good time with so many friends. Focusing on what you don’t have is not the way to go. That will only make you more upset and lonely. Instead, push yourself to be grateful with what you do have, even if you don’t have a single person in your life, and think positively that you will get the social connectedness you long for.

“But Dan, everyone is getting taken left and right. There’s less and less left for me.” Do not conform to this mindset of scarcity because it will only fill you up with more anxiety and loneliness. Instead, adopt a mindset of abundance. You’ve heard the term “plenty of fish in the sea,” right? That’s the way you have to look at it, for both friends and romantic partners.

Of course just thinking positively won’t get you a friend or a romantic partner. Just like making money, you still need to put yourself out there, take risks, and work on it. But it’s about thinking positively along the way.

Now let’s say you’ve built up an “empire” of social connectedness. Then, all of a sudden, you lose it all at once. This could be like you once had so many good friends in one city and then your family gets relocated to another city and you have to start back at zero. Or it could be like you once had the relationship of your dreams and then you guys break up. This could make you feel pretty darn lonely. Whether it has to do with money or social connections, it’s devastating to go from having everything to having nothing. But you have to move on and build it up again. Stop wasting time thinking about the good old days and what you had before. That’s a huge distraction. Instead, believe that you will build an even greater “empire.” And no matter how many times that “empire” may come crashing down, keep your head up and keep on building.

Getting excluded, misunderstood, and treated differently can also cause loneliness. Instead of jumping from community to community or person to person until you finally feel like you fit in and belong, deal with your inner acceptance issues first. Accept yourself and believe your differences make you beautiful.

Something doesn’t always have to happen in order for you to feel lonely. Sometimes you can just randomly feel lonely. And that’s ok. But remember, don’t look for a quick-fix solutions externally. Let yourself temporarily feel the difficult emotion and think positively all the way through.

The best cure for loneliness, though, is intimacy. It won’t matter how many people you have in your life if you have this kind of oneness with somebody or a higher being. When there’s intimacy, the other person really knows you, you don’t have to pretend to be someone else. Intimacy is a huge topic and I have way too much to say on it. So, in a separate series, I’ll cover the topic of intimacy.

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Loneliness (Part 2)

One of the most common traps many of us get into is looking for external solutions to fix our internal problems. So what’s the most common external solution people use to remove their inner loneliness? PEOPLE. People use people all the time to control their loneliness.

But like so many other external solutions, the fix is only temporary. Loneliness will come back. And if all you know is to latch onto people to take away your difficult feelings, that can turn into dependence on people. And you just cannot have healthy synergic social connections when your relationships are all based on dependence.

Some people choose to depend on a community of people. Dependence on this option could look like someone who just can’t stand being by himself and he just has to be out with friends all the time. Some people choose to depend on a romantic partner. Dependence on this option could look like someone who jumps from one relationship to another with hardly any break in between.

If you are desperate for people to be in your life in order to cover up your loneliness, that can cause even more problems. Here are some of the common problems that arise from desperation in this area. Just to get people, you are more likely to:

  • Overprioritize approval from others that you
  • Lie, make up stories, and pretend to be someone you are not, overexaggerate your successes
  • You are more likely to be perfectionistic about how pleasant you are around others
  • You are more likely to get very disappointed at others for their failure to readily be there for you
  • You are more likely to take advantage of very giving and caring people by unloading your sob stories with absolutely no intention to move forward from them
  • You are more likely to lack healthy boundaries with people and, because of that
  • You are more likely to overextend yourself for others while neglecting your own needs
  • You are more likely to look for community in all the wrong places
  • And hold onto unhealthy relationships

One of my favourite movies that depicts a lot of these problems with loneliness is “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

But not everyone uses people to remove their loneliness. Some people use substances to numb themselves, some people use work or entertainment to distract themselves, some people go to sleep and hope they wake up not feeling it anymore, and some people use unhealthy psychological strategies in their head to help them cope with their loneliness. Even though you’re not using people in these examples, I still would not recommend responding in these ways because they all have to do with running away from your difficult feelings.

If you’ve already developed a habit of running away from your loneliness, I know it’s going to be very hard to all of a sudden not do these things, but for your own mental health and emotional freedom, you have to let go of these temporary quick-fix solutions.

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Loneliness

One of the things I struggled most with in the past is loneliness. If you haven’t heard my story yet, you can watch my “Draw My Life” video here. I did all the wrong things when it came to dealing with loneliness. But through it all, I am now able to share my experience so that you guys don’t have to go through the same thing, making the same mistakes.

Just as it is a normal part of life to experience both happiness and sadness, it is a normal part of life, as social beings, to experience both a sense of social connectedness and a sense of social disconnectedness or loneliness. And if you are a highly sensitive person, you are going to feel these emotions much more intensely than the average person does. But no matter how intensely you feel these emotions, it does not mean that something is wrong with you. It means your emotions are working well.

But so many of us look at loneliness as a “bad” problem, a problem that should not exist at all. When we look at it like this, it only seems to make sense to remove this emotion right away. And that is what so many people do. That is what I used to do. When you remove it right away, although you return to a more comfortable emotional state more immediately, you will be denying yourself a greater long-term reward. That greater long-term reward is tolerance. This kind of strength can only be built up from continual exposure to a temporary pain that you’ll live through. Yes, you will live through the emotional experience of loneliness.

We all could use some extra strength some time in our lives, especially when we run into some very isolating events. My hope is to equip you guys with that extra strength. But before we do that, we have cut out some of our bad habits that hold us back from achieving that goal. So in my next post, I will go over some of the common unhealthy ways many of us deal with loneliness.

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Psychology of Utopia

All of us have a different vision of utopia. Why are they different? Well, I like the story of the blind men examining an elephant. Our understanding may be limited to the parts of the “elephant” that we’ve touched.

Let’s say one of those blind men is Ned flanders. Ned Flanders is a Christian. His utopia is called “heaven.” Heaven is all about abundance and freedom from missing the bulls-eye. Let’s bring Lisa Simpson in. She’s a feminist and a vegan. Her utopia is one of gender equality and the ethical treatment of animals. Let’s bring Brian Griffin in. He’s an atheist whose utopian world has no religion or unscientific thinking. And finally, Stewie Griffin. His utopia is one of world domination, where he is the ruler over all people.

When these characters look at the world that they live in, they notice that the actual state of the world falls pretty far below their vision of utopia. They see all the laws, systems, and all kinds of obstacles that hinder the world from reaching their own vision of utopia. No matter who you are, this gap causes an unpleasant feeling. It can even bring up emotions of anger.

So let’s say all these characters are a bit disgruntled because of the gap that they sense. Naturally, you want to get rid of this bad feeling as soon as you can, right? So what many people do, which is actually not the healthiest thing for you to do in the long-run, is to try to immediately close this gap. As I have already explained in my post on perfectionism, this is a mechanism of escape. And the more you escape again and again from this emotion that is a normal part of life, you will forego the opportunity to build up your tolerance for this difficult feeling.

Another thing that you might be doing in attempt to close your own gap is mocking, shaming, and criticizing others who are going against your vision of utopia. While this might work, I assure you that this strategy is not very effective. As a professional motivational speaker, I can say that positivity motivates people much more effectively. Mocking, shaming, and criticizing others only isolates you and hurts others.

So what do you do instead?

Think positively and defer your gratification. Believe that everything will be ok. Let go of control and stop thinking that it’s all on you to make the world a better place.

I do have something to say to some Christians, though. Don’t think so negatively about our values being opposed and redefined. It was never these values on their own that made the biggest change in people’s hearts anyway. It was Jesus’ extravagant love. So give more of that extravagant love instead. And right now is not the time for you to give your input. Ask yourself, “where was I when the gay community felt rejected?” “Was I there to show them love?” If not, and if the gay community is not asking for your input, it’s definitely not the time to share your values in their time of celebration.

Whether you’re a theist or an atheist, whether you’re a feminist or vegan or whatever, don’t be a jerk. Think positively and be nice to others.

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Thinking Positively About Others

When you keep on getting let down by others again and again, your mind will want to find a reason why this keeps on happening. As mentioned in my last post, the practice of coming up with a reason to settle one’s anxiety in this area of uncertainty is called rationalization. There are many reasons one can come up with, all of which are impossible to prove, but here’s one that works well:

“All of us are imperfect and in the process of becoming better people. I notice this area of imperfection more because my excellence in this area causes me to have higher standards. I understand that others may have excellence in other areas. There is no better or worse, just different. Rather than expecting others to be like me, I will simply be true to myself and continue to meet my high standards in my own unique area of excellence.”

This kind of rationalization is good for you because it not only gives you a reason, but it is also hopeful for the future, it celebrates our individual differences, it gives others and yourself grace, and it encourages you to continue to do the “right” thing. So that’s positive rationalization.

Next, when we get hurt by others, we are more vulnerable to making negative judgments about others and this can become a dangerous pattern. The challenge is to think positively about others, even when you get hurt. Again, there are many judgments one can come up with, all of which are impossible to prove, but here’s one that works well:

Choose to believe that your wrongdoers have incredible value and worth. Choose to look at them as masterpieces who just don’t happen to be everyone’s cup of tea, like Jackson Pollock’s paintings. Let me go even more extreme. What is the most common thing that people value so much that they would give up everything for it, that they would even die for it? It’s your own child. When you think about someone who’s wronged you, try to think about them as a beloved child of someone very important.

“But Daniel, I know their parents and they’re not very important people.”

And as long as you think like this, you will limit your positivity.

But what if you chose to stretch your imagination as far as thinking that they are beloved children of a living spiritual entity of utmost importance. And that this higher power values them so much that He died for them. Sounds a bit crazy because it’s way too ridiculously positive, right? But that is what I choose to believe. And though it’s not easy, it’s been amazing!

What you choose to believe about others, whether it is based on measurable evidence or not, will affect your love, respect, grace, and openness toward others.

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