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Dealing with Loneliness

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I've read others' posts on depression and other psychological conditions, but I have yet to read any commentary or these about loneliness. This is a topic that seems somewhat untouched (by my searches so far), and I'm curious to know if anyone else deals with it, and what countermeasures they employ in defeating it.

Rand stated that to understand reality fully, one must first define one's terms, so I'll do so in hopes that either I'm wrong about the condition, or that I'm experiencing a moral lapse by paying attention to its true irrational cause. If I were to define lonliness, I would say that it was the condition resulting from the lack of an accessible person with whom to identify, or the disenfranchisement that comes from being "different" from (what can seem like) everyone else.

This can go for "platonic" relationships, or "romantic" ones.

I understand and cherish the value of individuality, and would never compromise that value merely for companionship. I would never change the principles I hold dear just to have a best friend, or an affectionate lover.

Yet the urge remains, and at times it's so strong (often painfully) I find myself having to check my premises and recite my values to myself internally just to prevent myself from making what could be a huge mistake in judgement. I'm glad I have reason and logic within me, otherwise I'm sure I'd be absolutely miserable.

Regarding love, I know that the desire to be loved does not obligate another, nor justify seeking their love and admiration ... but what does one do with that desire? I'm not talking about sex per se, but the desire for a fundamental, affirming personal connection, and some sense of validation, beyond the knowledge that there are a few scattered like-minded individuals out there on the internet. :confused: (Yes, I'm very grateful there are people like me out there. I have enjoyed interacting with this community.)

I can imagine that figures like Roark and Galt could have lived their entire lives just fine without their respective Dominiques, Dagnies, and Reardens ... but how much more were their accomplishments sweetened, their defeats softened, by having others there who could at least say "yes, I understand what you're experiencing." What is an ambitiously rational and logical person to do with the desire for such friends or lovers?

Or is this the psychology of a second-hander to "need" friendly and loving companionship?

I'll appreciate any insight or leads to appropriate reading material or other resources ... without getting too personal (okay more personal), this is a demon that, as an Objectivist/student-of-Objectivism, I need to exorcise.

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I identify with your current state. I felt very much the same way for quite a while after (and always before) discovering Objectivism.

Lonliness is an emotion that expresses a desire for another person. It can be satisfied one of two ways: either find the person you feel you desire, or figure out what idea is making you feel the desire, and change it. Of course, you should find out what motivates that desire anyway before you decide whether to act upon it.

I think the pain you are experiencing is caused by second-handedness. Do you feel secure and happy while alone? Or do you feel that you need someone else in order for you to feel secure and happy (i.e. loneliness)? If the latter, that is second-handedness.

Second-handed behaviour is very common, and it is not unlikely that you will have integrated bad ideas and coping strategies that depend on the existence, support, and/or approval of others, without ever having questioned them, or even having noticed them. Almost everyone accepts some of them. They will likely have slipped right under your nose.

Even if you consciously recognise the validity of individualism, it can take much more than that recognition to evict any and all the second-handed notions from your personality. The alternatives of individuality versus second-handedness lie near the very core of man's personality. Consequently, any long-ago accepted second-handed ideas will be hard to detect and uproot, and may still affect you even when you believe you've accepted individuality as the good and true 100 percent.

My advice is simply this: persist with what you are already doing, validate and integrate the true principles to replace the false ones. Be vigilant to the fact that there is always an idea behind any feelings you are having and that you must discover them.

I might post more later.

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I have not been able to find the reference I want, so this one I got from the Lexicon will have to do for now:

"Loneliness... is the experience of those who have something to offer. The emotion that drives conformists to "belong" is not loneliness but fear." (Ayn Rand, in "The New Left", Essay: The Comprachicos")

Edited, to add the following:

In "Letters of Ayn Rand", she writes to a "Mr. Leob" (Ch. 4 'Return to Hollywood'):

"...most people I met bored me... how can one meet interesting people. I knew such people existed... I am... able to exist quite happily in solitude, and I had Frank,... but I do like people --- when they are really human beings...The practical steps... how to go about meeting the right people..."

She then goes on to make some suggestions.

Edited by softwareNerd
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This is also something I have struggled with synthlord. It seems that rational intelligent people in my age group (early twenties) are hard to come by. Most people in my area pursue mindless activities on weekends etc (pub, club, drink alot). This is not my idea of fun and goes against my values. It seems social opportunities with "real human beings" are quite limited.

I would also appreciate anymore ideas/thoughts on this subject.

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Loneliness is NOT repeat NOT NOT NOT NOT second-handedness.

A second-hander is not capable of experiencing loneliness. What he feels when he is alone is not that sad, wistful craving, but an abject terror; terror of having to face reality. It is not people he craves (he fears them too, and their strange power to deal with that which he cannot), but escape from reality.

True loneliness is a desire to witness/experience the presence of virtue and capability in another person. To be, for once, not the mover, but the one moved. It is the mental and spiritual refreshment of knowing that there is something out there in the world that is WORTH all this WORK.

It is not GUILT you should experience when you feel an intense craving to see someone else come to share your pinnacle with you! The difference between second and first-handers is not that first-handers feel no desire for other people whatsoever, it is that first-handers want to look UP to them, not DOWN at them.

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I appreciate all your responses ... they are insightful and give me plenty to think about.

I especially appreciate your comments, JMeganSnow. The emotional longing is a tough thing to put into perspective, and hard thing for a guy like me to admit. I can usually snap out of it by putting my mind to something (I write music, draw, and study whatever interests me at the time, yell at Fox News a lot :confused:). I sometimes laugh it off, remembering Charles Grodin from The Lonely Guy, a man so patheticly alone his best friend is a plant that he carries with him constantly.

It got a little confusing for me, though, because I knew I wanted a personal connection and was saddened to be without one, yet when I asked myself if I was happy, all I could reply was "Yes!" There seemed a contradiction where there is none.

I have a productive, challenging job in an industry that Ihave always loved. I get to be creative and disciplined, and I'm the only person at my business who does what I do, so I've got that whole uniqueness thing going for me. I'm not fabulously wealthy (yet), but who cares? I love my life, and love living it.

I just want to share it.

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It got a little confusing for me, though, because I knew I wanted a personal connection and was saddened to be without one, yet when I asked myself if I was happy, all I could reply was "Yes!" There seemed a contradiction where there is none.

In my own life there is a correlation between my happiness and loneliness. The happier I am the more lonely I feel. It sometimes feels like physical pain. Strange, isn't it?

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I have a productive, challenging job in an industry that Ihave always loved. I get to be creative and disciplined, and I'm the only person at my business who does what I do, so I've got that whole uniqueness thing going for me. I'm not fabulously wealthy (yet), but who cares? I love my life, and love living it.

I just want to share it.

Precisely. Loneliness of this kind isn't pathetic, it's the knowledge that any intelligent person has that things could be better. It can be intensely frustrating because you can't do anything to make someone else be worth your while. You can only hope that someone out there will not default on the moral value which is their life.

The urge to create a perfect person to spend one's life with is reflected in literature and legend, even. (Pygmalion, anyone?) It isn't that you can't enjoy your life without someone else, it's that having someone else can add so much MORE value and enjoyment, and you know it. No selfish person wants to settle for second-best.

I've often had people tell me that I should make more of an effort to be social, to go out and meet people, if I don't want to be lonely, but what usually happens is that I go out hoping to find people that are bright, intelligent, gentle, welcoming . . . and instead they are dull, foolish, mean and awkward. So in order to enjoy myself in company I have to ignore the people around me. It's exhausting.

I would like, just once, to go out somewhere and just have a good time. To have good directions, to have people arrive on time and have thought ahead as to what they want to do, to remember all the necessary bits of social discourse like making introductions and having a conversation topic to start things rolling.

Conventions of etiquette exist for a reason.

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Loneliness is NOT repeat NOT NOT NOT NOT second-handedness.

True loneliness is a desire to witness/experience the presence of virtue and capability in another person.  To be, for once, not the mover, but the one moved.  It is the mental and spiritual refreshment of knowing that there is something out there in the world that is WORTH all this WORK.
First of all, I want to backtrack on my previous definition of "lonliness".

The question is this: Is loneliness a desire for companionship, or the pain of not having it? They are two different things (and one may lead to another).

I can desire a million dollars, for instance; such a thing would be a great enhancement to my life. But I feel no negative emotion such as sadness - whistful or otherwise - from not having it.

I submit that loneliness is the pain of not having someone.

A second-hander is not capable of experiencing loneliness.  What he feels when he is alone is not that sad, wistful craving, but an abject terror; terror of having to face reality.  It is not people he craves (he fears them too, and their strange power to deal with that which he cannot), but escape from reality.

There are degrees of second-handedness, a fact you seem to be ignoring here.

I think a first-hander can and should desire (NOT crave) friendship and companionship, just as he can and should desire art to inspire him. Both are an enhancement to his existence, but not a requirement. Hence, he should not feel loneliness, but a desire for companionship.

I said that loneliness is likely to be caused by second-handedness, because such a person feels that they can't move foward without having someone, anyone other than themselves, recognise their value. I know that from experience in having nobody value me and feeling lonely because of it. I no longer experience loneliness, but I still value (act to gain and keep) other people with whom I can be moved by, as you put it.

EDIT: Fixed grammar.

Edited by iouswuoibev
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Um, what's the difference between desire and craving? Intensity?

Feeling pain from not having something you want (someone whose company you readily enjoy) is likely the result of frequent disappointments when one has attempted to seek such a benefit, which is also first-handed, as you are basing things off your own experiences.

When it has become your experience that you are not going to find anyone that meets your standards, it is quite natural to feel lonely. Acknowledging loneliness does not mean that you cannot continue without companionship, merely that you expect that you will have to, and wish that you did not.

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Um, what's the difference between desire and craving?  Intensity?

I had to think on this a bit. I've reached the conclusion that yes, there is a difference in intensity, but that is not the essential characteristic. Craving is an emotion you experience towards something that you regard as being impossible to live without (EDIT: live qua man, not just be alive), AND which you lack. If you crave something, you are necessarily mentally stifled to some degree. A craving can be felt towards something that meets your immediate survival needs, such as food; towards things based on legitimate long-term values, such as your work; and towards things you don't need or can harm you, such as eating excessive, fatty food or having sex with rhinos.

An obsession is a sub-category of a craving. It is a craving delimited to those demands of the mind and soul. In other words, obsession is felt towards things that don't necessarily meet the survival of your physical body, but bolster your self-concept and meet your (chosen) needs as a conceptual being. The concept of obsession frequently carries the connotation of being something irrational, but this is the result of common and erronous philosophy among people (hence, most obsessions you encounter will be irrational) rather than a negativeness existing in the definition itself.

By these definitions, I think it is moral to desire companionship (for the right reasons) but I don't see any valid reasons to feel a craving (obsession) for it.

Edited by iouswuoibev
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I'm curious to know if anyone else deals with it, and what countermeasures they employ in defeating it.

When not at school, I don't really socialize; I workout for a few hours, read books, study my vocab, dance to music, daydream, and work on my creativity...go to bed, wake up, rinse and repeat.

Loneliness? It used to strike me but not anymore, and I'm almost completely happy with where I am in terms of social relationships, or lack thereof. :D

I know that the desire to be loved does not obligate another, nor justify seeking their love and admiration ... but what does one do with that desire?

*Cough*narcissism*Cough* But honestly, how interest are you in your self? How interested are you in setting personal goals, whether minute or grand, and accomplishing them? Do you consistently challenge yourself mentally and physically?

So my answer to this question:

What is an ambitiously rational and logical person to do with the desire for such friends or lovers?

is to turn that desire inward.

Also, if you're wondering if there are other humans out there and you're occasionally feeling the need to connect with someone to express thoughts, feelings, etc., try "opening up" to someone and see what happens. Obviously you don't spill all your deep philosophical thoughts on him at one time but gradually. Personally, I don't mind talking to other individuals who's opinions I am diametrically opposed to so long as they are able to hold an intelligent conversation...plus I always enjoy finding out why people believe what they believe.

Anyhow, sorry if it doesn't help, but those are just some ideas that have worked for me.

Hope all goes well and have fun :thumbsup:!

Peace

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  • 3 weeks later...
Rand stated that to understand reality fully, one must first define one's terms [...]

Even though I think you already understand the issue, it might be helpful to clarify this statement above. The main steps in fully understanding reality are: sense-perception, induction to form concepts and principles, and integration (through deduction and reduction, for example, as well as further induction) -- of all such knowledge, without contradiction.

One function of definitions is to help us answer the crucial question, "What do you mean by that?" The meaning of a concept is its referents. However, referents are often too numerous to name individually, so we use definitions to tell ourselves -- and others -- essentially what we are referring to. Man? He is an animal, a certain kind of animal, the one that can reason.

A definition -- by genus and differentia -- also helps us make sure we have integrated a concept with other knowledge. The genus does that by saying, for example, what kind of thing a man is: the animal kind of thing.

What is an ambitiously rational and logical person to do with the desire for such friends or lovers?

What is one to do? Take the same actions you would take to achieve any of your other highest personal values. My three highest personal values are, in order: My work, my friends, and my favorite leisure (recreational) activity.

For each, I:

(1) Define my goal (making sure I know what I mean by work, friendship, and recreation).

(2) Develop an action-plan for achieving those goals (values -- that which we act to gain and keep).

(3) Take action.

Consider an example. At one point in my life I was without a romantic relationship. I am heterosexual, so I was looking for a suitable woman. At that particular time, I had few social contacts and I wasn't working. I asked myself: Where do women go, that is, the kind of women I might be interested in, at least for a provisional affair?

I concentrated on two main possibilities: cooking classes and physical fitness classes. I knew nothing about cooking (not even the simple skill of how to efficiently mix water and flour) and, though I was fit, I had no particular knowledge or skills in that area.

In the cooking class, there were 30 women and two men. The other man was gay. Heaven! I had the pleasure of being around women -- whom I like as such even when I don't like some individually -- and ended up with a temporary affair, not with any of the students but with the instructor, who was very independent and self-motivated.

I prize physical fitness. So, physical fitness classes were a great place to meet outgoing, ambitious, and physically attractive women. We had at least that in common and could at least talk about something to begin with. Several adventures followed from that.

Friendship -- which is the experience of spending time with another self, in whatever degree -- is a value, and like all values it must be pursued. Otherwise it is just a wish.

Keep in mind (1) there are many different degrees of friendship, and (2) there can be narrow, specialized friends. Examples of the former can range from someone who shares almost all your actual values (no matter what he or she says) to someone you meet casually at a bus stop five days a week and like talking to for a few minutes because of that person's positive sense of life.

An example of a specialized friend is a leisure-activity friend (stamp-collecting, bowling, or mountain-climbing) with whom you may not share a whole lot more. Read Facets of Ayn Rand. There you will see Mary Ann Sures going on shopping trips with Frank O'Connor, and Ayn Rand going to stamp-collecting conventions with Charles Sures. (The Sures and O'Connors were general friends too, but they split off occasionally for specialized interests not shared by their own spouse.)

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  • 2 years later...

For a period of about 6-8 months this year, I became a complete recluse and did not talk to anybody, with very few exceptions. The situation broke me down psychologically, reducing me to a precarious state of existence, if there ever was one.

I'm not quite sure what type of long-term damage, if any, I've caused to my psychological state. Since returning to reality, I've read journals which I wrote during that period, things I have very little recollection of. It was quite scary to open a notepad and see line after line of unintelligible, manic scribble. I don't think it would be unfair to say that I was "insane", to one degree or another. How much so would be something someone else would be better able to judge, a professional maybe (Although I've come to resent all psychiatrists)

Our of necessity, or maybe as just a natural result of being alone, I did a great deal of introspection, the kind that you hear about sometimes, and gained from it an immensely greater understanding of myself and of existence. I thought intensely and deeply about concepts, to differentiate and integrate my ideas, more-so than I'd ever done before. It was during that time when I discovered Objectivism. I'm not quite sure if this was good for me overall, or not. I could have mulled through my entire life without gaining the sort of understanding I feel I have now. Right now I feel as though I have the tools necessary to do whatever I want in life. Despite of all of this, there is still a level of apprehension that I will return to my former state. I know I'm capable of it, because I lived it. It could just be that, because I was so deteriorated, now that I think I've improved, it's merely me becoming "normal". And that is a great achievement in and of itself. I like to think I gained something extra from that experience, a perspective and knowledge that most others don't have, but the rational (and negative) voice in my head says otherwise.

My road back to society has been slow and arduous. To this very day, I would say that I do not have a single friend. There are people who used to be my friends, but my associations with them have all but vanished. The weird thing thing is, I don't care. I'm not sure if this is a good sign or bad sign. But this thread got me thinking about it.

Should I be lonely? Individuality is important and necessary, but so to is friendship, isn't it? Perhaps I've gotten so used to being a loner that I don't remember what I'm missing, or maybe I remember what life was like before, and I prefer the company of my own mind. The more I continue to improve, the more I realize just how deteriorated my mind was. It could be that I'm over-estimating my psychological improvement, and that I'm still in great need of many things that have alluded me.

Edited by avampirist
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I'm certainly no expert on mental health, but I suffered through a bout of depression brought on by post traumatic stress disorder several years ago, so I can tell you about my experience and perhaps you may gain something from it??

Fortunately, I had a doctor and therapist that I liked and trusted (I probably just got lucky) and between therapy and prescription drugs, I found my way out of that dark place and have never looked back. Learning about Objectivism earlier this year has certainly helped propel me even farther into a healthy mindset, but I was feeling pretty good even before then.

Anyway, I firmly believe that once you've been depressed or stressed long enough and intensely enough, your body becomes "used to" or incapable of producing enough of the brain chemicals that allow one to be happy or feel pleasure. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serotonin I think this is why prescription drugs were so effective for me. Granted, if you only take the drugs and do not improve the way you view the world (through therapy, for example) then I think you will eventually slip back into old ways; however, I sincerely believe that had I known about O'ism when I was robbed, I wouldn't have allowed myself to slip into such a dark depression.

I think you're on the right track, but it sounds like you may need a little assistance. Maybe therapy and/or prescription drugs may be a useful tool for you? I don't know. Perhaps you could do some research online and/or ask a trusted physician for a referral to a psychiatrist who would actually be of value to you? Or maybe you could find some good self-help books out there that would be of benefit to you? Either way, keep reading and learning about Objectivism, because I certainly think knowledge of it makes for a healthy mental and emotional state.

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I took meds for a brief period about two years ago, and I think it actually played a large part in destroying me, not helping me. The meds made me feel better, but they completely ruined my memory(my ability to think). We all know what not thinking does. That resulted in me screwing up at work. Ultimately I lost my job and that led to further depression, which led to isolation, which led to further depression, etc.

I know about serotonin and dopamine. I was/am one of those people who produce less than the desired level. In fact, I was so baron of serotonin for most of my life that when I went through that period of introspection - when I discovered objectivism and realized what I had to do to be happy - the happiness I experienced as a result was revelatory to me. I had a "spiritual" experience (I took steps in my life which were more conducive to increasing my serotonin levels). When, all of a sudden, my serotonin levels were normal, it was a completely revelatory experience to me. "This is feeling described by religious people" I thought.

It was as if, for the first time, I realized what "happy" was. I suddenly realized how everyone feels they're thinking normally, clearly, without anxiety. The concept of happiness had alluded me. I realized that depression wasn't my life, just a part of it. And it didn't have to be.

I'm not interested in seeing any therapists again. I think the whole process of going to a therapist is negative. It serves to confirm in your mind that you need a therapist. "I'm so fucked, I have to see a therapist" etc. I want to avoid that self-fulfilling prophecy. Besides, I've learned more from psychology from Rand than I feel I will ever learn from a psychiatrist.

My problem is that I require an inordinate about of effort in order to maintain a normal level of happiness. since my previous sense of life was as bad as it gets, I'm in danger of slipping into old habits, old patterns of thinking. If I don't get enough sleep, I feel like shit. If I'm not physically healthy, I feel like shit. If I think negatively at all about my life, I fall back into depression.

Now more than ever, I know that to win in life I have to base my actions on what my mind knows, not on how I feel. But it is like asking a person not to flinch when their arm is being cut off. It's easy to ignore your mind when you feel that way. It is debilitating. So I will have to make an extreme effort to remember what my mind knows in those instances where I'm more apt to forget. My life depends on it.

Today is one of those days where I doubt my ability to survive.

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Besides, I've learned more from psychology from Rand than I feel I will ever learn from a psychiatrist.

I completely agree!

It sounds as though you know what you need to do to become more healthy. Are you just having trouble staying motivated to do those things?

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Interesting. See what Aristotle has to say about akratia (Nicomachean Ethics).

Bob Kolker

Uh, okay. I'll be sure to add that to my mile-long reading list. In the meantime, what's your point?

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Well I'm battling with life-long habits. I'm still have trouble coping with normal daily tasks. My confidence isn't as good as it could be. My life is being drastically transformed, but it will take a while. Despite that fact, I'm trying not to use it as an excuse to procrastinate with life. I hate phrases like, "Rome wasn't built in a day." To that I can respond with, "A big fucking part of Rome was built each day".

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  • 1 year later...

*** Mod's note: Merged with an existing topic. - sN ***

 

 

I love being alone – it enriches my life, makes me feel positive, allows me to control the things I like to do and lets me de clutter and reflect ….

But then at times I feel loneliness – actually very frequently. I have family around me (boyfriend & son) and neighbors as well as many people I could reach out to if I wanted to but I don’t. I believe I am inflicting loneliness on myself due to a low self esteem. I have never been able to build up strong lasting friendships due to a fear of inner rejection I believe. I build up bonds with animals & children with no problems but they don’t hurt or judge me….

I often hear people say that I am a lovely person and have people reach out to me but at a certain stage I seem to build up a wall which drives the other person away. If I have problems or want to do something the last thing I will ever do is share it with someone else as I do not want to be a burden to anyone. I will never ever ask for help …

I feel like a social retard and will avoid situations which will bring me in contact with other people…what I am afraid of I don’t know. It is at such a stupid stage that when I open my front door to go somewhere but hear neighbors outside I will quietly close the door again to avoid conversation.

I hate not knowing what to say as well as the awkward silences that you feel have to be filled so easiest is to avoid it all together. I am terrified to approach people in case they think ‘oh my god’ - I don’t want to push myself on someone who doesn’t want to talk to me.

I think I have always been like this…even at primary school I used to cry daily I had no friends when at the same time the doorbell used to go at least 2 times a day with different kids asking if I wanted to play. In high school it was the same…I was the fun outgoing popular girl that got asked to all the parties and events but always felt not good enough or inferior to all others at school. I could get love letters daily and be asked out by guys and still feel absurdly ugly and unwanted.

I guess I always put others first and always will… I don’t want them ever to be disappointed by me or feel let down or think badly of me so I reject them.

Coming to this conclusion is somewhat refreshing but it in no way changes it… how can I change and let people in? How can I be a good friend? How can I be something I have not been my whole life and where do I find this wonderful thing called confidence?

There are times when I think do I really need someone in my life? And I believe mostly that I don’t but then having a feeling of loneliness a lot of the time would prove otherwise.
So there is a difference….being alone is something you can chose to be but loneliness is something that you feel…if I had to sum up loneliness in words it would be: abandonment, rejection, depression, insecurity, anxiety, hopelessness, unworthiness, meaninglessness

Due to my self loathing I get’s bouts of depression and have now been taking anti-depressants for 2 years but I am now coming to the conclusion that these are making things worse. They are completely blocking my natural human emotions – things that used to move me don’t anymore – I can’t remember the last time I really laughed whilst being on these tablets and feeling true joy. So although they are suppressing the feelings of depression I have come to realize over the last year that they are suppressing all emotions. This only helps strengthen my not building relationships and avoiding them.

I have written this all down to get it off my chest…many times you hear once you get it out you feel better at the moment I don’t and although I feel like crying (which I normally would) my emotions are held back due to the drugs.

Does anyone have words of wisdom or knows a way to give me a good kick up the backside to get me moving into the right direction?

Edited by softwareNerd
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Well, I don't know about words of wisdom, but the best cure I've found for loneliness is to get interested in stuff. Once you have mutual values that you can share with other people--hobbies, work, appreciation of music, whatever--it's much easier to get along with people AND to find people to get along with. It's sort of like the "if you build it, the will come" idea.

Also, when you're busy with stuff, you don't so much notice when there aren't people around.

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