Christmas is fast approaching, and there is nothing like the holiday season to force us to confront our sense of belonging and our connection to other people. If we are not as connected as we would like to be, Christmas can be a lonely time.
The need to love and be loved, to belong and feel connected to others, is the strongest of the basic psychological needs. When we feel unloved and alone, we are often sad. Some people may even feel depressed, especially this time of year.
Our need to belong is deeply connected to our evolutionary history and is closely linked to our survival. Despite how fundamental our need for human love and connection is, we vary on how much connection we need.
Some people are content with only a few people in their lives while others enjoy a very active social life.
Sometimes we confuse what is right for us, with what we think is “normal.” There is no right amount of connection so let go of any pre- conceived ideas you have about how many people you “should” have in your life and focus on what seems right for you.
However, if you feel lonely and disconnected, it is safe to say you have too little connection to meet your emotional needs.
So what does this mean to those who find themselves alone at Christmas?
Being alone at Christmas, either because of separation, divorce, estrangement, or distance is merely a fact. The meaning we attach to this fact is what is significant.
Someone who thinks an absence of family or a partner means they are unlovable, a loser, or worthless, and/or that they are always going to be alone is going to feel far worse than someone whose belief is more realistic.
If someone believes “This is only my circumstance at the moment. It is temporary and in no way determines my worthiness,” they will be better equipped to deal with a Christmas spent alone.
Likewise, a person who exaggerates their situation by telling themselves, “I’m all alone, I have no one who loves me, no one who cares about me,” is going to feel far worse than the person who tells themselves, “I may not have a partner right now, and my family may be hundreds of miles away, but I still have a few good friends and people at work who care about me .”
If you find yourself not as connected this year as you would like to be, it is possible to reach out to people.
Few of us are completely alone although it’s true that many of us aren’t as connected as we would like to be. Too often we feel alone because we put too much emphasis on having a partner in our lives, or at Christmas time, too much emphasis on having a loving, supportive nuclear family. Take a look around you. There are many ways to belong and connect with others.
We can connect with people at work. We can connect through a church or friends, or just from being a part of the community and engaging in community activities.
We can connect through social causes that we believe in, and through volunteer work to make the community and the world a better place. We can connect by offering to go for coffee with someone or by phoning a neglected friend or family member.
It will help to ease your feelings of aloneness if you focus on ways you are connected rather than focusing on the ways you are not. Often our feelings of disconnection come from our thoughts more than from reality. If you tell yourself “no one likes me, I don’t fit in,” you are going to feel more alone than someone who tells themselves that they are a likeable, worthy person.
If you want to feel more connected but lack friendships in your life, the easiest way to make a friend is to focus on people you already know. It’s far easier to deepen an acquaintance or casual relationship, or re-establish an old, neglected relationship than it is to meet a complete stranger. Look around you. People are everywhere. Reach out, extend an invitation, and focus on being connected with people in the moment. Let go of “needing” a partner and focus on enjoying those around you. Work on your negative self-talk, particularly if you know that you fear and expect to be rejected.
For those of you who are connected, look around and see who may be struggling this season. As Ronald Reagan said, “You can’t help everyone but everyone can help someone.”
What a lovely thought this holiday season.
If you are struggling with feeling disconnected and alone, seek out a counsellor to assist you in making the changes that are necessary, both in your thoughts and in your behaviour, so that you can appreciate what you may already have, while developing relationships that have meaning for you.