Using Loneliness As A Path To Happiness
It’s kind of useful every once in a while to remember that these industries seek to control us and keep us lonely so we’ll buy their stuff, even if it is just a magazine. Way back in 1944 Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) wrote in the intro to the Bhagavad Gita (the Gospel of Hinduism):
The false, and historically, aberrant and heretical doctrines are now systematically taught in our schools and repeated day in day out by those anonymous writers of advertising copy who, more than any other teachers, provide European and American adults with their current philosophy of life.
Even though advertising was in its infancy, Huxley took note of how insidious, manipulative, and accepted ads are. Since that time things have gotten much worse. In 1966, when professor Timothy Leary was launching himself as a psychedelic visionary, a media savvy friend gave him some advice:
The key to your work is advertising. You’re promoting a product. The new and improved accelerated brain. You must use the most current tactics for arousing consumer interest. Associate LSD with all the good things that the brain can produce—beauty, fun, philosophic wonder, religious revelation, increased intelligence, mystical romance. Word of mouth from satisfied consumers will help, but get your rock and roll friends to write jingles about the brain.
If you look at the emotional tactics companies use to get us to eat their food products, to use diet systems, and to take more drugs, it involves all of these strategies. Celebrities are often contracted for TV and print ads because they’re beautiful, fun, sexy, romantic. And even more important, in most people’s minds,al celebrities aren’t lonely. This perception channels into our loneliness and enforces isolation, procrastination, bad habits/addictions, compulsions, and negative beliefs about ourselves. This is a devastating cycle for us, but very profitable for the food, diet, and drug industries.
Going for the emotions has gotten more sophisticated. In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes:
Do you regularly ingest any substance, controlled or otherwise, whose aim is the alleviation of depression, anxiety, etc.? I offer the following experience:
I once worked as a writer for a big New York ad agency. Our boss used to tell us: Invent a disease. Come up with the disease, he said and we can sell the cure.
Attention Deficit Disorder, Seasonal Affect Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder. These aren’t diseases; they’re marketing ploys. Doctors didn’t discover them, copywriters did. Marketing departments did. Drug companies did.
Depression and anxiety may be real. But they can also be Resistance.
When we drug ourselves to blot out our soul’s call, we are being good Americans and exemplary consumers. We’re doing exactly what TV commercials and pop materialist culture have been brainwashing us to do from birth. Instead of applying self-knowledge, self discipline, delayed gratification, and hard work, we simply consume a product.
- Write down the foods, diet products, drugs (OTC, prescription or recreational) that you are consuming.
One of the purposes of Death by Supermarket was to point out how much we are manipulated by fear, which drives us to consume foods, diet products that damage the mind, body, and spirit. When food and diets fail to make us less lonely, drug companies hammer in the fear of disease and death to get people to take drugs. They have now created brand recognition by abbreviating diseases and conditions into acronyms and then weaving them into the fabric of our lives.
- Write down any disease acronyms that you have begun to identify with, and the drugs associated with those disease acronyms. Here is a complete list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_acronyms_for_diseases_and_disorders.
Advertising has one goal and one goal only: To cause us to reach outward to soothe the pain of loneliness. Outwardness is loneliness. Instead of being manipulated wouldn’t it be neat to actually have some control and not be led around by a sense of loneliness?
Face-Off With Loneliness
Think about how disconnected you feel when you feel lonely. The next time you feel lonely, walk into any crowded room and ask yourself, “Is there anyone else in this room who feels lonely?” A lot of people. Everyone has lonely periods. Loneliness can serve a noble purpose in your life if you let it. The first thing you need to understand is why you’re lonely. I believe that most of our reasons are false. A man recently told me, “No one likes me. I’ve lived in LA for ten years and I have no friends.” Seriously? Well, I’m a new friend and I have called him and welcomed him as a friend, so saying he has no friends isn’t really the truth. My point is that the reasons you think you are lonely are probably not the real reasons you are lonely.
- Write down all the reasons you think you are lonely.
Some of The Real Reasons People are Lonely
- Physically being alone (isolation)
- Bad habits/addictions
- Negative self-beliefs
Physically Being Alone
I am an expert on this because my profession requires endless hours of being alone. People who work at home, even if they’re on the phone a lot can be lonely. New mothers can be lonely. People who are bedridden with illnesses or handicaps can be lonely. There are many reasons people end up physically alone. My friend, Harvard shrink Srini PIllay, writes about research done on prisoners in solitary confinement in his book Life Unlocked:
The effects of isolation were discovered to be profound. Being alone has a dramatic impact on both the psyche (increasing the incidence of depression, anxiety, hallucinations, claustrophobia, and an impaired ability to think and concentrate) and on the body (impairing visions, hearing, and the immune system). Being around other people provides your brain with feedback that stimulates your development. If you subscribe to the use-it-or-lose-it principle, imagine what you are losing when you have no input from others, your brain has no material to simulate its growth. Isolation shrinks vital parts of the human brain and, by inference, human existence, too.
If you’re like me and your work causes you to spend days alone, it may feel a little grim to read the effects of solitary confinement. But it’s not all that terrible if you’re choosing to be alone so you can work. By being alone I’ve written eight published books and have one more finished novel and a half finished memoir both of which I’m working on. I had to be alone for many hours, days, weeks, months, and years to complete my small accomplishments. All of the great works of art, literature, music, and science were accomplished by people who worked diligently alone. Dr. Pillay again:
I’ve noticed that high-achieving people always find ways to enjoy themselves—that is, they literally enjoy being with themselves, and rather than focusing on loneliness, they focus on how their success will attract people to them. Simply put, becoming an expert requires practice, and practice requires spending time alone. Note, that aloneness is different from loneliness, and that the reward for the initial sacrifice of being alone is that your expertise will eventually make you a people magnet. When you have given yourself over to the spontaneous practice of your ability and the practice becomes ingrained in your brain, you will become magnetic to others. This naturalness is extremely attractive, and you will be sought after as a result.
When you consider the time that you spend working on your craft, most people will say that it’s extremely pleasurable. And Dr. Pillay is so right that accomplishments that took a lot of alone time ultimately draw others to you.
But then if you don’t get out of your cave, the fun of being creative can turn into loneliness. You have to develop habits that take you out of your house once your work is done.
And if you’re alone for other reasons, then Instead of obsessing about being alone, and allowing yourself to succumb to the siren call of the food, diet, and drug industries, realize that loneliness is a season that can be used for your benefit. Being lonely for a time is not going to define you or permanently damage your life.
- Make lists of things you want to do, and make plans.
- Join hiking, biking, walking, book, and other clubs that interest you.
- Meetup, an online social network, organizes offline group meetings all over the country, and world. You can find things to do with people who have your same interests. http://www.meetup.com/
- Don’t exercise in a home gym. Exercise is one very good reason to get out.
- Walk your dogs more often or walk shelter dogs
- Subscribe to an online dating service if you’re single
- Take classes
- Go to a church, temple, synagogue, or meditation center that fits with your beliefs and philosophies and make an effort to meet people
Procrastination is deadly, poisonous, and ultimately very boring. We all procrastinate about different things. In the end of our lives, it’s the things we didn’t do that will likely come to mind than the things we did do. Procrastination is so toxic because it robs us of our dreams. When we don’t pursue our dreams we are incredibly lonely.
- Write down everything that you’re procrastinating about.
- Once you have your list, decide which activity you’re going to pursue next. And then do it. Chances are you’ll meet people who have the same interests. Mastering something new is a really great way to overcome the empty feeling of loneliness.
Bad Habits and Addictions
Loneliness—with the help of TV ads—feeds bad habits and addictions. I devoted two chapters in Healthy, Sexy, Happy to brain health and overcoming addictions because I feel very strongly that both having a healthy brain and overcoming addictions is essential to mind, body, spirit wellness. People don’t generally down a quart of Häagen-Dazs, a fifth of whiskey, or chain smoke while socializing with others.
- Write down your bad habits and addictions.
Get professional help if necessary, but don’t forget to foster a healthy, happy brain at the same time. See http://www.alwaysnewyou.com/nancy-deville/quit-addictions-by-feeding-your-brain.htmlor read Healthy, Sexy, Happy.
Compulsions Can Creep-In So Subtly
Watching TV, eating, checking your smart phone, Facebook, and emails, shopping, talking on the phone and other behaviors that are a waste of time and destructive have to be addressed as if they are addictions.
My friend UCLA shrink Jeffery Schwartz writes about overcoming compulsions in his book You Are Not Your Brain. It’s a really neat book for anyone struggling with compulsive behavior. He writes:
Becoming aware of your thoughts is vital, but they are not the whole story. Remember, deceptive brain messages are not defined as thoughts, but also as impulses, and desires that take you away from your true self. Now that you have an idea of what thoughts can arise, you need to be as familiar with your physical and emotional sensations because they can be as distracting and overpowering as the thoughts.
- Make separate lists for your deceptive thought, impulses, and desires. What are you being compulsive about?
Sometimes being aware of a problem is all you need to dredge up the will power to redirect your thoughts, impulses, and desires.
I understand that entire books have been written about this subject and I’m not suggesting that negative self-beliefs can be easily turned off. But you can begin to work on it. When I went to a nine-day silent Buddhist meditation retreat I decided at the very beginning that I wouldn’t think any self-critical thoughts for nine days. Whenever something crept in I would dismiss it. At the end of those nine days I realized that if I could do that with my mind, I could do anything—and you can too.
Whatever progress you make in any way furthers your journey to ultimate happiness. Give yourself credit (lovingkindness/compassion). If you want to learn more about Metta/lovingkindess meditation, you can download my Buddhist teacher’s guided meditations at http://www.mindfulselfcompassion.org/meditations_downloads.php, or read his book The Mindful Path to Self Compassion.
As I often close with, don’t these sound like so much more fun than eating bad food, dieting, and taking drugs?
Peace, Fun, Love.
Your girlfriend in health,