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Expert Series: Loneliness: Our Greatest Fear And A Portal To Peace
By Joel Brass

“When we are alone and quiet we are afraid that something will be whispered in our ear, and we so hate the silence and drug ourselves with social life.”

Friederich Nietzsche

As a psychotherapist for the past quarter of a century, I am included on a daily basis in peoples’ greatest fears. Which ones do you think are the most common? Which send shivers down our spines? If you think the answer is the fear of dying and death, I actually rarely hear that one. The fear of rejection? Now you’re getting warmer. The secret, private fear of feeling unworthy, inadequate or not good enough? This is one of the most common for sure.

I have learned that to discover what most frightens another, I must listen for what is hidden between the lines of what they are saying. I must listen for what they are not saying. Like the references to Lord Voldemart in the Harry Potter book series, I try to discern that which is so anxiety-provoking that it cannot, and shall not, be named. In doing so I have concluded that it is the fear of ultimate loneliness that is our most fundamental terror.

Even admitting that we are lonely is a difficult or even embarrassing act for a lot of people. The trepidation around experiencing it is so powerful and all-pervasive in our society that many, for the life of us, can never spend a single moment being still or silent. We cover up our fear of stillness by making certain that we are incessantly busy and leading our life at a breakneck speed. We’ve become the Mad Hatter from Alice In Wonderland whose approach to life is summed up by his personal mantra: “I’m late. I’m late for a very important date. I have no time to sit and wait. I’m late!”

We cover up our fear of silence by talking just for the sake of it, by keeping the interpersonal space between ourselves and others cluttered and overflowing with words, no matter how superficial or devoid they may be of real connection or self-disclosure. We cover up the fear of stillness and silence by immersing ourselves in the most popular addictions of our culture – materialism, hedonism and ego worship. We cover up by clinging to terrible relationships and constricting professions, rather than risk the consequences of hearing and following our soul’s pleas.

Who lies underneath this massive attempt to avoid? As one of my clients put it: “Just plain little ol’ me.” And what’s underneath our unwillingness to spend time with “just plain little ol’ me”? The unspeakable fear of being lonely. Of being helplessly alone. And, paradoxically, at the very same time, of making a real connection with our selves.

Solitude : The Cure For Loneliness

Marianne Moore, an American poet, has written very wise words on what constitutes the most powerful and effective way out of the fear of loneliness by stating: “The best cure for loneliness is solitude”.

Solitude is the willingness to risk going into the abyss that we unconsciously believe lies beneath the insane merry-go-round of our ways of living. It is the gentle, deliberate seeking or renewal of a relationship with one’s natural self. It is the willingness to create space and time for the discovery, or renewal of, a relationship with a Transcendent Force or Presence in our world. You might say that we must have the courage to risk immersing ourselves in stillness and silence in order to overcome our fear of loneliness. Without this courage, we will perpetually live in the disorienting and vacuous condition of self-alienation and disconnection, in my opinion, the most prevalent disease of our modern world.

By courageously walking through the portal of loneliness, we can come to a place where we do not feel alone when we are by ourselves. Rather we can come close, very close to who we really are. This is a place where we can know personally and indisputably, in a way that seeking it in the affairs of the world can never show us, that we are whole, perfect and loveable creations, at one with everything and everyone. We can know in the only way to ultimately know anything, in our actual experience, what our ancestors knew: “that the darkness is luminous, that the silence speaks.”

“Risking loneliness, to achieve the sense of oneness with oneself we call solitude, is essential if one is to survive the Middle Passage which starts when we ask: ‘Who am I, apart from my history and the roles I have played?’”

James Hollis

Joel Brass Bio:

Joel Brass holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) degree from the University of Winnipeg and a Masters of Applied Science degree from the University of Waterloo. 

For twenty-five years he has been a psychotherapist in private practice, seminar leader and, periodically a radio talk show host.   He is a member of the British Columbia Association of Registered Clinical Counsellors.  He maintains a private counselling practice and lives in White Rock, BC. His book Healing Your Relationshp With Yourself  has been a ten year labor of love.

Visit his website for information on seminars, newsletters etc.  –  www.joelbrass.com

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