Many of us encounter people in our lives who cannot understand the new direction we are taking in our lives to know our True Selves. The experience of being alone on this journey can often make us doubt if we are on the right track.
In this episode I look at one of the most common reasons beginners on the interior journey get discouraged and offer an explanation of why this struggle exists as well as how we can respond to our loneliness fruitfully.
Share this episode via this episode page.
00:07 - Introduction & Announcement
04:11 - Loneliness on the Interior Journey
09:40 - STORY: Realising My Soul Missed Me
13:37 - When Others Don't Understand
18:20 - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act.
20:49 - Conclusion
- As you listened to today’s episode, what struck you?
- What emotions or thoughts came up in response as you listened?
- What is your default response when you begin to feel lonely or unsupported? Do you run away from loneliness? How do you do that?
- Write a short note or letter to yourself as you would to a dear friend whom you know, is feeling lonely and melancholic in that note or letter, tell yourself that you will always be available to lend an ear and spend time with you.
- The next time you realize that you are feeling lonely, I invite you to take this letter out and read it before you do anything else to distract yourself.
- Read that letter and then spend that time that you've promised yourself, listen to your soul and get to know your neglected inner self.
For full details of this reflection prompt, please see transcript.
Blog: "The Grace of Loneliness"
Blog: "Crossing the Threshold of Loneliness"
Quote by Henri Nouwen "From Loneliness into Solitude"
Book Section. Henri Nouwen. "Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life". The first section of the book Reaching Out to Our Innermost Self is about the movement from Loneliness into Solitude.
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EP 10 | TURNING OUR LONELINESS INTO BELONGING
As you embark on the interior journey, have you experienced a lack of understanding from the people in your life?
Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax and listen on to Becoming Me.
Hello, dear listeners, here we are at episode 10, which brings us to the end of the first arc of the Becoming Me podcast. These first 10 episodes serve as an introduction to some of the foundational principles that we all need to make the interior journey into authenticity and wholeness. I will be taking a break after this episode for the month of December to put into practice many of the same principles that I have been sharing with you.
Having launched this podcast, I now need to take a break from the intense cycle of producing new episodes and take a step back to reflect on how it's been all going. I'm also taking in the feedback that some of you have been sending my way. By the way, please continue to do that. I really appreciate it when you share what is working for you, or if you share some tip that you think could help me to improve the podcast.
So one of the feedback I've been getting is that quite a few of you are having a hard time catching up with the episodes that are coming out every week. And some of you had also said that you would like a bit more time in between episodes to digest the content and maybe start doing some of the PRAXIS suggestions.
So one of the things that I'm seriously considering is to change the frequency of the podcast in 2021 from every week to once every two weeks. That would be helpful, I think not just to you guys, but also for me to have a more sustainable and manageable pace. Email me and let me know what you think about changing that frequency and while you're at it, let me know if there's any particular topic about the interior life or growing in authenticity that you would like me to address in the future. Or if you have any questions about something that I have shared, and you would like me to go a little deeper. I would really love to be able to craft this podcast with the needs of my listeners in mind.
It is also a personal tradition for me that at the end of every year, I take some time out to slow down and to review the year that has passed as well as prayerfully discern for the year ahead. This is also the time that I take to see if I have been aligning my life, my choices with what is deep inside my own heart.
[00:03:13] 2021 DROP DATE & PODCAST COMPANION WORKBOOK
So anyway, the next podcast episode will drop on Wednesday 6 January, 2021. So don't forget to subscribe if you haven't so that you won't miss it when it comes. In the meantime, I am working on a podcast companion workbook that would help you revisit the themes I introduced in episodes 1 through 10, in a fresh as well as a deeper way. These topics are evergreen, so you can use the workbook as a resource whenever you feel the need to reconnect with your inner self.
This is a free bonus resource to all my newsletter subscribers, so it will be emailed out when it is ready. If you would like to have access to this Podcast Companion Workbook and you're not yet on my email list, don't forget to head over to my website after this episode, scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter your email and subscribe.
[00:04:11] LONELINESS ON THE INTERIOR JOURNEY
Okay. So let's get on now to today's episode. Often when we make the decision to embark on the interior journey, we hope that life will somehow get better.
But what happens when instead of getting better life gets even more difficult? Here's the hard truth of the interior journey: just as how the path to true love never runs smooth, so the path to interior freedom and authentic living is usually anything but smooth sailing. Today, I'm going to be talking about one of the most common challenges that discourages beginners on the interior journey.
I want to help you to understand why this struggle exists as well as how you can respond to it fruitfully. The challenge I'm referring to is loneliness.
So by far the most common response I get when I ask people what challenges they face on the interior journey is this - that they feel alone and very often not understood by the people in their lives.
It can be described in a variety of ways. So sometimes what I hear is, “Other people think I'm weird or don't understand why I'm doing what I'm doing.” Or “I feel judged and I get pressured to toe the line and follow the socially accepted path instead of trying to find my own path”, or “I feel that sometimes people aren't ready for me to be real. When I try to be authentic, I end up feeling un-received and perhaps even rejected.”
So there are different variations of this kind of experience that “I'm alone in this people don't understand why I'm doing this. People maybe judge me or pressure me to go back to the way I've been living.” First, I want to assure you that this is a very normal experience for all of us who have chosen to make the interior journey and to walk the path into authenticity.
Now let's consider why that is. Why is it that this is a normal experience for us? We all ache for belonging in some way. Don't we, I don't know of a single human being who does not wish to be accepted, understood, seen, or to belong to others. Loneliness is that ache we experience when we feel alienated, when we feel that we are not seen, not accepted, not understood, and that perhaps there is no way and no one to whom we belong.
This loneliness within us is painful to experience. That's why we often work hard to find belonging, to get rid of this feeling of being all alone. When we are still just living on the surface layer of our lives, that is before we have learned to touch base with our inner selves on a regular basis, our tendency would be to just keep ourselves so busy that we don't notice our loneliness.
We tend to distract ourselves with all kinds of things, subconsciously seeking belonging and acknowledgements through our achievements, the service that we render others, or by being as available as we can to other people. We might seek belonging as well through bonding with people who share common interests with us. All these things work temporarily to distract us from our interior emptiness.
But they're are only able to mask it. They're not able to solve it. When we are paddling hard on the surface to be accepted by others, we're actually really afraid to be known for who we are because we fear being misunderstood and being rejected. That is why we can often feel that we don't truly belong even if we have a group of friends or a community that we are outwardly identified with.
[00:08:15] BECAUSE YOU’VE STOPPED RUNNING
When we decide to make the interior journey, we actually change the way that we want to respond to our loneliness. Instead of distracting ourselves from it, we are choosing instead to listen to what our souls are saying to us through our loneliness. We shift our desire for belonging inwards to seek acceptance, understanding, and love from our own selves first.
People who make this shift will realize that the true source of the alienation they often feel with other people has its root in their own alienation from themselves. When we are alienated from our own selves, we will often experience alienation from others. When on the other hand, we find belonging within ourselves. We will find that we can experience a deep belonging with others that is not possessive or fearful.
So why is it that making the interior journey can make us feel even lonelier than before first? Because we are no longer running away from it, we notice our loneliness more than we did before. But remember the truth is that that loneliness has always been there. It is just that now we are willing to acknowledge it.
[00:09:40] PERSONAL STORY: REALISING MY SOUL MISSED ME
Let me share with you how I made that discovery for myself. In the early years of our marriage, my husband traveled frequently for work. Most of the trips were short like between three to five days, but sometimes he would be away for up to a month. During one of those times when he was away. I suddenly noticed something about the way I lived when he was abroad, which I had not been consciously aware of before.
I realized that whenever Henry was away, I would pack my days with work and appointments often ending my nights much later than when he was around. My conscious mind had at some level intended to fill up the time, which had opened up and thought that this was making the best use of my time.
But one evening after maybe four to five straight days of long work days and social engagements, I came home earlier. And as I stepped into the empty apartment, I was suddenly struck by a deep wave of loneliness. I suddenly realized that I missed Henry, but more than that, that I missed the distraction that Henry had been for me when he was home - a distraction from my own loneliness.
So when Henry was out of town, I had subconsciously substituted him with other distractions, anything to keep me from having to become aware of that ache inside of me. That evening, I resisted the urge to call a friend or to turn on the TV. I had realized now that I was running away from loneliness. I decided instead to lean into it. I took out my journal and started to write about the ache I felt in my heart.
And as I wrote, some incredible new revelations came forth. My soul responded to me with deep longing, I suddenly realized that this wasn't a loneliness that was new to me, or that it's just that because Henry was away. This loneliness had been with me all my life, but I had always shut out that ache with things.
I filled my head and my heart with noise, because I was afraid to find out what my soul might say to me in the silence. I feared solitude because I correlated it to loneliness. Before I knew it, the energy and the very air around me seemed transformed. My melancholy had turned into excitement at discovering myself more deeply.
And as I kept journaling, I realized that there was a lot that my soul actually wanted to say to me. When I wrote that I missed my husband, I realized that my soul responded by telling me that it had missed me all my life. I have been so concerned about connecting with others to fill the void inside me, I never realized that what I needed to do was to connect with myself.
Nobody had taught me that I could have any kind of relationship with myself apart from driving myself to work harder or scolding myself for failing to live up to standards. This was the first time I became aware that I could learn how to restore and build a loving relationship with my inner self.
What had begun as an evening of restless loneliness ended in a healing experience of communing with my inner self in solitude. That night, even my relationship with God was changed because I finally understood that I could not have an authentic and intimate relationship with God without having one with myself.
[00:13:37] WHEN OTHERS DON’T UNDERSTAND
So we can feel more lonely when we become more aware of the loneliness that is already inside us. But we can also feel lonely because we feel that nobody understands us or why we are now choosing to live differently than before. This is also very normal and to be expected. By choosing to pursue authenticity, we are trying to stop pursuing a false sense of self by molding ourselves to fit into what the world expects of us.
But when we start acting apart from what is expected of us, we will experience some kind of pushback from those who are unhappy that we are no longer living our lives in the way that they believe is right for us. We are also communal creatures. We don't live alone and without anyone really being for the conscious of it, what tends to happen is that we play according to certain scripts in our families and in our communities.
And even if there's something dysfunctional about that script, and if there is something that prevents people from being their true selves, there is still a certain comfort in living according to a set of rules that everybody understands. So when one of us, let's say, when you decide to try and discover who you really are apart from the scripts that you have bought into or inherited, it’s going to be very uncomfortable for the people around you, because you changing your script will affect the way they live out theirs.
This can be a very discouraging thing to experience when even those who are close to us don't get why we must make this journey. But this challenging experience can also be very helpful for our journey because we will need to keep asking ourselves if we truly wish to grow in authenticity and interior freedom. Are we willing to we've become our true selves and to offer our true selves to the world -
even if the process is harder and the costs much higher than we had anticipated when we started out? Do we believe in making this journey deeply enough that we want to make it, even if it means that there are people we love, who do not understand or support us? Each time our answer is yes to these questions, we become more determined to commit to this journey.
It is helpful to remember that people who have not made the same journey cannot understand what you are doing. It is usually not that they are willfully choosing to make us feel bad. They just don't understand it because they have not experienced it themselves.
Those were also making the same journey as you will know exactly what you're going through. And those who have been making this journey longer than you will usually be the ones who can hold space for you and give you hope for the road ahead. So be on the lookout for fellow pilgrims on the journey.
[00:16:45] SOLITARY AND UNIVERSAL
Making this journey is simultaneously extremely solitary and highly universal. It is solitary because we need to make that journey into the center of ourselves, meeting our own histories, our wounds and brokenness. And this is something that nobody else, not even the person that you're closest to in the world can ever fully understand. Because no one else is living your life. That is why the interior journey requires us to grow in relationship with our own self.
But on the other hand, while the details are never exactly the same, we will find that the themes of our personal struggles seem to be universal. It's just that we don't realize it until we come across another person who has put his or her experiences out there for us to access. It is normal to feel lonely and even weird at times.
Actually, I feel weird a lot of the time. Know that every other person who is making this journey has experienced it too. As I had mentioned earlier, feeling alone and not understood is the most frequently mentioned struggle by those on this journey.
Perhaps only when we come to appreciate how important and empowering learning to stand alone with ourselves can be will we be able to celebrate and not just bemoan how few people there seem to be who can understand this journey that we are on. Only when we know how to be at peace and solitude, will we be able to be in community with others without trying to control or manipulate.
[00:18:20] PRAXIS: LISTEN. PONDER. ACT.
So let's now turn to today's Praxis prompts.
One. Listen, as you listen to today's episode, what struck you did something resonate particularly strongly with you?
What emotions or thoughts came up in response as you listened?
Two, ponder. What is your default response when you begin to feel lonely or unsupported? Do you run away from loneliness? How do you do that?
Three, Act. Write a short note or letter to yourself as you would to a dear friend whom you know, is feeling lonely and melancholic in that note or letter, tell yourself that you will always be available to lend an ear and spend time with you.
Put that note or letter into an envelope and address it to yourself. And I invite you to keep this envelope in a place that you will not forget. It could be in your journal or in your Bible or some other place that is both sacred to you and safe. And then the next time you realize that you are feeling lonely, I invite you to take this letter out and read it before you do anything else to distract yourself.
Read that letter and then spend some time, spend that time that you've promised yourself, listen to your soul and get to know your neglected inner self. You can reuse that letter or write a new one at the end of that session for the next time that you feel lonely.
Well, that brings us to the end of this episode of Becoming Me. As always go at a pace that is right for you. Do as little, or as much as you are ready and take breaks whenever you need to.
For many people, the holiday season can be especially lonely, even if it is filled with activity. I hope that today's episode will help you turn loneliness when you experience it into solitude and that you will find ways to make space and slow down to love your soul.
And finally, don't forget to subscribe to my newsletter if you want to receive the Podcast Companion Workbook.
Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin. The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at becomingme.sg and to subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, Happy Becoming!