Has difficulty with intimate sharing or maintaining relaxed closeness with others
Feels uncomfortable with others; often masked with a smile
Feels lonely, often unfulfilled in relationships
Feels alone in carrying burdens or worries
Often drops out of or cancels social events at the last minute
Important skills for Loners to work on - First, clarify what you value and truly enjoy in work or personal life, then cultivate relationships which affirm what you value.
Root cause - Because they rely so little on others and, therefore, tend to receive less support from others, Loners suffer from “relationship malnutrition”. While the “keep a low profile” emotional habits of Loners can help to avoid some stress, the supportive quality of our relationships is an even more important resource for reducing stress.
The key driver of stress is high levels of uncertainty … uncertainties about what our options really are, about what we should do, about how well we’re handling things, and about what support we can count on in tough situations. And much of the information and feedback that keeps those uncertainties at a healthy level come from our key relationships … at work and in personal life. Loners, in short, tend to carry a much heavier load of stress than their more socially nourished counterparts.
Becoming a Loner is usually a slow, often lifelong process. And, it’s always a self-reinforcing cycle, because (a) relationships form and deepen around the values and interests that two or more people bring to them, and because (b) most of us become clear about our values and interests in the process of relating with others. Many Loners find themselves caught in an ever-deepening Catch-22. Most Loners tend to be fuzzy about what activities they really enjoy, so they have less reason to seek out partners for any activities. Having few shared experiences, they tend to remain unclear about their real preferences … which just might involve other people. So the next cycle in the Loner’s Catch-22 begins … they become even more likely to remain socially on the fringe.
Focus for action - You might think that the linchpin solution is simply for the Loner to set about (re-)cultivating one or two close relationships in their family or with friends. It isn’t.
Developing such relationships is, in fact, the second skillful step. The first skill to be honed is to clarify one’s core values and, then, the goals which best express those values. The starting point for Loners is to pinpoint one or two experiences or activities in work or personal life which (a) they know from past experience have provided real satisfaction, and (b) require someone else’s involvement for fullest satisfaction.
Because Loners are often skeptical, or sometimes anxious, about enjoying things with others, it’s important that they get clearly focused on and strongly motivated by the satisfaction they will get from sharing one of their valued experiences. Creating a short-list of “Things I really enjoy doing that would involve someone else” is difficult for many of us, especially for Loners. So, to get started, here are several examples from other recovering Loners:
Read the (auto)biography of someone you admire or find interesting, and try to pinpoint what role any of their relationships played in their life. Share what you discover with someone you feel comfortable with.
Pick a charity or community activity you think is worthwhile, and volunteer some of your time (not your money) to help out in an activity that involves other people.
If you know an elderly person who might be lonely, give them a little of your time and company.