It’s Friday night, Sarah sits alone, supposedly watching a movie, but she’s also scrolling through ASOS, and bouncing between Facebook and Instagram on her phone. She feels restless. She keeps thinking about making popcorn but she’s not hungry. She eats three blocks of chocolate, but they don’t satisfy her. She scrolls through Facebook more. Until she asks herself “What am I doing?” She keeps scrolling scrolling scrolling…waiting for some vital piece of information, but she realises she’s actually really bored. She puts the phone down, closes her eyes and takes a deep breath.
Sarah becomes aware of the tension she is carrying. It’s another weekend with no plans. She is frustrated and worried about having to spend another weekend alone. She has been feeling lonely for a long time but hasn’t really taken any steps to do anything about it.
She looks at her phone again. Aware that her Facebook feed isn’t making her feel any less isolated, she taps on whatsapp and opens up the chat she shares with her friend, Rachel. “Hey Rach, how are you? Fancy getting a coffee this weekend?” Sarah is about to hit send, but she hesitates. Rachel has a habit of inviting other people along. What if Rachel does this and Sarah ends up being the odd-one out, like she’s felt in the past? Sarah reassures herself that if that happens it isn’t a big deal. She is about to click send again and she pauses, “What if we have nothing to say to each other and we end up stuck together for hours, feeling really bored?” She stares off into the distance, her face contorted with worry. “I’m going to see Rachel at a party next week,” she reminds herself, “We’d better not meet so close to the event, otherwise we’ll get sick of each other.”
Sarah puts her phone down and puts on an episode of “Master Chef”. She is distracted for now, she enjoys the show and even seems somewhat calm. But agitation catches up with her the moment the end-credits start rolling. Familiar with this erratic energy, Sarah quickly understands that her body is signalling her frustration with a loneliness that has gone on for too long. She begins to think that she could go for a walk in the hope of bumping into someone, but worries she might end up stuck with someone she doesn’t want to talk to. She thinks of going to see her parents, but reminds herself that she saw them yesterday and she might not have anything interesting to say to them.
As you can see, something is holding Sarah back from fulfilling her need for companionship and belonging. She is bothered by her current reality, but she blocks every possible course of action.
“What if I fall?”
At this point, you may ask why anyone would stop themselves from fulfilling something they want so much. In Sarah’s case, her inability to seek friendship is the result of a way of behaving that began to develop when she was 12 years. Sarah was happy at school until the 9th Grade when her best friends suddenly stopped spending time with her. They called her names, spread rumours about her and didn’t allow her to form part of their clique anymore. From this experience, Sarah learnt that she couldn’t rely on friendship. Friendship had been safe up to that point, but suddenly, it had become dangerous and painful.
Sarah is now 25 and she continues to protect herself by keeping potential friends at a safe distance. She nervously socialises with people she meets through her romantic partner, but she does this superficially. In her understanding, other people exist to occasionally interact with, but not to share feelings, ideas, and troubles with. History has shown her that getting close to others could lead her to another upsetting situation.
“Oh, but, my darling, what if you fly?”
Unless Sarah becomes aware of how her past story consistently withholds her from her present quest for connection, she will continue to go through life plagued by her loneliness. Her yearning for intimacy won’t cease and her ability to form friendships will remain a question mark. Sarah needs to see that her self-protection is holding her back from what she craves the most. Once she understands this, she can assess whether being so protective is still necessary in her current social circles. Then she can choose whether to risk allowing others to get close to her or not.
If you would like to learn more about situations like Sarah’s, join me at my upcoming event, “On Choicefulness“. There, we will discuss how our belief systems impact the choices we make and, therefore, our quality of life.