Loneliness and separation are the real illness of our times. While we urgently need true communication, instead we often find withdrawal, games and lies. This is so widespread it is taken as the norm. So often we come away from one another filled with misunderstanding, wondering what really went on. Although we may not realize it, this confusion arises because we do not know who we really are or who the person we are with is either.
We get us many chances to set this right. Our entire life consists of building bridges. Each person we meet is another bridge, another link, a new way to deepen the love and understanding we can become capable of. Yet, so few of us know how to build this link - so few allow it. Or, if we do, it is only for a few precious moments only, and then we run away and hide.
The crucial bridge is the one, which allows another person into our world. But there are many obstacles in crossing this bridge. Usually our first response to another person is to judge, reject, or make some kind of criticism.
We meet someone and immediately label them. Instead of being a person, they become an object to us, a stranger, or opponent. In this way we separate ourselves from them. Then, we wonder why we feel so alone.
Games We Play
"Give up sirs, your proud airs, your many wishes, mannerisms and extravagant claims. They won't do you any good, sir! That's all I have to tell you."
In order to put an end to the loneliness we feel, we must look at the roles and games we play-at the identities we cherish. These roles, dreams and images are often exactly what keep our loneliness going strong.
Most of us wear many hats, play many roles. In each hat we look and feel slightly different. These hats are comfortable. They ward off the wind, snow and rain. But sometimes one hat gets stuck on your head. You don't remember that you have just put it on for the afternoon, and that it's hiding your true face.
A role is a set of behaviors intended to project a certain kind of image to others and to ourselves. In each role we adopt certain behaviors, feelings and attitudes. These responses are built in automatically.
When we are thoroughly identified with a role we play, not only does this keep us from interacting with all kinds of people, and exploring all kinds of possibilities, but it keep us out of with what is truly going on. Instead of being real our lives become an elaborate performance. When this happens, loneliness is inevitable. This loneliness is not caused by a separation from others, but from true selves.
Roles can also be hypnotic. We can fall in love with a role or fantasy and begin to believe it is who we truly are. Or, more commonly, we can fall in love with someone who is playing out a role. (Here we are not falling in love with the person, but with the image or fantasy they create for us).
It can come as quite a shock to us when the person drops this role and we are face to face with who they really are, (this usually takes several months into the relationship, and then we start wondering, where the love has gone?)
Roles give us a sense of temporary security. Temporary security isn't bad, but it is only temporary and does not deal with our deeper needs, or with the inner emptiness we feel.
The biggest danger of being lost in role playing is that these roles may begin to take over. We can lose touch with the reality of what is going on. We lose touch with what we really feel, and may not even be able to see many possibilities for our lives that are available.
An incredible amount of misunderstanding and lack of communication comes from being glued to a particular role or sense of yourself. Unglue yourself a little. See if you can begin to separate yourself from the static role definition you have been living with.
Exercise: Freeing Yourself
What kind of roles, games or identities you cling to?
How does this affect your overall functioning?
How does this contribute to your sense of being lonely, estranged or separate from others?
Let go of one role, game or identity you usually play a day.
Just be who you are. Let yourself know how you feel and what is truly important to you.
As you do this day after day, you will become more connected to both yourself and the entire world.
Dr. Brenda Shoshanna, is a psychologist, relationship expert, author and speaker. This article is based upon her most recent book, Living By Zen, http://www.livingbyzen.com. Dr. Shoshanna offers talks and workshops and is also the author of Zen And The Art of Falling In Love, (Simon and Schuster), Why Men Leave, (Putnam) What He Can't Tell You and Needs To Say, (Putnam), and Zen Miracles (Finding Peace In An Insane World), (Wiley). You can reach her at email@example.com. Her personal website is http://www.brendashoshanna.com.