The Times Loneliness Takes Over.

By David Joel Miller.

Loneliness is worse at transition points.

loneliness

Loneliness.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

It’s common for people to feel lonely at certain times in their lives. The feeling of loneliness can have survival value. One person, by themselves, is in a dangerous situation. A group of people together can protect each other. In limited amounts, loneliness can motivate you to seek out others and create new supportive relationships.

Sometimes loneliness becomes excessive and can result in feelings of rejection, isolation, and distrust. High levels of loneliness can damage your physical and emotional health, harm your relationships, and result in self-harm, or abusing substances.

The effects of loneliness intensify when you have fewer supportive relationships. Knowing when loneliness is likely to strike can help you to understand that this is a normal part of life rather than something wrong with you.

If you are feeling especially lonely right now, reach out to others and work on improving your support systems. If loneliness has gotten you in its grasp, consider getting some professional help to get you through this time. Here are some of the times in life you are likely to feel lonely and what that loneliness is trying to tell you.

When you don’t feel you belong, you get lonely.

People used to know where they “belonged.” Historically individuals were connected to groups and locations in ways that told them where they belonged and where they didn’t belong. Over the last hundred years, most of these connections have weakened to the point that people no longer can tell you where they belong.

For most of human history, people lived in small groups. First, there were small bands, then larger tribes. Over time humans progressed to building dwellings and being parts of families. Next people belonged to a particular city or state. The group you lived in might have been loving, or it might have been harsh and cruel. Either way, you were likely to feel that where you were was where you belonged. People who grow up in a rural community or a small town typically put down roots. No matter where you go afterward you can feel anchored to your “hometown.”

People used to be able to define themselves by their social role. Men, when asked to describe themselves, would tell you what they did for a living. They were farmers, fishermen, shopkeepers, or they worked in the factory or mine. Women used to define themselves as wives or mothers. Over the last hundred years or so women moved into the workplace. Certain occupations became traditional “women’s work.” When asked who she was, a working woman was likely to cite a handful of common women’s jobs. She might have been a teacher, a nurse, or a cashier in a retail store. The work role person a person “belongs in” is more fluid today.

Most people used to be affiliated with a group. Church or religious memberships were the norms. There was a time in America when you ask someone about their religious affiliation they would give you the name of a particular denomination. They would say they were Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, and so on. They likely attended functions at the church even if they didn’t fully believe that church’s doctrine. Membership in occupational groups, like a grange or union was much more common in the past. So was membership in social and fraternal organizations.

In this new millennium, most group affiliations have weakened. People move frequently. Most people must change their career multiple times in their life. Women have moved into jobs that were once exclusively done by men, and in a few areas, men moved into traditionally female occupations. Church membership has declined. Today most people describe themselves as “spiritual rather than religious” or as simply “Christian” rather than as a member of a specific denomination.

Along with church membership, participation in fraternal and social groups has declined. Even union membership has become more fluid. Many of the newer jobs are not unionized and as people move from job to job they may move from union to union. Rather than being able to define yourself by the groups you belong to, today people must define themselves by the things they have. As you move through life, your changing experiences are likely to trigger feelings of loneliness.

When you are a teenager, you are likely to experience loneliness.

Part of being a teenager is moving through changes in relationships. During these years, teens make the shift from being part of the family to becoming a separate, individual person. Loneliness can drive you to find out who you are as a separate individual. During these years, the relationship between you and your parents or caregivers needs to transform from being close and affectionate to being a more separate adult relationship. You will need to make your first step to overcoming loneliness by finding out who you are as a person.

The teen years are a time when being accepted is important. Teens want to be liked and be a part of a group. Some kids become part of the “in” popular group. Others may become “stoners” or “nerds and geeks.” Increasingly teens find it hard to fit in anywhere. This lack of belonging has resulted in increasing depression and anxiety.

Those who don’t find the group to belong to may become lonely, isolated and develop significant emotional problems. As difficult as this stage is for some teen’s learning to cope with changing social relationships as a part of the growing up process. The hard thing to understand for many as they pass through this stage is not to take it personally. Not being a part of the group doesn’t mean there something wrong with you.

During your teenage and early 20 something years, it’s important to learn the skills to make and to maintain relationships. One of the biggest hazards of being lonely at this point in your life is that you will rush into a romantic, sexual, relationship to avoid feeling lonely. The most important developmental task during this stage in your life is not finding a life partner but learning to tell the difference between the potentially good partners and the bad ones.

When you live alone, loneliness tries to move in.

One of life’s challenges is learning that when you are alone, you do not have to be lonely. Most people tried to avoid the loneliness beast by staying constantly busy. You’re either going to school or working. First, you are a part of a family. If you go away to school, you probably have roommates. Many people move rapidly into romantic relationships. Some of the clients I’ve worked with moved in with a partner after the first or second date. A few of these relationships succeed. Most do not.

At some point in your life are likely to find yourself living alone. The minute you’re sitting there in an empty house or apartment loneliness moves in. If you can learn to be your own best friend, to be happy and content when you’re all alone, there won’t be room for loneliness in your life. People who manage to achieve a good balance between the time they spend with others and the time they spend with themselves are more likely to create a contented life, free from the presence of the loneliness beast.

When you are unemployed, loneliness comes calling.

What you do gives your life meaning and purpose. When you are young, you go to school. When you get older, most people must work. All those activities involve interacting with other people. The day you wake up and don’t have anywhere to go, you are likely to experience loneliness. Whether you have left your job voluntarily, resigned, been fired or watched the workplace close not having some purpose can leave you feeling depressed and lonely. The cure for this loneliness is to get out there and find another job.

When you are sick or disabled, you may be lonely.

People with a significant disability or those faced with a serious illness spend a lot of time alone. The most difficult part of this experience can be the emptiness of the time you must be alone. During these life transitions, it’s important to stay as active and engaged as possible. Newer technologies have made staying connected easier than ever. But staying connected requires effort on your part.

When you become an older adult, you spend more time alone.

Time alone does not have to equal loneliness. Developing the skill of being comfortable when you are by yourself can ease this life transition. As you age, it becomes harder to maintain connections with other people. For some people, the retirement years are active ones. For other people, the exit from work leads to isolation and loneliness. Families move away, and friends pass away. Overcoming loneliness in later life requires effort to maintain your friendships and social connections.

Now that you know the times that loneliness may come calling, what efforts will you make to keep him out of your life?

Read more about the causes and cures for loneliness.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Advertisements

Connection.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Connection.

Connection.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Connection.

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”

― Herman Melville

“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”

― William James

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”

― Martin Luther King Jr.

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration

The meaning changed again – concept creep.

By David Joel Miller.

Problems increase when the definitions expand.

man creeping

Creeping.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Recently psychologists have been studying an idea called concept creep. The principle involved is that once we have identified a problem, more and more things are included in the definition we are using. This expanding definition can be either good or bad depending on your point of view. It’s possible that once we recognize the existence of a problem we begin to find more cases of that problem. Problem recognition is related to the expert effect; if you don’t know what something is, you may not recognize it when you see it.

It’s also been suggested that having once created a category of problem, additional things which used not to be considered a problem get defined into the category. Besides expanding a problem category by adding things to the category, our view of problems may increase as milder things get defined as problems. Expanding categories creates the impression that there is an “epidemic” and that we are all now at risk to experience this problem.

When a concept expands, what used to be normal, is now a part of our definition of problems. I am not arguing here that these changing definitions are a bad thing. But what we need to look at is how these definitions have changed over time and how these words may have very different meanings to different people. Remember that looking words up in the dictionary will not help us here. Various dictionaries will have different meanings for the same word, and the dictionary creates its definition based on the way people have been using the word.

Let’s look at some categories of problems that have expanded.

Mental illness used to be rare.

The term mentally ill used to be roughly equivalent to the label crazy. Today professionals don’t use the term crazy because it implies the condition is not treatable, and this labeling appears to be a case of blaming the victim. Originally mentally ill people were labeled psychotic. The kinds of emotional problems normal people had, were defined as neurotic. Today’s list of mental illnesses includes over 400 separate conditions with an additional 400 or so issues included in a list titled “conditions for further study.”

Increasingly mental illnesses are seen as falling along a continuum from mild to moderate to severe. Mild clusters of symptoms are now considered cases of illnesses where in the past these symptoms might have been attributed to the person’s personality. A person who in the past was described as having a sour, negative attitude might today be diagnosed with Persistent Depressive Disorder or even as having a case of Major Depressive Disorder – mild.

Is that self-abuse?

Our definitions of abuse, both abuse of the self and others, have not just changed, some of them have been turned upside down. Masturbation was once the poster child for the evils of self-abuse, a practice parents frantically sought to contain before this behavior sent their children to the torments of hell. Today masturbation is seen as a normal expression of sexuality.

Beating yourself with whips and chains along with cutting your skin and crawling across broken glass has moved in the opposite direction. These kinds of self-inflicted pain used to be viewed as “mortification of the flesh” a positive spiritual behavior. Today pretty much any episode of self-inflicted damage to the body is viewed as “nonsuicidal self-injury” a symptom of a serious mental disorder.

Sometimes abuse of others doesn’t involve abuse.

Abuse of someone else used to be extremely clear-cut and easily recognizable. Abuse back then referred to beating someone, resulting in visible physical harm. Hitting children with a small stick was considered disciplining that child, a parental responsibility. Such beatings were often accompanied by the old biblical adage “spare the rod and spoil the child.”

Today we are all reasonably clear that any hitting of a child that leaves marks meets the criteria for child abuse. Some people will even argue that any corporal punishment is child abuse. Please don’t misunderstand me here; I’m not suggesting that abuse is okay. What I’m trying to do here is chart the way in which our understanding of the concept of abuse has changed.

Abuse now includes not just physical beatings but also includes neglect and emotional abuse. The concept of abuse as also been expanded to include spousal abuse, elder abuse, and animal abuse. When it comes to elders, financial abuse is also a recognized form of abuse that triggers reporting by a mandated reporter.

“Goldsmith and Freyd (2005) considered emotional neglect, or “emotional unavailability,” to be a form of emotional abuse.” Quoted in Haslam, 2016.

Some of these expanded definitions of abuse spilled over to inform the next example of concept creep, bullying.

Would you recognize bullying if you did it?

I looked up the word bully in my trusty old “Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia” from 1898. It gives us two separate definitions of the word bully depending on whether the word is used as a noun, the person doing the bullying, or it is used as a verb, the act of bullying.

The root of the word bully comes from an older word which means noisy. Bullies were people who were blustering, quarrelsome and overbearing. A Bully was someone who was trying to dominate others. In common usage, back then a “bully” was a term for a pimp, someone who lived off the earnings of a prostitute.

The thing a bully did, when he was bullying, was to be overbearing, blustering, or menacing. A bully got what he wanted by making others fear him.

The concept of bullying is exploding. In the 20 years, 1990 to 2010, annual production of research articles on bullying increased 100 times, (Olweus (2013) Quoted in Haslam, 2016.)

Today the definition of bullying has expanded. Bullying now includes cyberbullying, actions not only to intimidate but to make people feel bad and which happen in the online world. The concept of bullying has also expanded into the workplace were things that used to be considered typical workplace politics may now be construed as “a hostile work environment.” Some researchers have suggested that excluding someone from the social group, or efforts to get others to exclude that person should also be included in our definition of bullying.

Why are they calling the police about that?

Media reporting on crimes, conspiracy theories, and a rash of calls to police reporting things that don’t meet most people’s understanding of crime may all be examples of concept creep in the area criminal behavior in public safety. More on these topics in an upcoming post.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Acceptance.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Acceptance

Acceptance.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Acceptance

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

― Lao Tzu

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”

― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration

High self-esteem or narcissism?

By David Joel Miller.

Trait or State Narcissism.

Proud peacock.

Narcissist?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

In the field of psychology, there has been a good deal of study of a personality dimension which psychologists call narcissism. The way the term trait narcissism is used is very different from the way mental health describes Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This difference has caused some problems when people look at the results of personality tests, theirs or other people’s, and see that there is a score for narcissism.

Trait narcissism is meant to be a measure of how good you feel about yourself. For most people, this trait will be relatively stable over time. State narcissism is how much you are thinking about your own needs now and can vary with the situation. Sometimes you should think about your needs first, and other times you need to include others needs in your calculations.

This difference between the way psychology defines narcissism and the way it is described in mental health and recovery literature has created a good deal of confusion.

High trait narcissism is mostly a good thing.

People with low self-esteem, score low on measures of trait narcissism. As your self-confidence and self-esteem rise, your scores on the narcissism inventory rise. People with high trait narcissism are likely to be extroverted, emotionally stable, and mentally healthy. High trait narcissism correlates with improved functioning and an increase in life satisfaction.

Only those at the extreme high-end of the scale begin to resemble those with malignant, pathological narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. How much is too much may be open to interpretation but in the tradeoff between low self-esteem and being highly Narcissistic being in the middle, balancing your needs with the needs of others is the healthiest place to be.

Trait narcissism is rising.

Worldwide there appears to be a rise in the levels of trait narcissism. This principally reflects the shift from Eastern collectivist cultures to the Western competitive, individualistic society. We have encouraged everyone to feel good about themselves by bolstering self-esteem, but despite these efforts, there is more depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. When you keep raising the standards for what you expect from people the result is not universal high self-esteem but a society where no one can measure up.

The concept trait narcissism is chiefly studied using verbal questionnaires and tests. This raises the question if everyone responding to these questionnaires understands the concept in the same way. To refine the research results, the trait of narcissism is often studied by separately analyze various subscales, each of those subscales is defined using other words.

The subscales of narcissism.

These various factors are used in measuring the level of narcissism a person has and the components of this condition. There has been some debate about whether these are all distinct factors or how much these concepts may overlap. Here are my thoughts, not specific diagnostic criteria.

Authority.

When do you take command, insist on leading, and assume you are correct, and how much do you defer to the judgment of others. Do you always think you are right?

Self-sufficiency.

Do you think you can do everything? Do you always need someone else’s help? Can you balance self-sufficiency and cooperation?

Superiority.

Feeling better than others is not the same thing as confidence. No one is the best at everything, but highly narcissistic people think they are inherently superior.

Vanity.

More focus on looking good than on substance.

Exhibitionism.

Balancing the search for applause with a tendency to do things specifically for attention.

Exploitativeness.

Is there give and take in your relationship or are you all about getting what you need.

Entitlement.

Do you accept that you need to work for what you get or do you feel that you are superior to others?

One interesting study examined the difference between people in the community who are high in trait narcissism and a group of prison inmates also high in narcissism. The subscale of Exploitivness mostly predicted which of those people who were high in trait narcissism would end up in prison.

More about Narcissists.

As we move through our series of Narcissism posts, feel free to ask questions and leave comments. To help you find these posts, below are some links to point you in the right direction. Keep in mind that all the posts about narcissists appeared in the narcissism category but links to future posts will not be live until future posts appear.

Narcissism category.                          Personality disorders.

Narcissistic traits.                               Psychology. (coming soon)

Narcissistic relationship partner.        Relationships.

Self-esteem.                                        Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Most read mental health blog posts in 2018.

Image

By David Joel Miller.

Counselorssoapbox.com most read articles.

Six months into 2018 and time to look at the top read articles on counselorssoapbox.com

Some of these were new articles this year but many have been popular year after year. I wish I could say I knew which posts would be popular when I wrote them but I am frequently surprised. If you have questions or suggestions for future blog posts let me know. I will continue the search for information. Here is the list.

How much should you tell a therapist?

Levels or types of Borderline Personality Disorder

Is nicotine a stimulant or a depressant?

What do drug dreams mean?

Do therapists have to report a crime?

Do people really forget what happened when drinking? – Blackouts

6 ways to recover from Complex Trauma or Complex PTSD

What are the six kinds of hallucinations?

Hyperthymia, Hyperthymic Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.

Do therapists like, fall in love with their clients? Why don’t they tell them?

Can you force a teenager to go for therapy?

What if you go to the hospital drunk or high?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Freedom.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Freedom.

Freedom.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Freedom.

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves”

― Abraham Lincoln, Complete Works – Volume XII

“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”

― Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents

“He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.”

― Aristotle

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

― Nelson Mandela

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration