Sense of loneliness and emotional connection

It is common for a person living in a metropolitan city saying that one is having a sense of  loneliness even when being with a group of friends.  A client of mine told me that he felt lonely all the time, even he has two children and a lovely wife.  He also has regular social gatherings with his friends and colleagues.  On the contrary, a friend of mine is an introvert and he enjoys solitude most of the time.  In weekend, he hangs out with a few close friends or with his wife.  In leisure time, he enjoys reading and painting.  When I asked him whether he felt lonely, he firmly said “no”.  He said he felt content for his life and treasured what he had in his life, few closed ones and his solitary hobbies.  These two cases seem contrary to our expectation that someone with more social life should be feeling less lonely.  What’s the reason behind this?

With deeper exploration, the above client of mine had difficulty to connect with people emotionally.  Throughout his life, he tended to be very rational, logical and outcome oriented.  Whenever his children told him about something happening in their schools, he would only logically analyze for them and ask them about their thinking.  He reflected that he seldom had emotional connection with his children.  In social gatherings, he tended to pick up logics and thoughts of his friends but not their emotions and sufferings.  It is also very difficult for him to show empathy to his family members and friends when they disclosed their adversities.

Edward Brodkin and Ashley Pallathra, the author of the book, “Missing each other: how to cultivate meaningful connections’’, stressed the importance of attunement in human connection.  My client above may lack the basic attunement with his family members and friends.  On the other hand, my introverted friend is connected to his closed ones with attunement and he felt content and not lonely in his life.  According to Brodkin & Pallathra, attunement is to be aware of ourselves and others in terms of body sensations and emotions.  When we have attunement with others, we can sense others’ rhythm, affect, experience and emotions.  This is the basic for human connection.  If my client did not know how to attune to others, he may feel not connected.  As a result, he had persistent sense of loneliness.

I suggested my client above to learn step-by-step through being more aware of his own emotions through bodily sensations.  Then he could learn to be more aware of the emotions of his children during play.  Given his lack of experience in emotional awareness, it takes time for him to shift from his thinking oriented communication to more emotionally attune. 

No matter how good we are in being aware of our emotions, it is of paramount importance for us to bear in mind to cultivate attunement in our relationships with closed ones.

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