Feeling lonely after a divorce is normal, but it doesn’t have to be that way forever
The different stages of divorce bring a whole range of emotions from resentment and anger, to sadness and fear.
You may have been through the wars and survived divorce, gotten over the hurt, depression and even an identity crisis and feel like you’re in a much better place. So why is it you’re still feeling painfully lonely – even years after your decree absolute?
Why is it that you’re still feeling disconnected and isolated?
My recovery after midlife divorce
After my divorce, I hid myself away for four years and it took me an additional two years to start dating again.
When those first four years passed, I woke up and started questioning my actions, or lack thereof, and realised my divorce was not to blame for the years I spent alone. I thought there had to be more to it, much more. So, I began to look for a solution regarding my feelings of loneliness and discovered in my research that ‘conditioned thoughts’ was one of the reasons I spent so many years confining myself.
I got under the skin to discover there were some conditioned thoughts sabotaging my ability to connect with people and banish those lonely feelings.
In this article, I’d like to help you deal with loneliness after divorce by showing you what conditioned thoughts are, how to identify and ultimately overcome them to stop feeling lonely.
What are conditioned thoughts?
Beginning at a young age and through our adolescence, we experience events, whether good or bad, that have a great impact on us. These impacts leave a powerful trace and develop into the foundation for how we make decisions and perceive the world. This foundation causes our brain to think a certain way repeatedly, forming a pattern, to the point whereas adults, we may not be aware that we are depending on them. These are our conditioned thoughts.
Let me show you an example
Let’s say you grew up in a household with a sibling who was very intelligent and excelled in school. Also, let’s say for you, school was hard, it felt like a never-ending struggle just to scrape through an exam with the minimum pass mark. This led you to believe that you’re not smart.
Now fast forward a bit. You’re an adult with a decent job but you notice that you never find yourself going for that promotion or speaking up during meetings. The conditioned thought that had grown over time of “not being smart” is blocking you from living your life to its full potential.
Here is another example but with loneliness
Let’s say as a child, you grew up in an environment where you didn’t feel valued or were not a priority with your parents. This left you with feelings of unworthiness.
Now as an adult, you have difficulty connecting with people or making friends. Your conditioned thought of unworthiness makes it hard to put yourself out there or feel confident enough that people will accept you. Therefore, you isolate yourself.
One more example with loneliness
When you were a teenager, you experienced your first love but it ended very badly. You really took the rejection to heart and were made fun of for your vulnerability.
Now, when you are out with a friend and surrounded by people at a party, you still feel lonely. Your fear of rejection and vulnerability is blocking you from connecting with people which can lead to feelings of loneliness.
How to identify your conditioned thoughts
Your first thought is what you’ve been conditioned to think – what you think next defines who you are.Unknown author
Since conditioned thoughts can be tricky to identify at times, the only way is to learn to become self-aware. Self-awareness is “the ability to be in touch with how you think, feel, and behave by looking for patterns in the way we think and perceive things, how we act and behave in situations, and staying curious in understanding our emotions and moods”.
Now here are some ways to become self-aware:
1 – Keep a journal
Each day write about your thoughts and feelings for that day. Ask yourself what you are feeling, and then why you are feeling that way. Whether miserably sad, happy or anything in between – write it all down. Make a habit of reviewing your journal every week.
2 – Take personality and psychometric tests
These can actually be fun to do. The trick is to answer with your first thought and by being honest with yourself. There are no right or wrong answers. These 5 Self-Discovery Tools are a great place to start.
3 – Ask your trusted friends and family to describe you
This can be difficult but it is very powerful. Give your trusted friends and family a safe platform to give you their open, honest, and objective perspective. Be prepared to listen and to treat this activity as a learning opportunity and not as a place to get your feelings hurt or argue.
Awareness is the greatest agent for change.Ekhart Tolle
4 – Practice mindfulness to observe thoughts and feelings
Another way to become self-aware is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
How to overcome feelings of loneliness
Recognise the child (and the adult) in you
When practicing mindfulness or whilst journaling you’ll begin to identify your conditioned thoughts. The first thing you need to realize is that these thoughts were created as a child or as an adolescent. Albeit you created the thought, but still it’s from a child’s perspective. So in essence, we’re operating from a child’s point of view and see it as our own reality as adults.
The next thing you need to know is to look at present situations objectively and not from your ‘child-self’. So, if you experience “unworthiness” as a conditioned thought and, for example, are thinking about canceling a dinner party invitation, tell yourself that what you are feeling is coming from your past experience and not from what is happening at the present moment. Be aware of that feeling and understand that is what is holding you back.
As described above, conditioned thoughts are the patterns of thoughts that we rely on to perceive the world. The most powerful way to create new patterns is to challenge yourself. Take one of your conditioned thoughts and create some actions to turn it around.
Maybe you have cut yourself off from your old social circle because your friends all have partners and you thought you’d no longer be accepted as part of the gang. You could challenge yourself by making contact with them and organising a get-together.
Challenging yourself means getting out of your comfort zone and taking risks. By doing things differently, you’ll disrupt the old thought patterns and start to create new ones that serve you better.
The most important work you’ll ever do to beat loneliness
Changing conditioned thoughts takes time. It is like exercising. If you decide to get fit, do you go to the gym only once or twice? No! You continue to exercise until you have reached your goal. Your mental well-being is the same way.
So how do you know you are challenging yourself? If the action feels uncomfortable, then you know it’s a challenge. So if we take the example from above, the feelings of “unworthiness”, you would not cancel the dinner party, you’d just go!
I know this is easier said than done, especially in the beginning and since you have behaved a certain way all your life. But just like exercising, it gets easier with time. With a lot of practice (and perhaps some extra support from a coach), your old conditioned thoughts will fade away.
If you want to break free from your loneliness, it takes work and determination but at the same time remember to be kind to yourself. You may have your off days and that is okay.
Keep going by observing your thoughts and taking actions that will move you forward.