Thwarting Loneliness on the Path to Transformation

Walking the path to transformation can be a lonely journey. When you set out on your own, and part ways with the pack, it is always, in some ways, a solitary undertaking.

Yet even while you’re finding your own way, you’re surrounded by other people. Some of them are on their own paths to transformation. Some are on the same path as you, just not as far along. Some don’t even know yet that the path exists.

All of those people can be your traveling companions, at least for a time. You just need to invite them to join you, one step at a time. Here’s how.

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Thwarting Loneliness on the Path to Transformation
Steve Bearman
September 11, 2015

Question: What does it mean to be on this path of transformation, where you sometimes find yourself alone and lonely? Answer: There’s an experience of loneliness that can come from being the only person that you know [laughs] that has cultivated a certain level of self-awareness or who is paying attention to, say, the ways in which your social and cultural conditioning are always shaping your behavior and where you’re trying to get outside of your conditioning or in some way you are separating yourself from the pack because we all grew up in an environment in which we learn to conform. We’re supposed to fit in and so we do things the way other people do them. When you start to do things differently and that could mean by developing yourself and developing your – just your – personal growth, you now are doing things that nobody else is doing and sometimes people don’t understand. Sometimes people actively judge for it. Sometimes people just can’t get it, you know? You try to explain it. You don’t know how to explain it well yet and they don’t know how to get it and so there’s something that can feel very lonely about that and you are willing to stand alone. You’re willing to separate yourself from the ways that we’ve all learned to do things but it can be lonely and there are there different kinds of ways that I think you can kind of remedy that loneliness and the first and perhaps most obvious is you can find other people who are on a similar kind of path, not the same path but similar enough that you can compare notes, you can talk about what you’re learning, you can talk about the challenges and the struggles and the beautiful things that you are seeing that other people don’t seem to see and so even just moments of getting to have contact through community makes a huge difference but if that’s lacking – now this is not always available – then the question is how do you, given the developmental difference between you and somebody else who you are interacting with still find a way to have a real, meaningful interaction? Like I love hanging out with teenagers and I’m in a developmentally different place than most teenagers along with a bunch of different lines of development but teenagers are people who have rich lives and are exploring things in really exciting ways and they have a kind of experience of the world that’s different than what I have and I have an experience that’s different than what they have and we can find a way to meet where I’m learning from them, they’re learning from me or we’re just sharing or showing each other different things so developmental similarity is not required in order to have gratifying experiences of real contact. The third thing and ultimately the most interesting is figuring out can you take other people with you, you know? Can you find some way to take some bit of what you’re learning, what’s new in your exploration of yourself and offer it to somebody else, you know? You may not know how to be the teacher or to be the workshop. You may just know how to talk about your experience or take somebody through an exercise that you’ve been through or ask them a question that has them look at some part of themselves that you’ve spent a lotta time looking at. Can you take people with you even in small ways? That’s really satisfying to be able to do that and, ultimately, is a further level of your own development to the extent that you can support other people to grow in the ways you’ve been growing. You’ll be less alone and you’ll continue to develop further. So it’s three remedies to the aloneness that comes from doing sort of further – being further – along the path than the people are around you or finding other people on the path, enjoying interacting with people at different levels of development because anybody can have a meaningful interaction with anybody else and figuring out is there some way you can take people with you, even in little ways?

About the Author

Steve Bearman, Ph.D., earned his doctorate in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He founded Interchange Counseling Institute in 2002 and is the lead teacher of Interchange's San Francisco-based year-long counseling and coaching training. When he's not counseling people, leading workshops, and advocating for social justice, Steve climbs mountains, adventures in the urban wilderness, explores the edges and limits of what's possible, deconstructs everything, and finds new ways to put it all back together.