Alone vs. Lonely

When working with my male clients who struggle with compulsive sexual behavior, one of the common denominators in the reasons they act out is being alone. Particularly if the behavior is pornography addiction where privacy represents one of the conditions for being able to peruse porn in the first place. A recent client on a business trip spoke about his problems with acting out sexually while on the road, away from his family and familiar routines. He spoke about his uncomfortable feelings around being alone. If you’re someone who struggles with a pornography addiction, sex addiction, or both, traveling on your own can be particularly worrisome. In order to act out sexually, you essentially need place and space.

So, what is uncomfortable about being alone? The common feelings I hear from my clients that come up around being alone are feelings of loneliness. We know that being alone and feeling lonely is not one in the same—there’s a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely. You can feel lonely while in the company of people. Lonely is a state of mind, not a state of being. It represents a core of uncomfortable feelings like longing for companionship, wishing not to be alone. My aforementioned client spoke to his own childhood memories of being home alone a lot with nothing much to do, no friends to hang out with, trying to find things to do to keep himself occupied. Unfortunately, that started a lifelong trend of trying to self-soothe the discomfort he was feeling with euphoric feelings that came from fantasy and masturbation.

Working with feelings of loneliness

Loneliness is simply the child within you wanting your love, nurturing, support, and attention. You can even think of this aspect of yourself as an actual child—a younger version of you—and you are responsible for him or her. How would you talk to or acknowledge this child? One helpful way to do so is to journal or dialogue with that “part” of you that is feeling lonely.

You:                Lonely, are you here?

Lonely:            Yes

You:                What’s up?

Lonely:            I’m feeling sad because I’m alone and I have no one to connect with.

You:                How does that make you feel?

Lonely:            I don’t like it. I’m bored. I want something. I don’t feel comfortable.

Of course your own dialogue may sound entirely different but going directly to the feeling state of loneliness can prove to be quite empowering. The goal is not to actually solve the riddle but to rather move energy…to get unstuck.

Embracing your alone time

Now that you can at least try to separate lonely from alone, what about the possibility and opportunity of enjoying your alone time? In the empowered state of being alone, you realize your freedom to make your own decisions, to grow, and to choose what most supports your happiness and needs in each moment. You become accountable only to you. Acting from responsibility that understands integrity will impact all of your relating because of your own personal integrity to who you are.

Some ideas of maximizing your alone time could be:

  1. Finding time to exercise, to meditate, to journal, or any activity that actually makes you feel good before, during, and after.
  2. Catch up on work, hobbies, or plan your next family vacation.
  3. Give yourself a nice reward for making a positive change in your life

Discovering the difference between being alone and loneliness will uncover some very valuable lessons of personal growth. To properly deal with compulsive sexual behavior, you need to learn how to become comfortable with being uncomfortable and recognizing that feeling lonely is not only okay, it’s worth checking out.

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