6:56PM Apr 6, 2020
Here we go. Hello.
Hello, happy Saturday!
Oh, sugar. It's Friday... we're gonna roll, we're rolling with it. Happy Friday!
Happy Friday. Thank you for doing this with me.
Oh, the pleasure is all mine.
Yeah. Do you want to tell people who we are?
Sure. My name is Rebecca Gwozdziewycz, and I am a life coach. My business is called "Lonely No More" life coaching, where I help people find and form friendships to end their loneliness. And, I also work for Meredith.
And, I'm Meredith. I am a lawyer and certified life coach. I founded Eris Conflict Resolution where we help employees stop sexual harassment without quitting their jobs. And I kind of had this idea. Well, I had a couple people say to me, there's a lot of information available about how to structure your day when you're working at home with kids during the COVID shelter-in-place instructions. And there's not a lot of information about what if you live alone, and you're just really lonely, and you're not seeing people anymore? And I was like, "oh, I live alone." And then Rebecca has this as the focus of her practice and deals with this all the time. So we're both like, why don't we talk about this a little bit, and record something, and give people good information about how to deal with that. Do you want to talk about, sort of, your experience with that?
Yeah. So, my experience with being isolated and being lonely, I really I felt the effects of this about four years ago when I left my corporate job. I moved to Pennsylvania, I lived alone, in a small community, in a house in the middle of nowhere with just my dog. And it was very interesting to go from a corporate workplace where there were 3,000 people to just me alone in a kitchen. And I had so much agency, I had so much autonomy, and I was really struggling for a while. Like, I don't have to do certain things at a certain time, like nobody's checking on me. But all of my people were working during the day,
Right... Is that even a good thing to not have somebody checking on you?
Yeah. And I think that can get to like a really dark place where you're just kind of sitting in a room, like not just thinking about how alone you are, right?
Yeah, that totally happened to me. I would be sitting at my kitchen table, and all of a sudden the silence would like set in. And it's like, "uh oh, what's happening?
Like are people still out there? Am I ever gonna see them again? Do they remember that I'm here even? Like, not to be so depressing. But just to say like, if you're experiencing this, I think that both of us have felt like this.
I had sort of like an isolated childhood. My family moved a lot and I was homeschooled, and so it really was just me. I spent like a lot of my childhood reading Baby Sitters Club books. Then, Nancy Drew just on my own. And I remember my mom saying at one point, like, "well, your friends aren't here. So you just have to entertain yourself." And so I was like, "okay, I've just got to entertain myself." But then later as I went to school and would be out of school and even like, I was in high school and college, and I lived in Ukraine in my 20s, I did Peace Corps, and I was sent to a city where there was a two and a half hour radius to any other Americans, you know? And as I had these experiences, I was like, "well, it doesn't really just work to be like, 'well, I guess I'm just alone, and I just got to deal with it.'" Like, it didn't work anymore. When I was 8 I was like, "okay, suck it up. Read that Nancy Drew." But, when I was 24, I was like, "this doesn't work anymore. Like I'm just totally alone in another country. Without the internet. Like, nobody knows, if something happens to me, nobody's gonna know.
I used to joke, my joke was like... "Amazon should have a program that if someone like me doesn't order something within five days, there's a wellness check. Like, that is something they should seriously offer because that's the only way someone would know.
Right? I made the joke, when we were going into Peace Corps they were like "what are you most afraid about?" And I was like "dying alone and being eaten by wild dogs" because that was like Bridget Jones's Diary had just come out.
Yes, yes. I love that.
Yeah. And my friends were like, because we were still in the US then in training, you know, were like, "oh my God, that's silly. That's extreme." And we got there and my friend came up to me and she was like, "they're literally wild dogs here like, that could actually happen. Like, now I'm worried about that." We were all sort of like "when am I going to see another..." And it was interesting in Ukraine because we weren't alone. We were with host families. And we had, we sort of self-identified as being so different.
In some points, we were alone and on our own. But in many of the points, I think, where we felt the most isolated, we weren't alone. We were just different than the people around us. And, like, families.
Yes. And, it's just like, yeah, the feeling of loneliness can happen at any time.
Which is the interesting thing we're talking about. Like, I think most of us have had the experience of being in a crowd and feeling really alone. And then being literally alone and either being relieved or feeling isolated, right? And then I think that is part of the interesting thing is, like, wherever you're experiencing loneliness it's pretty painful. Like, it feels... I think it's a very painful feeling in itself.
Yeah, it's a very painful feeling and it takes a lot of your humanity away. Like, that common human experience. It's like, "no, you're not part of that."
Yeah, that connectedness, that identification with somebody who might understand you. I think so. And I think that when you start down that path, then like, I've had the experience where my brain just goes crazy with all this evidence that even if I see other people, I'm still gonna, they're not gonna understand me. Even when I'm around my family again, when I'm around my friends again, everything's gonna be so different. They won't know who I am. One of the things that somebody was saying to me was that they had a friend who told them, "I never, I just have come to the realization that I'm never going to get hugged again. Like, I'm never gonna experience a hug again." And I think that when things, when we're checking the news, and I have a tendency to monitor the graph, then I might want to do next week... and when that's all the information we're getting, it really gives us all this evidence of total isolation and disaster.
Yeah, that story that you can tell yourself can get really deep. And then you just add on to it. Like for me, it was like, "okay, well, you were in the military. That's layer one. You were a female in the military, layer two." You like blah, blah, and I was on this island. I remember, I actually, I scheduled a massage because I realized it had been like three months since somebody else had touched me. And I went to the massage expecting to have this experience of emotion. And then it was just like, "oh, they're just touching me."
Yeah. I think that, I mean... I think that both of us just offer this like if you know somebody who's going through this, like you're going through this. We 100% understand how it feels and how dark it can feel. And especially like, I think you get into bed at night and you're like, "this room is a prison. I don't know what's gonna happen."
And then, my brain always... when I was in college, I had this roommate and she was like, I lived in New York and my roommate was like, "is everybody in Oregon like you? Or, are you weird there too?" And I would just play people saying, "are you weird everywhere?" And be like, "I am weird everywhere. Nobody gets me." I mean, I'm laughing but at the time, it was very painful.
Totally, I totally hear that. Yeah, the things that I would tell myself to do. Or, to like... so all my friends back home, where I moved back to, had kids. And I was like, "well, maybe if I had kids this would be different..." No! No way.
That's the other way that I see it come up, is like "all my friends have their people, I don't have anyone. Everybody else has their people, has their group. I don't. What's wrong with me? Oh, I'm terrible." So I think both of us have been through this. And both of us kind of have pretty go-to solutions that we went to that didn't work. Other ideas of what I mean, I think that it's easy when you're like, for me, when I was in that place, because our brains are so committed to the idea that we're doing something wrong. Like, I think a lot of the solutions that I would look for is how could I fix myself and stop doing everything wrong?
It's like, well, if you just become completely different, right, all these other things... you get on Tinder and you like get on bump. You try out all the dating apps, and then you call all your friends and explain to them why you're terrible.
Why nobody likes you.
You call your friends to tell them why nobody likes you!
It's when you see it from the outside. Or, your friends are doing this you can be like, "do you see what's going on here, buddy?" But then, when it's you, you're like, "no legit..." like, "oh no, you don't understand... there is something wrong with me. Everybody else is happy and content 100% of the time..."
"I'm terrible..." Oh my gosh, it's such a dark place to be in. So tell us a little bit about like, what your process is. I mean, obviously like you... so you don't live alone?
No, I live with my boyfriend. And that has been an interesting experience because of course, it didn't fix all my problems.
Unfortunately, like you would think that Rebecca doesn't even understand what this is like because she lives with somebody. But, I mean, I think that that is the hard thing about it, is that we think if I get married, if I get a boyfriend, if I have kids, if I get a puppy even that the puppy is gonna solve my loneliness feelings. But the trick is, that I think both of us have found, is that our thoughts create our feelings. Our thoughts create our loneliness, not the people that we're around or not around, right? Our bedroom doesn't create our loneliness. Ukraine doesn't create our loneliness.
Our friends getting married doesn't create our loneliness.
When I like... it was a profound experience when I was like, "okay, being alone is a circumstance. Loneliness is a feeling, right? And I create my feelings with my thoughts." And I was like, "oh, so I'm alone. And, if I think that I am the best company that exists, I won't feel lonely."
And another process that I had with it was if I'm alone and I feel lonely there are millions of other people in the world who are feeling lonely right now. And if I just imagine how connected I am to those people and just the the experience of having the same feeling, even though we don't know it, that's a huge amount of connectedness, even in feeling lonely. Like that was the place that I started. I was like, "how can I feel grateful for the ability to feel lonely because I know what it feels like to feel connected?" Like an interesting kind of mind game that I feel like I played at first just to be curious about it.
I think the interesting thing for me, in being alone during this pandemic time, is that my life hasn't really changed very much. And I can see when I start to believe that I'm trapped, I get super stir-crazy. And when I notice how I go on walks, and I'm more engaged with the people that I see on the walks, even though we're at distance, and I'm, like, grateful for them, when I notice my neighbors and how everybody is sort of looking out for each other, I'm so grateful for it. Like, and that's not to... I mean, I think the interesting thing is that a lot of times, it's easy to be like feeling lonely is a terrible thing that I need to fix immediately because it's the attacking me. And I need to fix it in all these ways, because it means something's wrong with me. And then there's also the opportunity that I've seen to be like, I'm so grateful that I have the ability to feel lonely because part of it is how much I love my friends. And how much I can't wait to see them in person.
Or, just knowing the contrast of... I think when I first started my practice so we do everything online, basically, right? Like we have our team meetings online, we meet with clients online. And when I first started this practice, when I first started Eris, I was really worried that I was going to be super lonely because I left a firm that had like, 30 people working in it, people I talked to every day, people were in and out of my office, and I thought I don't want to isolate and not notice it. And, the thing I found is that I talk to people all day.
I know, me too. Me too.
You know what one of the things I would think was? There'll be a point where you'll wish you were lonely.
That was one of my favorites, but like there will be a point where you wish you were lonely and I just totally believed that. Yeah, I just read it like this is a good time. Like, you can watch whatever you want. You can...
It was awesome.
Interesting. I mean, I think when you're really in it, it does not feel like a luxury. It feels terrible. But then when you kind of realize that it's not created by your circumstances, it's not created by being with people or not being with people, by friends being married or not being married. Then, you can kind of see what a luxury it is.
When I first made that distinction, I had a lot of thoughts about that story, about how different I was and all this. And I decided I was going to go out and make friends. Like, I made the decision. I'm going to go out and become friends. I played this game where everybody that I saw was a friend. So, like, if I was passing somebody in the grocery store, in my mind I was like, "hi, friend!" And it took all these barriers down. And I just look at things in life like that. Like, people walking on the street.
I did kind of a similar thing, that's so interesting. And I did it a little different. I thought, I'm feeling this feeling. We're all connected by the ability to feel feelings, and they are to, and what they're feeling, and how are we connected right now? Mine was more like a picture. Bu,t yeah... of like, just this energetic connectedness of all of us sitting around feeling lonely. Just hanging out feeling lonely.
That's what we do on a Friday/Saturday.
Yeah. Whatever, whatever day it is, nobody knows anymore.
Yeah, so what are we going to talk about? I know that we had some set thing. I mean, I think it almost sounds like a bleak solution to like embrace the loneliness. But I think that like, what have you seen be different in your life because of it?
Because of the loneliness?
And like the ability to just appreciate it even...
I feel like I have a lot more agency in my life. I can choose when to feel lonely. And I can choose when not to. And that goes with a whole host of other feelings.
And it doesn't mean that you never want to feel lonely.
Right. No, no... sometimes you want to feel, you want to feel that...
I'm trying... like for me when I feel it, I feel it in my sternum, right? In this, like the bottom center of my sternum. And when I feel that I know that there's a part of home in there.
Mm hmm. Yeah. I even think about like, I think that when I was really absorbed in feeling lonely, there were so many things that I wouldn't let myself do because I was trying to fix myself all the time. And I was trying to be good enough for people to like me. And I embraced it when I sort of made that shift. Like now I think... I started this, I wrote two books, we do these videos, we teach teach our clients all these tools. Like, I really don't think any of that would be possible if I was still really absorbed in trying to fix myself so that I didn't feel lonely anymore.
I'm just like, "aghh, here's all my stuff!"
I think you're not gonna like it.
Yeah. So what are you... what do you want to sort of share as far as what helped you? I know I can share what helped me.
The line between like, the circumstance and the thought was huge.
So we teach, I don't know... like maybe not everybody who's gonna watch this knows: we teach a thought model structure for how to identify problems in your life and really solve them and make shifts. And so, at the top it goes: circumstance, thought, feeling, action, results. And then what you do, is you have to separate your circumstances that are neutral, that are outside of your control, like, treat everything outside of your control as neutral. And then, notice what you think about it and how that creates your feeling. And, then, ultimately creates your results. So when Rebecca is talking about the difference between a thought and a circumstance... and then that's taking ownership...
I mean, which is good news. I think that a lot of people are like, "no, no, no, you don't understand. My best friend just got married and there's a COVID pandemic, and no one's talking... I haven't talked to anybody in forever." And like, that's an interesting thing, I think, because when we were feeling lonely, it wasn't unreasonable. We weren't being irrational, unreasonable. But, there's a difference between the circumstances outside of your control and a reasonable, many different reasonable thoughts about it.
That create different feelings.
And some of it, like one of the tools that I had, that really would help me was I would, which is something I learned from Marisa PR, is to say my feeling out loud, like I was talking to someone and it just moved it through my body to help me process it a little more. And it gave me that sense of because, you know, like when you call your friend or your coworker comes in the office, and you can just talk about stuff and you feel better afterwards. Yeah, you can totally replicate that at anytime, by yourself, anywhere.
Even just like for example, this is what loneliness feels like. This is the loneliness feels like. My body is feeling loneliness. This is what it feels like. And the thing I always notice is the feelings that we actually feel--a feeling is just a chemical released from your brain into your body and loneliness is just a feeling, right? And the thing I always noticed is that there really are very few feelings that are more painful than a paper cut. Like they really are... if you're just willing to say this is just loneliness. But then, they become really painful because we're like "I have to fix it. I have to not have this feeling." Because we're so taught that feelings are dumb, or extra, or not okay. And that fixing part is really where the problem is.
Like the total resistance is where all that feels worse than a paper cut because it's like you have to keep everything contained.
Yeah. But then if you just say, "okay, this is what loneliness feels like. It's very rarely, certainly not more painful than a broken leg... which many of us have lived through both of those so we can live through feelings also.
I think it's such a good one. And then like really to identify what we're believing about ourselves. Because both of us when we're talking about this ahead of time, were talking about how our relationship with ourselves is a friendship or an enemy relationship, right? It's almost like, already we're built up like we have a built-in friend right here. Or, we have a built in tormentor.
And so if you're alone, and you're living with your abuser in your brain, like that's the first step to kind of start taking a look at things and making a shift. And I think a lot of times we think that people are going to distract us from our own self-abuse and our own self-criticism and really, they don't. It doesn't work is the thing... like if it did work to just be around other humans, and then you would never feel lonely, then maybe, yes, we should always be around other humans, but like if that doesn't even work...
No, no. I used to have imaginary friends. Like, I would just talk to these people. And I allowed myself to do that. And it really helped because I was really talking to myself, like, I was really being kind to myself or I was having a good old laugh with myself. But when I was first learning to do it, it was so helpful...
To treat it as someone outside of you.
Yeah. Mm hmm.
Yeah. Or I have talked to some clients who even working with therapists had given that person a name, like you're talking about that part of your identity and name. Label the abuser as what they are not as you, right? Because our thoughts are not us, right? Our brains are just having thoughts, like our lungs are breathing. And a lot of times we're so ashamed of our thoughts. Because we think that they're us instead of just like, a process that happens in our bodies, where we can say "no, thank you. No, thank you. That's not a thought that we choose here today."
I like, my favorite is like when I shame my shame.
Uh huh. You know better than to shame yourself, you idiot. That's helpful.
Yeah, no food for you tonight.
So, the couple of like active... I mean, I think to me, the most useful thing is say it out loud, write it down. And we were even talking about if you feel too much, are too embarrassed to write down your self-abusive thoughts, then like one practice that I've heard is take a small piece of paper and start writing but just write over and over so that nobody can read it, even you. But just start writing down your thoughts, saying them out loud, labeling the feeling that you're feeling, and just know all human brains have thoughts. And they create feelings for every human, except for maybe psychopaths. Like if you have a diagnosable, if you have a psychopath diagnosis, you may not be able to experience this process, but everybody else is going through this, so...
And then a couple of practices, like one practice that I've heard of as you're starting to work on that friendship with yourself, that not being alone in your own brain, like having that be a friendly environment, that I think is really amazing is just take a washcloth--because a lot of people when they have an abusive relationship with themselves, you can develop like physical sensitivities, like your body does absorb that. So, you can take a washcloth and just, with warm water, and then just start almost treating your body as though it's a pet. And like being kind to your body. And, so I got this from Karen Laurie who I love, but she said that she would take a washcloth and she would just rub it on her body and say "you're loved and you're safe, you're loved and you're safe." Just over and over again, just send your body the message that you would want a friend to send to you.
Mm hmm. I've done that with a feather before. And just like creating that sensation, is like... something fires off the synapses in your brain. And if you become disconnected from your body, you become disconnected from your feelings. And it's just an amazing way to check back in.
And when we're believing that other people are our only connection to our bodies, our only connection to our feelings, that just puts us in a stuck place. And like the other thing about it is it's not true. It's actually just not. And it's good news that we can do this, or I think that if we're willing to just label loneliness as a feeling, and take a look at the thoughts that we're having about it. There are always actions that we can take to actually be around more humans or to develop an external connection. But the problem is that if we're doing that before we've looked at the thoughts and feelings, then we just have humans around us and we're still feeling lonely.
Yeah, like problem number two.
Yeah, right, right, right. So the other thought that I had just for people who literally want some kind of companionship right now is obviously online is a good option, talking to people, reaching out to friends, what if you reach out to friends and you just chose to love them? Like you just chose to think about that friend and how much you love them. And then also, I've seen a lot of animal shelters need fostering right now for people who really are alone. And I think animals are such an amazing opportunity to just practice loving, like practice, unconditional, just that feeling for us of unconditional loving care. And then how do we naturally take care of animals, naturally take care of other people, and how can we apply that to ourselves?
I also think that this is an amazing time to make friends. Like everybody's going to the same place, the world wide web, right? And, like, a thought I use sometimes is there's an ask for a receipt. There's like people out there that want to connect. And if that's something that, you know, you've worked through, that's something that you really, really want. This is a great time to make friends and meet people all over the world. Like the whole, actually, the whole world right now is kind of in the same place.
I had... it's so fascinating, right? Having the same, probably more similar news than the world has ever had before. We have way more similar problems than the world has ever had before. Like, we really have so many more opportunities to feel connected with everybody in the whole world, at this one time. When a family that I was friends with, they were moving to California and I was really sad about it, and I was helping them pack up and one of the daughters in the family, I was talking to her and I was like, "I just wish that everybody I love lived in the same place." And she was like, "they do... it's called the Earth."
And, I was like, "you're so wise."
I really think that when we don't treat our negative emotions as a problem, when we treat them as a source of connection to everybody else, then you can feel them. And, then the next part of it is that connection that we really are looking for.
And it's not a lie. I think what does connection mean? You get to decide.
Yeah. And like, just for example, you can find people that are feeling super positive about this circumstance, and you can find people that are depressed, and they're out there. And we're all having all of the emotions right now.
Right. We didn't stop having any emotion because this happened.
Or really start having any emotion because this happened. I think that, like that goes back to what we were saying before. Like, I think we get really trapped in thinking that because we're having a reasonable thought it's the only option available and people are having such a range of reasonable thoughts. And, whatever your thought and your feeling about this is, it is reasonable. Like, you can just already know it's reasonable, and it's not the only option.
And just like everybody is talking about the uncertainty, right? And, certainty is something we can create for ourselves.
And what are the conditions that we put on our own ability to feel connected and to feel certainty?
Yeah. Cool. Well, thank you for doing this.
Thank you. Lovely seeing you and spending some time together.
And if people want help from you, what do they do?
They can go to lonelynomore.online or they can reach out to me here on Facebook.
lonelynomore.com? Nope. lonelynomore.online Whoa, what? I didn't even know that was a thing. Okay.
Yeah... they're all sorts of dot things now.
So I think that is the thing is that, like, we can sit here and say--and I don't think any of the things that we're saying are meant like this--but like, just be happy.
Like, that's not what any of us intended to mean. But, and I think for me, I could not do the work that I did on this alone. Like, it just was not something that I had the tools for until I learned them. So none of this is to say that this is easy work, or to be trite about it or anything. But there is help available, and Rebecca's the expert at this. And, if you're having trouble at work, you can always come to erisresolution.com
Yeah, we're here. We're here for that. Well, everybody enjoy the rest your day. And we'll see you later.