What’s the difference between “loneliness” and “aloneness”? Well, if you only take one thing from this article, then try to understand the difference between the two. Because if you do, then you will have gone a long way towards helping yourself cope with the isolation that’s part and parcel of social distancing.

As the country opens up, trying to have the craic with two metres and a Perspex screen between you and your friends is a bit like trying to feel the texture of silage whilst wearing thick gloves. Little nuances that are part and parcel of our daily interactions, like shaking hands, kisses on the cheek and even hugs are gone.

Those little common behaviours that help us achieve our sense of belonging and community will all be missing for the foreseeable future.

However, as anyone who has ever had it will tell you, loneliness is a feeling that occurs regardless of where you are, who you are with or what you are doing.

Loneliness has got to be the most crushing feeling that any of us can experience. Indeed, I don’t think there is anyone reading this, including myself, who hasn’t experienced it at some time in their lives.

It leads to depression, anxiety, ruins lives and as anyone who has ever been lonely will tell you, can occur regardless of whether you are on your own or in the middle of a huge crowd, breaking even the strongest person.

It is possible, however, to get rid of it, and interestingly enough, getting rid of loneliness does not mean having to be part of a group, or even with people.

Learning to accept ourselves

You see, aloneness occurs when we’re on our own and we are able to accept ourselves as we are. By being able to do this, we feel a sense of contentment, that both we and the people in the world around us are OK.

Loneliness, on the other hand, is when we are on our own, but don’t accept ourselves. We believe that we are less than other people.

We feel like rejects, abandoned by normal people and even when in company, feel that if we let people see us as we really are, they will hate us almost as much as we hate ourselves.

So, whether we feel alone or lonely will be determined more by the relationship we have with ourselves, than by our relationships with other people. And it’s from this insight that the power to get rid of our loneliness comes.

Loneliness has got to be the most crushing feeling that any of us can experience

Because in order to be able to change our feelings, we don’t have to change our circumstances. We can feel OK and happy regardless of how much Perspex or two-metre rules we have to put up with.

When we are in a bad space in our head, our minds turn on us, constantly criticising us for who we are. It’s a tough world when we can’t live with other people; it’s infinitely worse when we can’t live with ourselves. We therefore feel lonely and isolated.

Raggy Doll Club

Relieving your loneliness involves learning how to accept yourself exactly as you are. And to do that, you need to become a member of the “Raggy Doll Club”.

The Raggy Dolls were the toys in a children’s TV programme in the 1990s that had all been thrown in the reject bin because there was something wrong with them.

However, instead of thinking that they were rejects because they had been rejected, they were all happy.

The Raggy Dolls had learned that to be happy, all they had to do was to accept that they didn’t have to be a certain way in order to be acceptable. And this is very true in real life. The more abnormal we view ourselves, the more normal we inadvertently view others. In the end, we see everyone else as normal and ourselves as abnormal.

However, we are no madder than anyone else, make no more mistakes than anyone else and accept that our concept of a 'normal person' doesn’t actually exist

To relieve our loneliness, we need to reverse this by accepting that we probably are as “mad as a brush” and accept that we constantly make mistakes.

However, we are no madder than anyone else, make no more mistakes than anyone else and accept that our concept of a “normal person” doesn’t actually exist.

Personal experience

After 37 years in this job, I have learned that underneath the superficial differences that divide us all, we are all very similar underneath.

We are all trying to do the best we can, using the tools we have and are afraid that people will find us out and see us as we really are!

From my own personal experience, once I accepted myself as I was – nuts and all – I’ve never felt lonely. I’m comfortable and indeed like my own company. I am also comfortable in the company of others, as I know that they are no different to myself. I like having other people around me, but don’t need them to make me feel that I’m OK.

Of course, for those people who choose to have a problem with me or think that my sole purpose in life is to live up to their expectations. I know some wonderful therapists that can help them overcome their own intolerance and help them become Raggy Dolls like the rest of us.

So if you’re not at ease with your knobbly knees

And your fingers are all thumbs

Then stand on your two left feet and join your Raggy Doll Chums

Because Raggy Dolls, Raggy Dolls are happy just to be

Raggy Dolls, Raggy Dolls

Dolls like you and me.

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