Rarely a day goes by when my newsfeed isn’t running at least a half dozen articles on mental health. I’m a mental health counselor, and most of these articles bore me to tears; I can only imagine how others take them.
The truth is, mental health articles are about as fun to read as they are to write. So, in an attempt to keep myself entertained (yes, its all about me), I thought it might be fun, and actually more informative, to write about how to achieve some form of mental agony instead; and there are few things more agonizing than loneliness. So here goes my best attempt (I learn best through irony, hope you do too).
5 habits of highly lonely people
“They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars—on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.”
If you can relate to these lines by Robert Frost, then you’ve probably already arrived at the excruciatingly lonely life that this article is meant to help you achieve. But for those who need a little more direction, I offer the following 5 daily habits necessary for building a truly lonely life. If followed faithfully, I believe these 5 simple habits will give you all the skills needed to emotionally isolate yourself, and create the sort of personal zombie apocalypse you’ve always dreamed of.
1. Stay distracted from the present at least 90% of the time
This habit is essential to loneliness and is the foundation of the next 4 habits. Luckily, since you live in the age of the screen—cell phones, videogames, TV—you should already be most of the way there. If you are not presently operating at a 90% distraction rate do your best to catch up as quickly as possible, as anything less than 90% could get you too much exposure to your present life. Being “present” is a fast-track to awareness, and nothing will sink your lonely-ship faster than consistent awareness of the present.
This step really speaks for itself: If you only have 2 or 3 social media accounts, open 3 or 4 more; spend most of your day connecting with your screen instead of live people; if you spend most of your day on a computer at work be sure to utilize your drive home with the radio or podcasts; when you arrive home take a few minutes to greet your family, but make sure your back on your phone with as little delay as possible. Etcetera, you know what to do.
2. Inject humor into almost everything
Humor is a powerful tool. It’s like a hammer—it can build pretty things; it can knock down pretty things. You should use it wisely. If used appropriately it may actually cause more people to enjoy your company and make your life more fulfilling. So instead, attempt to use it mostly for derailing genuine emotional encounters with people.
For example, if you sense that a discussion is headed towards an open display of emotions, throw in a sarcastic comment or some humorous observation about the way something was said or done. Not only will humor successfully derail any possible interpersonal connection, but it will help you deflect making contact with your own emotions as well. It’s a win-win.
3. Immediately use “coping skills” upon every instance of emotional discomfort
Along with humor we’ve all learned to use “coping skills”. You are supposed to use them in situations of acute and painful emotions—ones that are destructive rather than helpful, such as depression, neurotic anxiety, and panic attacks. If loneliness is your goal, I would highly suggest subjecting all of your emotions to coping skills.
The minute any pesky emotion begins to register in your throat or chest, the instant you find your shoulders tightening, or your jaw clenching, insert your favorite coping skill and block the emotion from awareness.
The more emotions you can block means the more of yourself that gets blocked. I mean, it makes sense: the more of yourself that you can subject to psychological isolation, the lonelier you will feel. This isn’t rocket science.
4. Choose a life of pure objectivity
Speaking of science, one of the best ways to stay aloof from a healthy, vibrant emotional life is to constantly dwell in the sort of objective mindset typical of a scientist at work in a laboratory.
A scientist, due to the nature of the work, is required to supplant, to the greatest degree possible, all biases of, and personal subjectivity to, their object of study. The scientist must collect the facts, organize the facts, and let the facts do the talking. Pull this mindset over to your interpersonal relationship and you’ll quickly see how it ensures loneliness.
If I, for example, while in a disagreement with my wife attempt to simply acknowledge material facts, organize these facts, and let the facts do the talking, divorce is surely in my future. Why? As my priest likes to say when counseling couples, “You can either be right, or be married” (his eyes usually fixed on the man at this point). The reason is simple: in close relationships people share themselves, not merely this or that set of facts. The more objective you remain—the more objective ‘distancing’ you can put between you and the other—the fewer close relationship you will have. And the fewer close relationships you have… that’s right, the more loneliness you have.
5. Keep as your main priority the accumulation of money and pleasure
Money is not only the root of all evil, it is also one of the best incubators of loneliness. Everyone knows that money doesn’t last, but if loneliness is your aim then you’ll want to focus your time and energy on things that don’t last—money is the epitome of such. Not only does money itself not last, but what it can buy doesn’t last either. If you play your cards right you can gather up enough money to supply an endless stream of immediate pleasures for years to come.
Now, that might not seem lonely on the surface, but that’s the magic of it—you get to be existentially lonely, the kind of loneliness that goes to the bone, the kind that doesn’t make itself felt until half your life has been wasted and there remains precious little time to change course. Nothing feels quite as lonely as facing your last years with the deep yearning for more time to continue avoiding life with transient nonsense.