Alone In The Crowd
How to Overcome Urban Isolation
By Steve B. Reed, L.P.C., L.M.F.T.
The pain of loneliness never knew a stranger. It is the constant companion of many a solitary soul. In this massive urban sprawl, the shadow of isolation is upon countless individuals. Most of us have felt the chill of loneliness. Some people even resign themselves to a life-style of being alone. With so many people around, it is ironic that connecting has become so difficult. There are two key reasons this. One reason is sociological and the other psychological.
For millennia, people lived in small rural villages. They had all their family and extended family close by. They grew up, went to school, worked, lived and eventually died with the same people. They did not have to do anything to become a part of it all. They were simply born into the close-nit, social fabric of a community. During the last 100 years, society has undergone profound changes that contribute to the problem of urban isolation.
These sociological changes include four main factors. They are:
1. the migration of the population to large cities since the industrial revolution;
2. the loss of extended family as advances in transportation create an increasingly mobile society;
3. the breakdown of the nuclear family with the social acceptance of divorce;
4. and the loss of history with people as close friends move away to pursue education, jobs and promotions. We have not yet developed the coping strategies to deal with these radical changes.
Today people are trying to adjust and deal with loss, loneliness, isolation, constant change, high-paced stressful jobs, single parent families, blended families and the repeated necessity of rebuilding ones social support system. Many people who go into counseling are struggling with these issues.
One key antidote for urban isolation is membership in caring groups that you find meaningful and enjoyable. Any topic of interest is a catalyst around which people collect. You can join many possible groups. Among them, one of the few instant sources of caring community remaining in our society is the church. This institution continues to play a great a role in people’s lives, socially as well as spiritually. In some of my seminars, I suggest that people participate in at least three groups that they can feel a sense of inclusion, acceptance and caring. Membership does have its advantages.
However, not everyone is comfortable joining groups. There can be psychological reasons that block a person from joining even though they realize the benefits of a healthy support system. Some people have traumatic experiences in their family of origin. The family is the first group in which we have membership. If it was not safe to be yourself, to have your thoughts and feelings, with your family it may not feel safe to think of joining any group.
Others have felt deeply hurt by a peer group that was attacking, excluding or shaming. Such painful experiences can develop into a phobia of social groups. If the thought of getting closely involved in a group seems threatening and anxiety provoking, then you may be experiencing this type of phobia.
Lastly, even if you do not have any traumatic associations with groups, if you grew-up with parents who did, you may have learned to be afraid of groups simply because they were afraid.
Many excellent treatments are now available in the field of psychotherapy to help people resolve fears of closeness and connection to individuals and groups. Any traumatic experience with family or peer groups can benefit from some of the newer trauma therapies. Treatments that have a high success rate include the REMAP process, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Research is showing these methods to be both faster and more effective than the old ways of treating trauma that rely on talk therapy alone.
Although these treatments represent recent advances in the field of psychotherapy, a growing number of therapists are becoming interested. Those who train in these approaches find that many long-term problems can dissipate in short order. Rather than years of therapy, many issues only take months. Sometimes, even as little as a few treatment sessions can make a difference.
Last year, one of my colleagues showed an interest in using the REMAP process to treat her social phobia. In less than an hour of treatment, she was already starting to feel better about her life-long social fear. As the year went on, she kept telling me about how much more comfortable she was feeling in groups. This was after just one treatment session.
This shows that when you resolve these psychological blocks, the quality of your life can improve almost instantly. This can clear the way for you to enjoy further improvement in the quality of your life by just adding people.
Steve B. Reed, LPC, LMSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist that specializes in treating trauma and anxiety disorders including social phobia. He treats people at his Richardson, Texas office (Dallas area) and through phone counseling worldwide. You can reach Steve at 972-997-9955.