One of the most important communication techniques in trauma therapy is REFRAMING. The concept of reframing appears often in neuro-linguistic programming and in the works of Milton Erickson, who was renowned for his ability to do “instant cures” with just a few words or a handshake. 

Reframing means changing the context of a problem, by thinking or referring to it in a different way. It bears a superficial resemblance to political correctness. For instance, the way “victims” now call themselves “survivors” is reframing. Being a SURVIVOR is  a more positive way to think about their experiences, it emphasizes what they have gained rather than what they have lost. They have REFRAMED their experience to help them heal. Today I want to help you reframe the concept of “Loneliness”.

Let’s look at loneliness. If you are like most people, you think of loneliness in negative terms, such as isolation or friendlessness. Loneliness can leave you listless, longing for lights and laughter and love. Loneliness can leave you languishing, with a lingering feeling of loss,  a sense of being labeled a loser. How can you lift the load of loneliness? By reframing.

 In a recent meeting, a speaker was asked what animal he would most like to be. He chose a TIGER over a lion. One reason given was that Tigers hunt alone, while lions hunt in a pack. I thought what my own answer would have been–I would have chosen an EAGLE. Eagles fly high (“in rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky” according to John Denver). Eagles travel alone, viewed as a symbol of freedom, independence, and strength. When you think about it, you realize that many of our most admired animals are ones that can stand and fight ALONE. Why then do we humans feel we are somehow LESS if we are alone — do we REALLY want to be one of a flock of sheep? or part of a pack of wolves? or do we want to be that lone wolf that stands out from the crowd?

 But, after all, we are humans, not animals, so let’s try a human perspective. 

Our lives today are filled with chaos, a constant clamoring cacophony that crashes against our ears. Walking through a lobby we catch clips of newscasts calling attention to budget cuts, cancer, killings, and other catastrophes. Is it any wonder we are so STRESSED?  It can make you want to put your hands over your ears and close your eyes to shut it all out–but that would be choosing isolation and loneliness.

What if we took that LONELINESS and turned it around? Yes, loneliness CAN mean isolation and friendlessness, but it can also mean SOLITUDE.

Let’s listen to some experts: American poet May Sarton, was amazing for her time. Born in 1915, she was author of 21 novels, 16 books of poetry, 12 works of non-fiction, and 3 children’s books. She said “Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.”  Albert Einstein said ” Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature;” he believed solitude “stimulates the creative mind”.

According to those experts, solitude can be rich and stimulating, but there’s more to it. Solitude can be SOOTHING, as stress-less as sleep, surrounding you in a soft stillness, with silence that strokes your senses with the smoothness of silk. Solitude lets you be introspective, taking time to prioritize your problems, and plan your path forward. In this sense, solitude can be a SHIELD that protects your sanity from the crazy caterwauling that fills our lives. It gives you a silent center around which to build your day.

Solitude can also be a source of STRENGTH. Think of Superman’s fortress of solitude. It was a stronghold in a stark setting, surrounded by simple shapes, slanting shafts spearing the solemn sky. It symbolized strength and stamina and safety. For Superman, Solitude was a place–a place to retreat to heal, to learn, to rebuild. 

Perhaps we should consider that, in our society, doing something alone is considered a mark of success. Pilots earn their license after doing their solo flight. Musicians become stars when they leave the band and go solo. Artists are considered to have “made it” when they do a solo exhibition.  

Going solo means you have the skill and experience and determination to accomplish something by yourself. Wouldn’t we all aspire to do that? To have respect and recognition and rewards for our solo efforts? So shake off the idea of isolation. Let’s leverage our loneliness into the strength of solitude. You’re not alone, I’m not alone–instead we’re celebrating our solitude–we’re going SOLO!

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