My bff and I “separated” in 7th grade and became very different people. Before that time I never had an issue with making friends and had quite a few but by the end of middle school, I was pretty alone. In high school it was not much different I had people to talk to, I was involved in extracurricular stuff but I rarely saw anyone outside of those activities. I am pretty introverted but I like people. I went to college and joined some groups and enjoyed their company but nothing really stuck. A couple of years in I roomed with a couple of people I knew and started to build a friendship with them but we’re just not close. I like them a lot and they seem to like me but I always just feel like I’m bothering them. And if I’m with them together I feel like a 3rd wheel. I realize that my issues are about me and not others. I can be annoying, emotionally distant, awkward, and occasionally clingy. I realize that but I don’t know what to do about it.
I feel more isolated than ever and just have aching loneliness. Sometimes I just lay in bed and cry and try to muffle the sound in my pillow so they can’t hear me. I’m just lost. (From the USA)
I think it takes a lot of courage to talk about this pain of loneliness. You’re not alone. Gallup poll has said that 40% of Americans are lonely. That’s the rough news. The good news is that there really is something you can do about it.
You already have a very good grasp on the dynamics of your interpersonal relationships. This is a very good start. You also realize that you bring something to the table that might make it difficult for people to make a connection, with you yet you are aware connections are possible.
Your capacity for reflection is important because it gives you the necessary skill for change. When we are aware of a pattern we want to change it gives us the power to choose something different. The reactions you have may be part of your personality, but they are largely the result of habits and lack of experience with other skills. This is where there is some real hope for change through group psychotherapy.
Group psychotherapy is a format where people who typically do not know one another come together for the purpose of helping each other transform. The kind of group therapy I’m suggesting has a trained facilitator and usually operates with from 6 to 10 people. The facilitator selects the individuals to join the group.
Some groups have a specific focus, like people who have recently been divorced, while others are more heterogeneous, meaning they have people with very different needs joining the process. A good group therapist would be able to facilitate a group that allows you to get feedback, experiment with new behaviors, and learn how to give feedback to others. It is important to find a therapist in your area that has specific training or expertise in group therapy. You can find a list from the top of this page under the “find help” tab, or you can look to this group. I would highly recommend group therapy for you. While the style isn’t as important as the skills of the facilitator the main type will have components of what is called “interactive” group therapy. This indicates that the primary function of the group is to interact with one another (rather than analyze, stop smoking, or recover from alcoholism, as examples), and is based on principles that look at therapeutic factors. These factors help make a group and its members healthy.
In joining a group you’ll have a chance to find your voice, learn from others, and most of all develop a better sense of who you are. People who join groups tend to understand themselves and connect better with people. If you want to learn more about groups you can check out this blog or this one.
Wishing you patience and peace,