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Published on August 22, 2017

Why Making More Friends Only Makes You Even More Lonely

Why Making More Friends Only Makes You Even More Lonely

Chronic loneliness is a modern-day epidemic, and a sad one at that. We live in such a busy time, and it’s all too common to sacrifice relationships for more work, more money, more stuff. But as a species, humans don’t do well by themselves. We survive best in groups where we can look to others for support and empathy.

Despite the instinctual need for others, the percentage of Americans who say they frequently feel alone is at an all time high. In the 1970s and 1980s, the percentage was around 11% and 20%, respectively. Yet in 2010, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) repeated a similar study and the percentage was as high as 45%.[1]

When feelings of loneliness seem to overwhelm us, the instinctual fix is to make more friends; to socialize. But all this really accomplishes is a more intense realization of loneliness.

Loneliness Exists Even with Physical Company

Feeling alone is not the same as truly being alone. Think about this common situation: in a family gathering, a handful of relatives are sitting at the table with others, but they are scrolling through Facebook on their phone or texting people who are not present. None of the people in this scenario are truly alone, but they do create loneliness. Through being more interested in their phone than physical company, they miss out on true human connection through company.

Another relatable example is patients in hospitals. While these ill people are quite literally surrounded with support, they often feel lonely and forgotten if their relatives do not stop by frequently. Any type of separation, be it literal or emotional makes us (and even animals) feel very alone and cut off.[2]

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In animals, it’s not separating a monkey from any companion, it’s separating them from a preferred companion. When we do that, we see the same effects in those monkeys that we see in humans; they feel lonely.

Connecting Is Easy, Deepening Is Not

Part of the problem with being hyper-social or making new “friends” to fill a void comes from the fact that those connections are actually empty. This is due to how simple it is to connect with new people.

Any time you open an app like Facebook or SnapChat, you’re making connections with people. They could be long-time friends, acquaintances or even strangers, but the attention makes the line blur between true companion and internet stranger. A person can have thousands of friends on Facebook but only truly know 50 of them. The high number doesn’t mean loneliness is an impossibility.

Another trend in the loneliness quick-fix is dating apps. If you need a mood booster or just want someone to compliment you and keep you company, any dating app can do the trick within minutes. There are often no strings attached, but along with being dangerous, this is also emotionally detrimental; while you may not feel alone for the hour you spend with a new person, as soon as they leave (most likely to never be heard from again), you feel even more alone than before.

Promiscuity Is a Loner’s Drug

When you make new friends because of loneliness, you’re being promiscuous. While this word is typically associated with dating a lot or being intimate very casually, the alternate definition is more about being indiscriminate or casual when it comes to who you surround yourself with.

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Sure, it can feel good to connect with a lot of people, but new connections don’t always lead to strong relationships. The more shallow relationships you build, the more lonely you feel.

Think back to the last time you realized you were ravenously hungry. You probably raided the pantry and ate whatever you could get your hands on, even if it was pure junk food. Making empty connections to try to fill a void is the same thing; When you’re not being selective about who to connect with, you make plenty of shallow connections.

Beating the Loneliness-Free Addiction

Deep relationships connect people on an intimate level. When you truly connect with someone, you trust them. That trust allows you to exchange thoughts and feelings in order to truly grow as a person.

Shallow relationships, however, make people feel distant because thoughts and feelings are not exchanged and shared. Why would you share intimate thoughts and ideas with someone if you don’t know you can trust them to keep it between you?

Shallow connections lead you back to the original problem – “a separation from a preferred companion”, which leads to loneliness.

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It’s a vicious cycle: you feel lonely, you try to meet more people, you connect with even more unsuitable people, and those people leaving you more lonely. It’s why wise people often say they would rather have two really close friends than 20 acquaintances.

So what are you supposed to do? Stop being a friendly person? No.

Stop Aiming for Making More Friends

Aim to connect with a few who you can share your mind with. The goal is to build real relationships on a solid foundation. If you were in love with a diamond bracelet but you couldn’t afford it, wouldn’t it be better to do without than to waste money on a cheap knock off that turned your wrist green? Knock-off friends are no different.

It’s also important to note that friendship and connections with people should be done for you and your happiness, not to impress others or seem popular. Someone can be physically with a lot of people but still feel lonely. It doesn’t matter how many people are impressed by your friend group; if you don’t consider any of those people real friends, you’ve accomplished nothing.

When the people are the right ones, making friends with just a few of them is enough to give you the warmth and connection. When you find yourself physically alone, just sending a quick text to a real friend or two can make you feel better long-term. The real friends are the ones who will make you happy and challenge you to grow.

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Find out the types of friends you need here: The Purpose Of Friendship: The Only 4 Types Of Friends You Need In Life

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed as to how to go about making real connections, start with understanding others’ values to form a deeper connection.The more values you share with each other, the more likely the relationship will be a deep one. Read this article about knowing more about your values: Knowing My Values Has Filled up the Long-Existed Missing Gap in My Life

A Deep Connection Is More Worthwhile Than Hundreds of Shallow Ones

It’s not a bad thing to make friends, it only becomes a problem when you don’t pay attention to who you connect with and those so-called connections are vapid and empty.

Don’t let your “hunger” for going loneliness-free blind you. Be selective about who you connect with. Develop deep connections and ditch the shallow ones. You’re way too good for that anyway.

Reference

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Anna Chui

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Published on July 13, 2018

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

What is attachment theory?

Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

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When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

How attachment develops

Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

Different types of attachments

In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

  • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
  • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
  • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
  • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

What attachments mean to adults

So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

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As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

  • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
  • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
  • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
  • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

Here’s where it gets really interesting:

Move towards secure attachment

The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

How to restructure your thoughts

Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

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For the Avoidant Style

As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

For the Anxious Style

For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

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First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

For the Secure Style

Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

Strive towards Secure Attachment

As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

  • Positive self esteem and self image
  • Close and well adjusted relationships
  • Sense of security in self and the world
  • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
  • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
  • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
  • Trust in self and others
  • Close, intimate relationships
  • Strong determination and problem solving skills

If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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