Teresa DePratt, Intern Counselor, MSOE Counseling Services
With February bringing us the super-commercialized Valentine’s Day, it seems like a good time to give some perspective to those people who are unattached at the moment. This love-laden holiday can have even the most secure single person the feeling a little left out. Being alone however, doesn’t have to mean experiencing loneliness! And alternately, there are even some people currently in a “relationship” that would still report feeling lonely some- if not most- of the time. Being alone and feel lonely are not synonymous, in definition or in experience. But what’s the difference?
The difference starts in the interpretation. That’s because the way we look at our life situations- or what we tell ourselves- plays a big part of what emotions we experience. If you are feeling lonely, you may be thinking “Everyone else has someone to love except me. I’m such a *****.” or “Being single sucks.” On the other hand, if you truly appreciate yourself, you’ll have no trouble finding ways to have fun, be caring, learn, accomplish a task or relax, all in the company of no one but yourself.
One way you can prove to yourself that you are better company than you think, is a technique called the “Pleasure predicting” exercise. It goes like this: Decide on an activity, day, and time that you are going to go somewhere just with yourself. It may be to a restaurant, movie, or somewhere else that you normally would go with someone else. you may tell yourself things like “This is really going to be awful hanging out by myself in public.” or “What will people think?.” You might say to yourself “This is going to be a boring 2 hours alone.” In order to see if you‘re accurate, write down a percentage before you go, from 1-100%, that predicts how satisfying the experience is going to be for you. After you complete your activity, decide again a percentage that describes the amount of satisfaction that you actually got out of participating in the activity with your Self. You may be surprised at the before and after discrepancy!
One good thing about being single on Valentine’s Day: you can pretty much do whatever you want without having to automatically consider another person’s feelings! Not to mention the money saved on cards and gifts, candy, or pricey dinners. Do something you will look back on and appreciate this Valentine’s Day, like catching up on homework or getting out a project you haven’t gotten around to finishing. Other ideas for places to take yourself: visit the Milwaukee Art Museum, Domes, the Milwaukee Public Museum, walk around the 3rd Ward, go out to lunch at a bookstore, head to Kern for a workout, or go to a sporting event. Even those of you with significant others would benefit from taking the time to build a relationship with your Self. If you find yourself feeling down because you don’t have a “special someone” right now- take the opportunity to appreciate the time you spend alone. Those who do will rarely be lonely, whether or not they have a significant other in their life.
“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” -Dr. Wayne W. Dyer