How To Overcome Loneliness – A Review of Teal Swan’s “The Anatomy of Loneliness”
As taught by world renowned New Thought Leader and International Best-Selling Author & Speaker Teal Swan, loneliness is something that all people experience; the question is, to what degree?
Teal Swan calls loneliness the human epidemic and goes on to explain that there is a kind of loneliness that can be remedied by simply being around other people and there is a kind of loneliness that can’t. It is this second form of loneliness, the kind that exists even when we are in a crowded room, that causes us to truly suffer. This particular form of loneliness is a genuine sense of isolation.
When we feel lonely, but it isn’t because we aren’t in the vicinity of other people, it is confusing and it is hard to know what the solution is. Part of this is because we don’t understand what is causing it. We don’t understand the why. The Anatomy of Loneliness, Teal Swan’s book on overcoming loneliness, clears this confusion. It answers the why. The book quite literally details the anatomy of loneliness, what specifically creates loneliness and how to resolve those things so as to create genuine connection with other people.
To briefly touch on what Teal Swan shares in the book, the anatomy of loneliness is composed of three distinct parts or pillars:
Pillar #1 – Separation:
Swan says that the perception of separation is the heart of all loneliness. Though the story of the perception of separation began far before our physical incarnation, she tells us that separation is the recognition of self vs. other, which just so happens to be the birth of the ego. It is a state of “fragmentation”.
She goes on to say that this fragmentation does not just take place externally. You don’t just experience a separation between yourself and other things in the world. It also takes place internally. The fragmentation that takes place internally within each person, a fragmentation, causes us to separate off from certain parts of ourselves and those parts feel ostracized, rejected, disowned and isolated. This creates internal disunity. But because we cannot actually eradicate these aspects from us, we feel the intense loneliness and isolation and rejection that those parts within us feel. And we call this the feeling of “loneliness”.
Pillar #2 – Shame:
The second pillar of loneliness is shame. Teal Swan explains that most people think that shame is solely a mental and emotional response to self-diminishing experiences, beliefs, and thoughts. But she explains that this is wrong. The truth is, shame is much more primal than that and more debilitating because shame is the mechanism of fragmentation.
To understand shame, she asks you to imagine a sea anemone. If you poke a sea anemone with your finger, it immediately has a reaction and that is to pinch itself closed. This reaction happens at an instinctual level. It happens without the sea anemone having to think about making it happen. It’s an organic biological affective reaction.
The Anatomy of Loneliness book teaches us that shame is actually a primitive reaction encoded in your organism, just like your fight or flight mechanism. When we experience shame, we push some part of ourselves away. But we can’t do that in actuality. All we can do is to cause our own consciousness to split. When we feel the secondary layer of shame, which is the emotional experience of shame, we withdraw from other people. We make ourselves impossible to access for them. We either do this through avoidance or by being completely inauthentic so people only ever interact with a façade. Either way, we create distance, not only internally, but also between ourselves and others. And we experience extreme loneliness as a result.
Pillar #3 – Fear:
The third pillar of loneliness is Fear. Teal shares with us that fear is also inherently about separation. By its very nature, it is to push something or someone away from you. And fear is the number one most isolating experience on the planet. The more fearful we are, the more alone we are.
Fears about relationships or about other people simply serve to separate us from people and make us lonely when it comes to human contact. The Anatomy of Loneliness book discusses four primary fears when it comes to relationships. They are:
- Rejection or Disapproval
- Being Trapped in Pain
- Loss of Self, also called Enmeshment
A core principle that is taught by Teal Swan is that it’s impossible to fear the unknown. This means that the fear that is keeping us lonely is a holdover from a previous traumatic situation we have already experienced. It is not about the unknown. It is about something we project into the unknown.
The second part of the book, goes on to explain how to reverse the mechanism of separation, shame and fear. And it details how to replace that sense of loneliness with a genuine sense of connection, both internally within the self and externally with other people.
One of the most riveting concepts that Teal Swan puts forth in this book is that every crime that was ever committed came about because the person committing it perceived himself or herself to be separate from and disconnected from the person they committed that crime against.
And so, it would stand to reason that the perception of separateness is not only the greatest pain we experience in this life, it’s also the single most dangerous thing on the planet. This would mean that reversing our loneliness is not just something that is important for us as individuals. It is something that is important for the world. And it all begins with healing it within ourselves.