In a recent Facebook post, we asked readers to lay it on the line and tell us their greatest fears. One answer came across so often that we decided to address it.
The Fear of Being Alone
So really, why is being alone one of our biggest fears?
To begin, it’s no surprise that anxiety sufferers fear being alone. Our minds are on a constant safari with no protective fence.
They run like the wind.
You name it, we worry about it. We fear being laid off, being left, crime, snakes, car accidents, spiders-and the list goes on.
However, being alone seems to top the charts.
Oftentimes, I refer to experts. But today I’m going to give it to you from my perspective as a person who struggles with anxiety. After all, we’re all here to combat and/or learn about anxiety.
Here’s my story…
The fear of being alone first came up after my divorce. I had never stayed in a house alone-just high rises in which other people were always nearby.
To put it simply, I was terrified.
The first night, I absolutely couldn’t make it til dawn. I drove around for hours in a desperate attempt to escape my mind.
(I even sat in parking lots and talked to late night store workers just to be around people. That’s pretty bad!)
I was afraid of burglars, death, fires, sickness, things that go bump in the night, creatures, critters, and hundreds of other things.
Fear after fear popped into my mind with no end in sight. It was like watching a fireworks show I wasn’t interested in.
As the weeks passed, battling the fear of being alone became a full time job. In fact, it took over my life.
Enter the crazy.
You wouldn’t believe the measures I took to battle fear. I got a state of the art burglar alarm, scores of smoke detectors (more than I want to admit), an exterminator, and a Plan A and Plan B for every night of the week.
Weeks turned into months and I lost any semblance of reality that I had ever had. I couldn’t be alone for the life of me after 7 p.m. Not for a minute.
It became dangerous to the point that I started to lose ME.
Trying to gain control of my life, I started analyzing the fears. In what seemed like an instant, I solved the first part of my issue. It was a God send.
I realized that I had never considered the underlying problem.
The truth of the matter is that the fear of being alone comes from the terrifying thoughts that we face.
(And call me out on this if you disagree.)
Every single thing scared me. No matter what it was.
Even worse, there was a consistent pattern. For each fear that I beat, a new fear emerged.
The fear of fire was replaced by a fear of carbon monoxide poisoning. The fear of mice gave way to a fear of wolf spiders and other crawly creatures. And the fear of sickness and death took backseat to a fear that someone I loved would die.
You see, fear is like cancer. It spreads.
All I wanted was to be alone. But this was impossible. I absolutely couldn’t do it.
When the fears weren’t improving, I delved into the issue on a deeper level. To do this, I asked myself another life-changing question.
“What is it that is driving this rapidly changing set of fears?”
At that moment, a light bulb went on. And let me tell you…this light bulb was as clear as a lone cloud in the sky on a sunny summer day.
In that critical moment, it became clear that my fear of being alone was about a lack of confidence. I didn’t trust myself and my ability to respond to life’s challenges because I had never had to rely on myself for anything.
As a child, my parents dealt with any crisis that came up. In my twenties, I was surrounded by strong friends. And in my thirties, I had counted on my ex-husband’s advice about any issue that mattered.
Now, it was just me. I was the provider, care taker and authority figure in my life.
I had to learn how to trust my gut instincts and my own judgement. That in itself was grueling. Anxiety clouds our judgement in general. It is a mind’s worst nightmare.
So how are you supposed to conquer a fear of being alone when you don’t know what is even real?
At that point, I learned how to have productive inner dialogue. I might not be able to distinguish fear from reality simply. However, I could have a conversation with myself in order to find solid ground.
The first night, I made it a few hours. With each emerging fear, I asked myself how likely it was that this fear would actually happen.
The second night, I continued the conversation. I challenged every false belief in my mind. (I even made notes during the day to refer back to when I was solo.)
Within a few months, I was able to make it through the night. Though I was still afraid to be alone, I found strength in reality.
But I still hadn’t found the missing piece of the puzzle.
As the years passed, I discovered that conversations with myself weren’t the only tool that I needed to use. I also needed to stay present with reality itself.
This is what experts call mindfulness.
Every time one of my irrational fears would come up, I refocused my attention into the present moment. If I was afraid of fire, I directed my attention to what was happening right now.
The combination of these two factors has diminished the fear of being alone in general. In fact, it’s pretty much gone.
As a result, I’ve traveled to South America SOLO. I go out on “me nights” with yours truly. And I even work by myself most days.
The moral of the story is that you can conquer a fear of being alone. However, you’ll never conquer it if you don’t face it.
In closing this post, I want to leave you with a quote that I found online.
“You are never alone, and when you learn to connect deeply with your true self and your guidance, you will know you are never alone. It is this deep inner connection that takes away the fear of being alone.” -Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
To Conquering Your Fear of Being Alone,
P.S. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback. Do you struggle with a fear of being alone?
Huffington Post.com: Fear of Being Alone
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