The HSP World Podcast Ep. 17: How Highly Sensitives Can Deal With Loneliness

Robyn: Hey HSP World podcast listeners, in today’s episode we cover the topic of loneliness and how it’s experienced by highly sensitive people. Now, we know this is a big one for a lot of you. That’s why we decided to put together a special follow-up episode, where the hosts will be discussing tips on how to attract HSP-supportive people into your life.  So stay tuned for the next episode and enjoy today’s talk.

Thomas: Hi and welcome to the HSP World Podcast. With each episode we invite a guest with the HSP Trait to have a conversation about a burning HSP-related question they have. We’re not coaches or therapists. We’re HSPs holding space with you. I am one of your hosts, Thomas and your other hosts are:

Robyn: Robyn, 

Rayne: and Rayne. 

Robyn: Welcome back everybody, to another episode of our HSP World podcast.  With us today, we’re joined again by our guest, Lynn, who had some very interesting questions for us, when we started last time and we decided to bring her back for another chat. Welcome back Lynn! 

Lynn: Thanks for having me back.

Robyn: Nice to speak with you again.  So Lynn, maybe you can get us started with, uh, your next question for today. 

Lynn: Yeah. So I think the last time we discussed, we talk about loneliness, which I think since it’s a new year and we just had the holidays, it’s a very relevant topic. And also just in terms of being an HSP and being lonely. Yeah.

Rayne: So that’s what you wanted to chat about today Lynn?

Lynn: Ya, I guess. You can ask me questions…

Thomas: Well, I think loneliness is something that affects all of us at some point or other, and it can affect us whether we are in a family situation, whether we’re married or have a significant other, or are single. 

I mean, there’s, there’s, I’m thinking now existentially just about when we’re by ourselves, the only voice that we hear  is our own voice, and sometimes, I know for myself that voice can be pretty annoying sometimes.  And then, you know, there’s some times where I think gee, you know, wouldn’t be fantastic for someone to know my experience  and how in the world can someone else know what that experience is.

And so there’s, you know, in that question, there’s sort of a clue as to how to have someone else share that experience. The, one of the points is as you have to sort of  become a little bit more outward and, and speak up and say, Hey, this is, this is what I’m experiencing. Or you can do it through art, or you can do it through writing or whatever it might be.

What do you think? 

Robyn: So just to, you know, stay true to our purpose here, we are talking about HSPs specifically and loneliness, right?

Lynn: Yeah.

Robyn: So Lynn, I’m just wondering if you could say a bit more. What those two… cause of course, yes, it’s, it’s not just a highly sensitive issue. Right? There’s, we’ve known for years that there’s a loneliness epidemic, especially in western countries.

And I can only imagine it’s gotten quite, it’s been quite exacerbated by, uh, by the global pandemic happening right now with the COVID-19.  But I’m wondering what, what do you…  how do you see this as a question, particularly for highly sensitives? 

Lynn: Yeah. Sorry. I realized that I didn’t quite phrase my question properly, but, uh, like Thomas said, I guess for me, in my experience, I’ve experience loneliness in the way that most people do.

Like, you know, not having friends talk to, or not having a significant other, but also a huge part of my loneliness is very existential. So worrying, not, not, not so much worrying, but, um, thinking about, uh, life and death and like, why am I here? And am I all alone in this world? Are we all alone in  this world.

And these are things that I realized over the years that most people just don’t think about, you know, they, they do, they do relate to, you know, the human loneliness, human side of like, Oh yeah, I don’t have a boyfriend or I don’t have that many friends, but when it comes to the existentialist part, it seems to only… people seem to only think about it or realize that it exists when, let’s say when they’re watching a movie, like,  I don’t know, Gravity, I think that comes to mind.

I like to watch a lot of sci-fi movies  because it touches on that topic, you know, like the martian and you know, being stranded on a random planet just, yeah. Does that answer your question, Robyn? 

Robyn: I think so. Yeah. I mean, there’s not necessarily one particular way to connect it to HSPs.

But, okay. So, so for you, you would see that you, you think about it more and you ask more questions about it and that it’s not just, for you, it’s not just in the literal sense of, Oh, I don’t have people around me, but it’s also in this more philosophical sense of, you know, am I alone in the universe?

Yeah. And that, that might I, yeah. Would that be an HSP thing? The second question, I don’t know. I could imagine some HSPs not necessarily taking it to an existential level and some non-HSPs doing that. I think that might be more… you know we were talking in our last episode about intuition, right? And people who lean a little bit more on intuition and abstractions and things like that might be a little bit more given to the more existential questions.

But you know, the one thing that does keep coming back in our, our talks is that, whatever the topic is for HSPs it’s probably more pronounced. Right?  I mean, you can add to the fact that, almost anyone can experience loneliness, but HSPs also… cause loneliness is not… loneliness is not just the fact of being alone. Right?

I think this is an important distinction to make, right? Like you can talk about loneliness, you can talk about solitude. You can talk about just being alone. And I think often the idea is that, you know, you’re in your solitude, you’re probably by yourself but it doesn’t feel like a problem.

Whereas loneliness can actually happen in the presence of others. Right? So, you may have had that experience of being in a crowd of people, maybe being in a group or a party or something like that. Or it often happens even in relationships that people will just feel very alone and disconnected, right?

So I think loneliness is, it’s very much an experience of disconnection, of  not being understood, of maybe not like sometimes we use the word feeling held or supported or surrounded. Right? And I think, I could see why HSPs would maybe be more prone to that  because we already are in the minority and there are many instances where the majority just don’t understand what it is we’re trying to get at. Right?  

So I’ve definitely had moments of feeling a bit alienated or alone in the negative sense, in the presence of others who did not understand, maybe let’s say, an emotion that I was having or something that I was picking up on in a situation. 

Rayne: So my, my thank you, Robyn, for, for sharing that. Um, my take on it is like, I sort of feel like HSPs would be more prone to feeling it like you said, Robyn, because we sense things on a deeper level and wanting to know, well, you know what, what’s our purpose, you know, what are we here for? What, you know, what are we, why are we here? Type of thing. 

I do think they, they tend to go deeper into those areas. I know I have.  And absolutely, absolutely. I know I have, felt loneliness, you know, because it was like, you know, along my journey, there were times where it was like, nobody could understand this. I’m pretty sure nobody could understand this.

But at the same time, it also gave me a lot of opportunity, if you choose to look at it that way, for me to connect with what people call Source or, you know, I call it the Light, whatever.  And for me that has been a huge benefit.  Because, you know, feelings are funny things, you know, while I could have felt alone, I, I wasn’t alone, you know? But it was because I was connecting with, you know, with the Light.

It was because I was always asking  questions of it, was because I was developing my relationship with the Light and that in turn is, you know, I’m developing a relationship with myself, you know, and, you know, and, and for me, the Light always wants what’s best for me, always, always, always, it’s always trying to help me.

You know, sometimes you know, this, this the stuff I learned, I’m not real happy about, but that in turn gives me motivation to do something about it, to learn something from it, to take that knowledge or that wisdom forward with me and do something with it, which is, you know, so helpful, just so incredibly helpful.

So while there, I don’t know, especially in North America, you know, the slant has been towards extroversion and being out there and, you know, which is completely the opposite of developing a relationship with Source, developing a relationship with yourself, you know, introspection, looking ahead, you know, into the future, things like that.

And I’ve been, I’ve been blessed many times over for doing it.  You know, how things look on the outside externally, you know, like, Oh, loneliness, you know… it, for me, it’s actually been a really, you know, mind you I’m an introvert, but for me, it’s actually been a beautiful thing, a beautiful gift to, to be able to use those experiences to remind myself, no, I’m not alone. 

I always have the opportunity to, to connect, connecting to Source or to the Light is connecting to everything, you know, nature, everything, and it’s such  a beautiful experience, you know, and it’s available any time, it’s just a, just a matter of wanting to tap into it, I guess.

For me that, that’s just my perspective. 

Robyn: Well, I, I think you’re really onto something Rayne and I mean, you’re, you’re invoking a more spiritual dimension here.  I know for a lot of  people listening that will make perfect sense, you know, even if they don’t use the same words as you.  I know for a lot of people that will, HSPs specifically, that will really make sense. Right?  

But I think you can, you can take  your general point and apply it even, let’s say in slightly less, spiritual terms, right? Like you mentioned, connecting to nature. Right? And I think, I think what’s important is as you say, finding ways to connect that are available, regardless of who’s there. Right?

So instead of saying, well, okay, I’m feeling disconnected today. The point is not necessarily okay to say well, okay that means I need to be, you know, I need to be surrounded by people. I need to go out and find a bunch of people. Right? Because that’s not actually what nourishes a sense of connection.

Rayne: Exactly.

Robyn: And this is actually where I think HSPs have a strength that other people might not have, because remember that even though we’re more affected by negative circumstances and events. We’re also more affected by positive circumstances and events. So a little can go a long way. If you get really smart about honing in on what is it that actually nourishes me and gives me a sense of connection. Right?

So figuring out, okay, who’s that friend that’s really going to understand me right now. Right? And it’s not, again, it’s not, it’s not saying, well, I need a person. No, you don’t need a person. Right?

There’s some, there’s some moments in my life where I could speak to one of my friends and maybe they don’t understand and it’s a good friend, but they don’t necessarily understand that situation.

But there’s another friend that I know if I talked to them in two seconds, they’re gonna say, I know exactly what you’re talking about and that, you know, just a short conversation with that person is going to help reset my balance and my sense of connection. So it’s very much about going for quality over quantity.

And then also sometimes having to look outside of human connection. Right? So there’s connection to nature, there’s connection to animals, right?  This is where, where pets come in.  I mean, a lot of introverts have talked about this many times, but I think you can go from any HSPs connection to art. Right?

A lot of people say they feel less lonely when they’re with their favorite books or the favorite movies or their favorite music. That’s a kind of presence as well. Sometimes I feel less lonely when I’m writing, you know, even if it’s not anything particularly important, just writing, engaging a voice and imagining someone that I could be communicating with, that also like creates a kind of presence and a kind of connection.

Thomas:  I found that the more that I’m willing to allow myself to be vulnerable with others, the more that I connect with them. And sometimes I feel like vulnerability or the word vulnerability is like a dirty word for HSPs. For some at least.

Because vulnerability is, is just that you, you feel open, you feel, you know, unguarded, you feel, that you’re open to attack.  But there is just something that’s beautiful about revealing your inner self in a vulnerable way that for me, I’ve always been surprised by the connection that I made and certainly it’s, it’s led to, to less loneliness for me.

It’s something that I’ve really had to practice hard about you know? I really have to practice to, to allow myself to be vulnerable. It’s not something that comes easy at all. 

Rayne: Yeah. I can totally relate Thomas. It is it’s you know, it’s a muscle.

Thomas: It’s a practice.

Rayne: Absolutely.

Robyn: I think that’s a good point because we’re talking about effective connection. And if you’re not coming from a place that’s authentic and that takes into account your strengths and your weaknesses and your joys and your struggles, then you’re not, yeah, you’re not going to connect as effectively.

People can’t connect to someone who’s always happy or always successful or you know, always dealing with their problems all the time on their own. Like if that’s how you, I mean, no one is like that for real, but if that’s the self that you’re bringing to your relationships, then that’s not a self that people can properly be in contact with.

I think it even even goes into the non-human connections that we were talking about, right? Like animals can sense when you’re, when you’re in pain. And if you let yourself inhabit those emotions, they’ll come over to you and nuzzle you and make you, try to make you feel better or, or connecting to art and to books.

If you’re only ever reading things that are about, how to be successful and happy, and everything’s fine, you’re missing another moment to connect with people who’ve come before you or other people who are out there in the world and are also sharing their vulnerable experiences. Right?

Again, I’m not, this is not to say that those things don’t have their  time and place.  I think if you are going through a moment of loneliness that’s where you’re gonna, I think Thomas is right to say is like, honing in on the parts that are more vulnerable for you. Like that’s a great place to start mining for better connections. 

Rayne: Mmhmm. What do you, what do you how do you feel, Lynn? What are you, how are you feeling about this so far? 

Lynn: Well I’m just reflecting on my life experiences. I think just coming across other HSPs has been hard. So again, this is something that I think is quite relevant. So, um, the loneliness of like, how do I put it…

So I think a lot of HSPs can relate to not liking small talk and wanting to go deeper into conversations, you know?  So I found that my struggle over the years has been, as I’ve also become more introverted, I used to be more extroverted when I was younger, but now that I’m older, it’s like, I’m more spiritual so I can relate to what you said, Rayne about, you know, delving into spirituality that over the past decade, for sure. 

And, I don’t know, it’s, it’s hard to put into words. It’s just like, wanting to find my tribe, but not being able to because they don’t get me and then I can’t relate to them on, I can’t relate to people on a superficial level for too long.

Like, I’m fine with small talk and all that, but I can’t, it drains me after a while. Yeah. So that adds into the whole loneliness. 

Rayne: And some people, and some people won’t be able to meet you there, you know, and that’s okay.  And the odd person will, the odd person will, I think it’s just a matter of remaining open to the possibility. Not really expecting it, you know, because really, becoming okay with yourself and not needing… and I don’t mean in a sense of, you know, not needing people, we all need people.  We all need, you know, human connection.

It’s just, that’s part of the human condition. Right?  But I think there’s a big difference.  I think expectations play a big part in it, because we, I guess relate to the world or experience the world in a different way.

You know, adjusting our expectations and realizing at least 80% of the population does not, you know, they, they won’t get it, they don’t get it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You know, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s, that’s, it’s a beautiful thing that we’re all so different.  But adjusting expectations and, that, that’s what I’ve learned is just adjusting expectations and being, being open, you know, if something happens great. If it doesn’t that’s okay, too. You know? And, uh, yeah, I don’t, I don’t know. What do you think, Thomas?

Thomas: I think along the same lines of expectations, there’s also something about gratitude. I know that, that the more… so I’ve started a gratitude practice myself and I know that the more that I do it, the easier it is, and I don’t know that it relates directly to loneliness, but it does relate to just general well-being.

So there is something about being more outwardly directed, which is what gratitude is about.  

Rayne:  I don’t know for me, for me, uh, um, um, I think a gratitude practice is both inward and outward, for me it is. But that’s just, that’s just me, but sorry, Thomas, go on. 

Thomas: Yeah, I can see your point there. There’s  the inward component is… well, I suppose, you know, one thing that I struggle with is self-acceptance and so I could include that as part of my gratitude practices, to have gratitude for the things that I do. That’s not how I’ve been focusing my gratitude practice.

But coming back to how this relates to HSPs, Lynn, you were saying about, you know, meeting HSPs or, just in general, about not being able to connect.  You know, HSPs are, they’re all on the, on, on different parts of their HSP journey. And that’s something that we have to take into account too. Some of us have just found out about it. Some of us have known about it for a long time.

Some of us who are HSPs and know about it are not comfortable with it yet.  And that makes it difficult too, to connect. Yeah. 

Robyn: Yeah. If I can just add something here about gratitude in the context of loneliness, because I can say for myself, I’ve for a long time was very resistant to the idea of a gratitude practice.

And I’ve had quite a while to think about this and to think about why. And I think it’s because if you have a very serious need that is not met it’s difficult to embark on something like that. Right?

Like if you’re starving, if you’re literally starving and someone’s like, well, at least the air is clean. You’re like, I don’t care. That’s not, that doesn’t give me food. I’m starving. Right?

And again, I’m not, I know that I know there’s much more to a gratitude practice, but I, I do think we have to be a little bit careful in saying that when there is a very, and I mean, it’s, it’s been psychologically proven that the need for belonging and social connection is an extremely vital one to humans.

So I think it’s fair to take a look at, if you take a look at your life and you say, yeah, I’m lonely and I’m, I’m really struggling to meet my need for belonging and affection and affiliation and connection. I think it’s fair to say like, okay, this is a need that I have to address.

For me actually acknowledging the need, so again, maybe going back to vulnerability, but acknowledging the need, then open the door to talking about gratitude because, I was able to see what, Oh, wait, there are actually some moments for me to have the need met and then, and then gratitude is extremely easy, you know? So I think everything that we’ve been talking about here comes together.

When you, when you look for those zones of vulnerability, when you admit, Hey, I have a need here. You know, cause there can often be a lot of shame surrounding, um, loneliness as well. So saying, okay, I have, I have this need, this needs not being met, getting a clear distinction right before what we were, as I was saying, between solitude and loneliness and saying, it’s not just about being alone. It’s not just about having people around.

It’s about having really nourishing connection and then adjusting your expectations to say, you know, it’s not any particular person who’s going to come and fulfill this need all the time. And it’ll be different people to the best of their ability, depending where they’re at in their own journey, depending what their connection to sensitivity is.  And it’s, sometimes it’s not going to be people. Sometimes it’s going to be nature or animals or art or something spiritual.

And then, and then I think through that, like moving through that process, at various times will help you kind of slowly chip away at it.  And then the sense of gratitude is just huge. I know that when I adjusted my expectations…  And you know, HSPs can often be guilty of this. We can put really high expectations on ourselves and the people who are close to us, right?

I’ve often done this with, with friends, like, you know, expecting like, these are going to be the people who are going to connect deeply with me and understand what’s going on. And then at some point I realized like that’s just not reasonable. Right?  

Because, you know, maybe they’re sensitive, maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re okay with their own sensitivity. Maybe they’re not. Maybe different things happen at different periods of our lives.

And so kind of releasing some of those expectations.  I can tell you some, sometimes you just release yourself of a problematic situation and other times you can be really surprised and that’s where the gratitude comes in. Right?

There’s a few people who, even just very recently have really surprised me by coming around and noticing, Oh, there was a need for connection here and attempting to make it happen and attempting to show support, even when I didn’t necessarily ask for it. And I was like, huh, okay. 

Had I been expecting it, I would have been disappointed. But because I wasn’t, wow!  I’m actually super, super grateful that it happened at all. That’s, that’s cool. And then that little, those, so you, you ended up going much further with less.  

Rayne: Beautiful way to tie it all together Robyn!

Robyn: There you go.Cliff notes.

Rayne: I love where these conversations take us. I really do. 

Thomas: I do too. Well, Lynn, thank you so much for today’s conversation. And I’m curious, uh, how you feel about the conversation. 

Lynn: Yeah, um, I think it was very insightful. Thanks for having me back. And there’s always food for thought with you guys. Yeah.

Thomas: Well, thank you, thanks for joining us.

Lynn: Yeah. With every interaction,  I always come away with things to process and, you know, food for thought. Yeah. 

Thomas: That’s very kind. Thank you for joining us. 

Rayne: I do too Lynn. Thank you so much for your question. It was just, it’s great to chat with you again. 

Robyn: Thanks Lynn. And thank you to our listeners. So please join us for our next episode where we’ll be having another interesting HSP conversation. And to any Highly Sensitives out there who have a burning HSP-related question, whether a big one or a small one, we invite you to ask it on the HSP World podcast. Just email [email protected]

And a friendly reminder to visit the HSP world website at hsp.world.

Music credit: Intro and Outro music from the YouTube Music Library. Song is Clover 3.

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