Loneliness is one of life's most miserable experiences. Everyone feels lonely at times, but is there a message for us in loneliness? Is there a way that we can turn it into something positive?

Sometimes loneliness is a temporary condition that lifts in a few hours or a couple days. But when we're burdened with this emotion for weeks, months, or even years, it's definitely telling us something.

In a sense, loneliness is like a toothache: It's a warning signal that something is wrong. And like a toothache, if left unattended, it usually gets worse. Our first response to loneliness may be to self-medicate--to try home remedies to make it go away.

Busyness is a common treatment.

We think that if we fill our life with so many activities that we don't have time to think about our loneliness, we'll be cured. But busyness misses the message. It's like trying to heal a toothache by taking our mind off it. Busyness is a distraction, not a cure.

Buying is another favorite therapy.

Maybe if we purchase something new, if we "reward" ourselves, we'll feel better. And surprisingly, we do feel better--but only for a short while. Buying things to address our loneliness is like an anesthetic. Sooner or later the numbing effect wears off. Then the pain comes back as strong as ever. Buying can also compound our problems with a mountain of credit card debt.

Bed is a third response to loneliness.

We believe that intimacy is what we need, so we make an unwise choice with sex. After we come to our senses, we're horrified to discover that this attempt at a cure not only makes loneliness worse, it also makes us feel desperate and cheap. This is the false cure of our modern culture, which promotes sex as a game, as recreation. This response to loneliness almost always ends in feelings of alienation and regret.

The real message, the real cure.

If all of these approaches don't work, what does? Is there a cure for loneliness? Is there some secret elixir that will fix this toothache of the soul?

We need to begin with a correct interpretation of this warning signal. Loneliness tells us that we have a relationship problem. While that may seem obvious, there's more to it than just surrounding yourself with people. Doing that is the same as busyness, but using crowds instead of activities.

The answer to loneliness is not the quantity of your relationships, but the quality. This is a distasteful cure for us, as dreaded as taking your toothache to a dentist. Satisfying, meaningful relationships take time and work. We're afraid to open up. We're afraid to let another person open up to us. Past hurts have made us distrustful. Friendship requires giving, but it also requires taking, and many of us would rather be independent. But the persistence of our loneliness should tell us that that kind of stubbornness hasn't worked either.

If we have the courage to build worthwhile relationships, eventually we find that this is a cure that works. Our risks are rewarded. We find someone who understands and cares, and we find others whom we understand and care about as well. Like a visit to the dentist, this cure turns out to be not only final, but much less painful than we feared.

Author's Bio: 

Jack Zavada helps people triumph over loneliness, anxiety, and fear at his web site www.inspiration-for-singles.com.