Archive for February, 2015


Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

One of the things I hear over and over in sessions is how lonely people feel. This feeling that is shared by clients of all ages and shows up in those who have lots of friends, are fully engaged in activities, are married, those who have a large social calendar or those who are alone. Why is loneliness so prevalent? Is it more common today than it was years ago? Is it stemming from rejection, abandonment, selfishness or just a lack of real honesty? Why do people who are surrounded by other people still feel lonely? And on the other end of the spectrum, why do some people who are frequently alone never feel lonely?

The Wikipedia definition of loneliness is as follows:

Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connectedness or communality with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people. The causes of loneliness are varied and include social, mental or emotional factors. Research has shown that loneliness is widely prevalent throughout society among people in marriages, relationships, families and successful careers. It has been a long explored theme in the literature of human beings since classical antiquity. Loneliness has also been described as social pain — a psychological mechanism meant to alert an individual of isolation and motivate him/her to seek social connections.

In a recent session a teenage girl (I’ll call her Liz) shared how she felt lonely all the time. Liz is very popular at school, even to the point that she is known by everyone in the school. She has lots of friends and does well in her grades. She is attractive, kind, generous and seemed to really have it all together. So why would she feel lonely?

I knew that Liz was speaking the truth because the horses had already shown me what was going on inside of her. It was her first session and I had instructed her to greet each of the horses (there were four in the arena) and get to know them. In sessions, the horses are completely free and able to choose to act of their own will. Once a session begins their behavior reflects the emotions they sense from the client. In this first session the horses had separated into the four corners of the arena and stood quietly watching, totally disengaged from each other, me and Liz. As she went to each horse to greet them and spend time with them, they stayed separate and alone. They spent a few moments checking her out then continued to stand like statues in their self-imposed isolation.

It was fascinating for me to watch as they had never done this before. She finished greeting them and came back to share with me what was happening for her. She felt they didn’t like her and this was when she felt lonely. She shared how that was how she felt at school too. While she was talking to me in the center of the arena the horses all came into the middle to gather around us. She told me how she couldn’t be herself with her friends because she didn’t think they would like her if she honest and that it was hard for her to be “fake” when she was with them. As she shared her truth with me Justice nudged her strongly enough that she was forced to notice him and began to stroke his neck and face. Then Patch tried to come closer to Liz but Justice stepped between them to prevent Patch from getting any closer. So now Liz was beside Justice patting him while Patch, Ares and Athena surrounded her in a loose circle. I asked if she noticed what the horses were doing and how she felt now. She said she did not feel lonely anymore.

There were so many life lessons in that one session.

1. The horses were reflecting back what she was presenting to them. Many times when we feel lonely we are unconsciously sending out negative energy that will cause others to stay away. It’s like we put up a wall that stops the closeness that we are craving so badly. Usually it’s because we’ve been rejected before and are afraid it will happen again so we self-sabotage our very real need to be accepted. This was why the horses were mirroring her sense of being separate. That was in fact how she saw herself. When you are a child of Christ, you are never alone!

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

2. As she spoke her truth the horses were able to break free of the negative energy she was feeling and fill her need for community. When the light shines on the truth, darkness falls away. As we speak how we are really feeling, God fills the need inside of us for true friendship and love and the negative energy disappears allowing others to get close to us. When we put on an act or a “brave front” while hiding the truth we’ve opened the door to the enemy of our soul who will take us down that path of destructive thoughts. We must always find someone to share your deepest feelings and fears with who will not judge us!

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

3. Justice showed her how to overcome her loneliness by seeking her out. He purposely walked up to her, nudged her and demanded attention. When we are feeling lonely it is up to us to let someone know. Other people are not mind readers and cannot be expected to know how we are feeling. Because our worlds are so busy, we frequently miss subtle signals. We figure if someone is popular and appears to be well liked then they couldn’t possibly be lonely. This is one of the major errors of our society today and it is up to each of us to seek out some attention from someone who cares. Most times the person we seek out knows exactly how we are feeling and would be happy to help us because there was probably a time in their life when they felt the same way!

If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

4. When she was honest about her feelings, the entire herd surrounded her with the acceptance she desired. As she embraced them, they reflected that honesty back to her. When we are seeking out friends, marriage partners or any type of relationship it is important to be truthful in representing ourselves. It is only when we show others who we really are that we find people that respect and honor us for those very special God given qualities. If we misrepresent ourselves thinking we need to be someone different in order to be accepted and liked, we are setting ourselves up for those deep feelings of loneliness in the future.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…”

It is our job to share our hurts with one another so we can be healed.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

As we finished the session I told Liz to walk around the arena. As she did Justice walked freely beside her, fully embracing their new friendship. When she turned, he turned; when she stopped he stopped. Then the other three joined in and followed a little farther back. As she watched this happen she looked at me with a big smile and said, “They’re choosing to be with me!”

Having spent many years with various age groups of horses there is one thing I’ve always noticed. Horses, similar to us; do not like to be alone. There is safety in numbers and they have a social need to belong to a herd. When watching herds of young horses it was always interesting to observe them finding friends and interacting with each other. There was lots of kicking, biting and running going on as they determined among themselves who would be friends with whom and who they would chase off. Even in the adult horse herds there would be certain horses that became fast friends and others that would be chased away. But in each herd, every horse would find someone to be friends with. Someone to scratch their back, watch their back and eat with. I noticed that any time one horse needed companionship they would always actively seek out another horse. I have never seen a lonely horse except when a human has physically separated it from other horses. The distress the horse felt under those circumstances was real and debilitating to the animal.
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Like the horses, it is important that we realize some people will like us and some won’t; but that God’s love never fails. We don’t need to be liked by everyone but we do need to be liked for ourselves. Love is a choice. Choosing who we are going to spend time with is extremely important and I pray we choose wisely. There is never a time in our life when we are not loved. As children of God we were chosen by God and can never be separated from His love. If we have deep feelings of loneliness, we must recognize that those feelings are a warning that we need to seek someone to share with. Act on it!

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Ephesians 1:4-6

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39