As a writer, I often feel alienated from the world.
I spend so many hours typing away at a manuscript that virtually nobody has seen. I can’t really reveal too much about it because much of its potency relies on its secrecy. A writer has to be mysterious in order to pull off his great magic trick: the trick of making you wonder what’s going to happen next in the story.
But there is a consequence to keeping the writing process completely mysterious: you often feel alienated from others.
I am discovering that one way of dealing with that sense of alienation is to let go of the need for so much mystery and let people take a peak at all that’s going on inside of you. No, maybe you don’t share with them your whole story, but maybe you let them take a little peak at your process.
No, you won’t always land on others understanding you, but the effort can make you feel a whole lot less isolated. This is helpful, especially if feelings of alienation are getting in the way of your work.
Coping With Feelings of Alienation
Recently, I spoke to you about what it is like when your very nature is contradictory to the norm. When the very basis of who you are is unconventional, life can be very challenging. But sometimes it’s not who we are that seems contradictory to the norm: sometimes it’s our experiences that seem abnormal.
When we feel as if our experience is fundamentally different from the experience of others, this is when we feel alienated.
We may encounter some loss, trauma, or hardship that others around us do not experience as directly (or as deeply) as we do, and this makes us feel incredibly alienated from them. When we feel alienated, we feel as if we are freaks. Unable to cope. Unable to move forward as easily as others do. Unable to overcome challenges as quickly as others do. Unable to zoom through life as others seem capable of doing.
It’s almost as if we are in a different dimension, experiencing a different reality from others.
In fact, we are experiencing a different reality. Not literally. But emotionally, psychologically, we are living on a different “plane” of life.
For instance: the person who has lost a love one may find it hard to recieve the proper care from people who have never lost a loved one. This can be hurtful to the person who is mourning her loss. The person who is mourning is expecting everyone around her to say exactly what needs to be said, and to do exactly what needs to be done. But, most importantly, the person who is mourning her loss expects complete understanding. Total, deep understanding.
It’s the least she can expect in her moment of great suffering, right? Just a little bit of understanding?
She, in that moment, is suffering far too much to have any energy left to explain herself to others. So, when she is forced to explain her suffering on top of experiencing her suffering, she can become very angry, bitter, and frustrated. Who can blame her? Who can suffer and still have any energy left to explain that suffering to others? It’s hard for her not to let her feelings of alienation intensify her feelings of hopelessness and grief. She lost her loved one and she is grieving that lost. But now she must also grieve the loss of understanding–and the loss of understanding is a heavy loss to grieve.
Moreover, because the individual who is mourning has entered a new plane of life, others cannot follow her there. So, first she experiences grief, then grief on top of grief, and now, on top of all that, a sudden, deep loneliness.
This is alienation in a nutshell.
Healing Feelings of Alienation
Alienation can happen in other cases, too. It isn’t just felt after the loss of a loved one. Any great hardship, or trauma, or heavy loss will do. All three of these are liable to fling us into a different plane of life.
In this new plane, suddenly, life takes on the sepia tones of old photographs. Just like in those old-timey photographs, in this new plane of life, there is a shocking absence of smiling and a lack of bright faces. Just like in those old-timey photographs, in this new plane of life, there is less movement but more sharpness; there is less width but more depth; less flashiness but more exposure.
Leave no doubt, if you are experiencing deep feelings of alienation, you are in a different plane of life. This plane of life must be honored, even if it cannot be validated by others.
The way you begin to heal feelings of alienation is by recognizing that you are experiencing a different reality from others. You are, in many ways, in a different dimension–a deeper dimension—of life.
You are not the only one who is being pulled down into that deeper dimension: many have been pulled, many are being pulled, and many, one day, will be pulled down into that depth as well. That “depth”–that deeper plane of life–is the experience of hardship, trauma, or loss.
The way you heal feelings of alienation is by honoring the fact that you are on this different plane of life, and by realizing that this different plane of life requires a different set of tools than the ones you used on the superficial plane of life you were used to.
The way you heal feelings of alienation is by summoning up the energy to explain your experience to others (however hard or unfair you think it is to have to explain your suffering to others on top of experiencing your suffering). Reveal some of the mystery of what is going on deep inside of you. You don’t have to share your whole story, but maybe you can give people a little peak at your process.
This takes time and courage, but if you are patient, sharing your experience with others will yield great results. Because the more you share what you’re going through with others, the more you may encounter surprise flashes of unexpected understanding. You may even stumble upon the type of deep, total understanding you have been yearning for, and that will be truly wonderful and healing.
Today’s Courage Exercise
Let’s try to heal some feelings of alienation today: in the comments below, speak of an experience you are going through right now that you feel no one in the world could possibly understand. Then, read what others have shared in the comments and see if you cannot find some kindred spirits across the country (or the world) who are going through exactly what you are going through. Reply to the comments posted by your kindred spirits: prove to them that they are not alone. But don’t stop here: keep searching for understanding by explaining your process to those in the physical world as well.
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