Dr Richard Schwartz is a leading light in the field known as internal family systems therapy (IFS). This approach combines principles of family therapy with the concept that the self is made up of many different parts. We all, according to Schwartz, contain many different beings. So all he does is attend to things. He uses that word a lot. So now he has to attend to you? Yes, and that's pretty depressing, to be honest. Andre, April 8 Carl had challenged me to a boxing match at the end of the month in Paris. It was a horrible idea. He was nearly a foot taller than me and had a much longer reach. But if the fight was actually going to happen, I wanted to be prepared, so today I took my first kick-boxing lesson, then signed up for ten more. Carl, April 8 We allow ourselves to participate in destructive behaviors in order to get rid of the pain. This is why we should not try to power through loneliness alone! Instead, face the fear of isolation and being alone. Let it propel you to seek out connections, to reach out to someone. Resilient people understand the paralyzing power of loneliness and constantly work at having multiple interests that open doors to potential support systems. They also use their own pain as a reason to go out of their way to help others not experience loneliness, which in turn lessens their own struggle with it. Human engagement on any level is the answer.

There have been times during my travels where I've been the only person staying in a hotel. That's a really lonely feeling! Being alone in a big place magnifies the loneliness. Robert, a creative director for a large brand-design firm, spent hours over the course of several weeks telling me about the stresses and pressures of his role. He told me that expectations were on the rise and that he had little authority to hire or shift organizational priorities to lessen the strain. He was stretched thin and had no room to breathe. I think he was expecting me to offer up some tips on time management, but to his surprise I asked him about his personal creating. What do you do for yourself? Do you create anything with your hands? He replied that it had been a very long time since he'd done much hands-on creating. Robert was at a point in his career where he was mostly directing others and rarely experiencing the satisfaction of actually doing the work. After a little more questioning, I discovered that Robert had once enjoyed painting with watercolors as a hobby, but it had been years since he'd had time to pick up a brush. As I probed further, I could sense his excitement building just talking about it. No, I sing, she says. See you later? I nod, and she starts off around the track at a slow jog. Then I turn to see Luis approaching. You changed your mind? I put a hand up to shield my eyes. I forgot you said you'd be here now.

Right, he says, and I know he doesn't believe me. Are you coming or not? Just a minute, I say, and go down on one knee to tie my shoelace. Groups can be found through local AAAs, disease associations, or online. Online bulletin boards and chat rooms may be perfect for men who have demanding schedules and who want anonymity. If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder, the Alzheimer's Association offers peer or professionally led groups for caregivers. These groups are all facilitated by trained individuals. Many communities offer specialized groups for adult children, men caring for younger-onset or early-stage Alzheimer's, and husband caregivers with specific needs. The Alzheimer's Association's online message boards and chat rooms offer a forum in which to ask your questions and, if you feel so inclined, to share your experiences. Their message boards have thousands of members from around the United States and many more people who simply browse men's stories and the information that is offered 24 hours a day. A Geriatric Care Manager Could Be Just What the Doctor Ordered Geriatric care managers are commonly social workers with a master's degree or professionals in nursing who have demonstrated competencies in helping families who are caring for older relatives. These professionals can help you and the person you are caring for and are often affiliated with a professional care management association. With the next exhalation, imagine yourself breathing out compassion for someone else. You may want to imagine the words: May you feel caring and compassion. Bring the intentions of compassion and sensations of warmth, care, and kindness to each full breath. You can stay with this practice for as long as you'd like. When you're ready, bring your attention back to the flow of your breath itself, letting go of the visualization and compassionate intentions with a long, gentle exhalation as you return your attention to the present moment. Bring Compassion to the World The survival of the human species depends on our ability to care for each other.

We cannot survive by ourselves, and this is especially true for infants and children who depend on others to nurture, feed, and protect them. As we grow older, we continue to rely on others in less obvious ways, and adults care for each other in one form or another. Even if you're single and live alone, your life is still connected to others in many ways. The challenge is learning to get all these parts of the self to talk to one another, to draw on the strengths of each of the parts to meet life's inevitable tests. Therapists Hal and Sidra Stone, pioneers of the psychology of selves, put it this way: Each of us `contains multitudes. This over-identification with some selves and the loss of wholeness that comes from the rejection of others can create imbalances and blind spots. This work is about embracing all the selves. This dance of the selves is an amazing process and we see the dynamics of the world around us shift as our internal world changes. Schwartz and other IFS therapists believe that the techniques of family therapy can be used to conduct this conversation. People are viewed as having all the resources they need, rather than as having a disease or deficit. Instead of lacking resources, people are seen as being constrained from using innate strengths by polarized relationships both within themselves and with the people around them. Parts of the self take on burdens. Other parts protect us from being overwhelmed by our burdens. Today was my first real test. Lunch with a French person, a guy who was working in the French department at the university. I had practiced my French for a week now, day in day out, and I had kept to the rules: I was listening to no other radio channel than France Culture, reading no other newspaper than Le Monde, and cooking no other food than French. After about fifteen minutes I was exhausted, and we switched to Swedish. Later that afternoon, on the subway, making my way to my first boxing practice, Andre called. He sounded low. He said he had no direction.

But I thought you would do something on parenting. Yes, but I've looked through all this stuff and I don't seem to go anywhere. But there's tons of stuff you could do. Even walking by the desk clerk or someone in the hall and nodding at them makes me feel better. Humans are social beings. When loneliness threatens, try to find ways to connect with others rather than simply pushing away your fear. Even minimal connections can make a big difference. Just like many forms of pain, overcoming loneliness can make you stronger. Fear of Pain During our lives we experience both physical and emotional pain. I often see people who deal with long-term physical pain who decide to fight it by going through the motions each day. They complain little and will often help others who are stronger than they themselves are. This can be a way to take their minds off their own pain. I challenged him to go to the store after work that day and pick up some watercolor materials. He agreed, and over the remainder of the week, I checked in a few times to see how things were going with his rediscovered hobby. Over subsequent weeks, Robert and I would get together to talk about life and work, and I could see that there was a level of passion returning to our conversation. Engaging in something strictly for himself had unlocked a level of enthusiasm that had been subverted for years in the interest of practicality. Once he had permission to engage in something strictly for his own pleasure, he began to come alive, and I could tell that this was affecting not only his personal outlook but his creative engagement as well. I've seen this happen with many others as well. Gardening, landscaping, writing, planning a side business, editing home movies, or anything else that provides an outlet for your passion and curiosity can be considered Unnecessary Creating.