Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash
Source: Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash

The world is full of ways to connect.You can livestream your whole day to anyone you want, send in-the-moment snapchats, video chat, and update people across the world via social media. Traveling to visit loved ones is easier than ever before. Yet so many are painfully lonely and isolated.   

When you are lonely, the solutions typically offered include to learn social skills and then join a club, attend a meet up or other group activity, volunteer, or join a dating service. These ideas may work for some but there’s a group of people, individuals with maladaptive over-control, for whom these suggestions may only add to their pain. The same solutions don’t work for all people. 

Temperament matters when considering solutions to painful loneliness. In  psychology, temperament t refers to the parts of your personality that are biologically based and more innate than learned. People can be either over-controlled in temperament or under-controlled. 

When you have a maladaptive over-controlled type of temperament, forming connections with people requires more than just being with people. Individuals who are over-controlled may be in social situations on a regular basis either because it is the right thing to do or they are obligated in some way, but they remain lonely because they are not connecting. Some who are over-controlled in temperament may have given up and avoid social interactions when possible despite their loneliness. 

To oversimplify, when you have maladaptive over-control, being in social situations where you are expected to interact arouses your threat system. Going to an event with people may create varying degrees of threat, depending on who the people are and the setting. When experiencing threat, you won’t look welcoming, send out the necessary social signals to others, or be able to engage in an open and vulnerable way. 

You make friends when you feel safe physiologically. Your neurological system is set up to enable social connections when you feel safe. That makes sense. When you are threatened and need to take action for your own well-being, that's not the time for openness and vulnerability. If your neurological system senses threat when you are in a social situation, then you will be reacting in ways that aren't helpful to overcome loneliness. 

While the challenge of changing neurological reactions that happen faster than you are aware is daunting, Tom Lynch, Ph.D. has developed an evidenced-based therapy for  people with maladaptive over-control and who have felt left out, different and had trouble forming true relationships. 

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