Anatomy of loneliness summary

Anatomy of loneliness

Book: Anatomy of loneliness by Teal Swan

Loneliness can come from emotional neglect during childhood, and it’s possible to reconnect to others by making them feel fully understood.

This book helped me clarity why I felt like living in a parallel world as a child, disconnected from others, what to expect from human relations and how to reconnect.

Main ideas:

We live in an emotional dark age

  • Many parents have no idea about how emotion works, so they can’t fulfill their own needs healthily and pass it to their children.
  • Society tries to “fix” humans. This sends the message we are wrong, the opposite of love.

Our social environment make us deny and burry some of our traits

  • Society and family value certain traits and repel others.
  • People tend to be loved for their valued traits and shamed for others.
  • This form later their “should”, what they believe they “should” do, be or have.
  • Personality is therefore a patchwork of the personalities of people with who we grew up, mixed with our other needs in adulthood.
  • The most important personality traits come from needs, protection from being hurt, and especially rejection. If being on time is important for someone’s success, he/she will value being on time and will hate the ones who don’t.
  • We dissociate ourselves from the unvalued traits. We deny and reject these traits, which push them into our subconscious.
  • We are completely blind to these traits, but they are obvious to others. And yet, we can’t recognize them without triggering the original fear.

These denied emotions prevent us to connect with others

  • We can’t connect because we lie to ourselves about our true and complete personalities. And people sense it.
  • When we feel shame, we become incredibly self-centered and defensive because we are starving inside on something, like feeling accepted, recognized, and loved.

We can uncover these denied emotions

  • What we strongly hate and love in others indicate parts we suppressed in us.
  • It’s better to avoid suppressing or stoping thinking about your emotions. We must observe them, recognize them and look at what triggered them.
  • Ego might rely excessively on knowledge as a cure to its fear of insignificance, to gain status and respect, or its fear of uncertainty.
  • Fears are often fears of “bad” experiences. But we forget that all experiences bring also positive insights.
  • Thinking positively doesn’t dismiss fear. Developing trust in your ability to handle it dismisses fear.
  • Revisiting our original bad experiences to “solve” them with our current experience helps.

Emotional ignorance leads to unhealthy relationships

  • Emotionally ignorant parents lead to dysfunctional families, which leads to neglecting emotionally their children and shaming them for their undesirable traits, which leads these children to believe that love is transactional, which might lead these children to toxic manipulative behaviors later in life.
  • Emotional abuse is trauma caused by what is done, whereas emotional neglect is trauma caused by what’s not done, like the encouragement, comfort, support, loving words, sense of belonging, and understanding that was never given.
  • Parents may have irrational expectations for their children
    • If these parents can’t be pleased, they shame their children for being problematic, selfish, or ungrateful.
    • If they can be pleased, their children assume that love is transactional, and therefore they’ll manipulate others to get their needs because they believe they have no intrinsic value.
  • In both cases, these children end up believing that there is no free love in the world, just cold transactions.
  • Basically, they are toddlers walking around in adult bodies.

Childhood trauma

  • A child will take from a parent “why are you often angry ?” as a truth. Same if a parent says “don’t make any children”, the child will feel like a burden and will feel ashamed of existing.
  • The meaning we give to an experience defines the emotion we’ll feel.
  • For example, if a dad on the phone yells at his daughter, she might think “I’m insignificant” while he might simply think “I’m busy right now”. That girl might later grow thinking she’s insignificant to men, then form relationships with emotionally unavailable men, and later develop addictions and low self-esteem.
  • “Loving yourself” is not good advice with such trauma. It reinforces the idea that no one else will.

Parallel realities / emotional disconnection

  • For a child, moving to another house can trigger fears of losing his current friends, and fears of the potential harshness of a new place.
  • If his parents ignore or disapprove of his emotions, they destroy any emotional intimacy they could have with him. He will feel more and more disconnected from his parents emotionally.
  • If we can’t develop intimacy in childhood – the possibility to feel fully understood – we can’t sense our existence, and we feel like in a parallel world where nobody can understand us.

How to reconnect with others: make them feel that they are fully understood

  1. Look for their emotion
  2. Express care, acknowledge that it’s valid and important
  3. Listen with empathy, seek to understand. Make them feel safe being vulnerable without judgment.
  4. Help them label their emotions. Show that you would have the same feelings in a similar context.
  5. Wait that they fully experience their feeling before helping.
  6. Ask if they want help. If yes, show them a different meaning to the events. And give them a better way to deal with it.

Authenticity and vulnerability

  • They are necessary to reconnect to others
  • To be authentic we must accept to look bad to ourselves and others
  • To find who you are, describe through the 5 emotions what you feel when you are angry