Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Unloveable Loneliness

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 28, 2011

    Roger, thirty, is terribly afraid to break up with his girlfriend, Charlotte, also thirty. His emotional life feels very black and white. When he talks to Charlotte and they have a good conversation, he likes his life, he likes his family, he likes his friends. On the other hand, when they have a disagreement, he gets scared they will break-up, and then he imagines a loneliness which is unspeakable. On those days, he does not want to get out of bed; he does not want to go to work and he does not want to talk to his friends. As he puts it, “I just want to cry all day long.”

   Roger is a strikingly handsome, wildly successful man who comes from a stable and loving family. From the outside, it is hard to imagine that his internal world is so dark. “My family loves me. I have no doubt about that,” he says, in a way that makes it sound like he is so puzzled that he is going through such a hard time. “I can feel that your family loved you, but what is interesting is that somehow you do not feel loveable,” I say, trying to explain that his fear of breaking-up with Charlotte, is based on a primitive fear that he will never find anyone to love him; that he is essentially not worthy of love. “Maybe that is why I drink too much,” he says, looking at me with deep understanding about what I am saying. “Numbing the pain only goes so far,” I say.

   Roger, despite his good looks, and despite his material success, he  has not had many girlfriends, nor has he had many “hook-ups.” It seems, from the outside, that he has been reluctant to share his heart with anyone. Charlotte won him over by pursuing him aggressively, he explained to me. “She would not stop bugging me,” he said, with deep admiration and gratitude for her persistence. “So now, when you worry that she could pull the plug, you see that she can go after what she wants, but you are more hesitant to do that,” I say, stating how passive he has been with romantic relationships. I was trying to tie his passivity to his fear that if they part ways, he will feel unable to reconnect with someone else. “I have no confidence,” Roger says, with a sad and moving expression. “I am insecure,” he repeats. “It is really good you can see that,” I respond, saying that his insight allows us to probe deeper. “This is going to take forever,” he says with impatience, touched with a bit of humor. “We will see,” I say, closing the session on a note which felt both deep and hopeful.

6 Responses to “Unloveable Loneliness”

  1. I can totally relate to Roger. I grew up in a family where I felt very valued and loved. Yet, after 16 years of marriage I feel completely unlovable. It is a truly lonely and isolating feeling.

  2. Shelly said

    What causes feelings of being unworthy of love? Of being unlovable?

    • Feeling unloveable is basically the same as the lay term “low self-esteem.” Loneliness is often a projection. The person does not love themselves and so they project that on to others and then they feel that no one cares about them. Indeed, they may have trouble making friends, but this stems from a bad feeling in themselves which sends the message out to others that they should stay away.

      • Danny said

        Is this unloveable and loneliness feeling that stems from the inside the hardest to fix so to speak because they are rooted inearlier childhood??

        • Shirah said

          Yes and no. Yes, this unloveable and loneliness feeling from the inside is hard to fix. Whether it is rooted in early childhood, is debateable. It could also be genetic, where some people are born with the genes that make them seriously question their worthiness as individuals. Of course, it is nature plus nurture, but the relative amounts of both of those ingredients are different for each individual. Thanks for your comments.

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