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There are many reasons you might feel disconnected.
Do you feel you have no purpose or mission in life? Or that the world around you is changing too quickly, leaving you behind?
Perhaps you feel like your relationships with others are shallow and superficial.
Even worse, maybe you feel like there's something wrong with your own personality -- that you're somehow defective and unable to connect to others.
These feelings have a common root: they're all expressions of our failure to realize who we truly are. And there are many ways in which we fail to understand ourselves:
We fail to see our inherent unity with the whole of existence. We believe that we're separate from everything else, and therefore don't matter at all -- when in reality, it's impossible for us not to matter.
After all, we are part of the fabric of the universe. Our lives aren't isolated from the lives of others, nor from the broader context of history and culture.
When we look more closely at each aspect of our inner lives — at who we think we are, what we think is important, what motivates us and how others see us — we realize that every one of these aspects is a distorted reflection of some greater truth about existence.
Before revealing strategies on how to stop disconnected feelings, let's explore several types of disconnection.
Feelings of Disconnection from Self
Feelings of disconnection are a common theme in therapy.
Feeling disconnected from yourself is a feeling that you don’t know what you want or who you are. You may feel you’re just going through the motions in life with no clear direction or purpose.
You may feel like your life lacks meaning or that you lack purpose. This can be especially true when you’re feeling depressed or anxious.
In essence, feeling disconnected from your true self is the experience of not being able to see yourself or your actions clearly or accurately.
It's a loss of insight into who you are, of knowing where you stand in your life, where you feel immobilized by vague sensations of emptiness and hollowness.
Often, people feel disconnected from their emotions, their bodies, and even their thoughts.
The reason for this is that we have learned to dissociate from our experiences as a way of coping with difficult events in our lives. When we dissociate, we separate ourselves from what is happening in the present moment so that we can avoid feeling its intensity.
In order to understand why people feel disconnected from themselves, it's important to understand what it means to be "in the present moment."
In therapy, clients often describe being "in their heads" or "in their bodies." These descriptions are actually about being out of touch with yourself because they indicate you are not feeling anything consciously.
And if you're not feeling anything consciously, then you're probably not actually aware of what's happening inside your body or how your thoughts affect how you feel physically and emotionally.
Feeling disconnected from yourself is not only a sign of emotional avoidance, but also self-protection against overwhelming feelings and painful memories that may arise when attempting to connect with yourself in this way.
Feeling disconnected from yourself is a state of mind that can be caused by many factors. These may include:
- Lack of self-confidence or self-esteem.
- Feeling like a failure in some aspect of your life.
- Feeling like you're not where you want to be in life and the path forward to achieve the goals you want is too far away to see clearly.
- Being geographically and/or emotionally isolated from people who are important to you.
- External events, such as illness, an accident, or other traumatic experiences.
- Poor lifestyle habits, such as getting too little sleep and exercise, eating unhealthy foods, experiencing chronic stress, etc.
- Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities.
- Having no social life and few, if any, personal interests.
- Experiencing a sense of hopelessness with accompanying depression and anxiety.
Disconnection from self is a term that is used when you cannot recognize your own emotions and thoughts. You may feel as if you are numb or have a "blank" feeling.
You may not be able to put your feelings into words. It is like walking around in a fog, being able to move and function, but not really feeling anything or being able to think clearly.
"There's that strange disconnect of not really knowing what we're doing sometimes, or why it matters. It's our existential crisis." — Carrie Brownstein
Are You Affected by Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder (DPDR)?
The overwhelming majority of people who feel disconnected from self do not suffer from Depersonalization-derealization disorder.
But it is important to discuss this disorder, especially if your feelings of disconnection are severe and chronic.
Depersonalization-derealization disorder (DPDR) is a dissociative disorder characterized by alterations in perception and self-awareness.
The major symptom of DPDR is depersonalization, a feeling of detachment from one's own mental processes or body.
Depersonalization can manifest as a loss of one's sense of agency, in which people experience their actions as mechanical or robotic.
Most times, depersonalization leads to derealization, a feeling that the outside world is unreal or lacking in significance.
Individuals with DPDR may report feeling like actors in their own lives, as if they are watching themselves perform actions, or as if their bodies aren't real.
People with DPDR often describe feeling like they are living in a dream world or their own imagination.
This sensation often causes people to become emotionally detached from their surroundings, to perceive others around them as automatons, and to feel as if they are not living life as it actually happens, but viewing a movie about themselves.
Though these feelings can be extremely distressing for individuals who have DPDR, it does not mean that they are going crazy or losing their minds—it is an actual disorder that can improve with psychiatric treatment, medication, or even through self-discovery and enhanced lifestyle changes.
Disconnected from Others
To be disconnected from other people is to be alone with yourself. It means you lack the motivation to connect with others and spend time with them.
You're not compelled to socialize with friends or family, and you don't feel the desire to make connections with strangers.
In most cases, those who are disconnected from others are also stressed or depressed. They may have lost someone close to them, or they may be dealing with other problems that leave them feeling overwhelmed and isolated from others.
But there are also people who seem genuinely happy while still being disconnected from others—they're content to stay home and entertain themselves in their own way, instead of going out into the world and interacting with other people.
They're comfortable spending time on their own because it's what they enjoy most, and they don't feel they need to seek out the company of strangers or friends in order to feel fulfilled.
When you're disconnected from other people, you can have a hard time empathizing with them and understanding their feelings.
You might put yourself first all the time, because you don't think about how your actions or decisions affect others.
You might find it difficult to feel or show love toward those around you, or to feel that love in return.
It's almost as if you're alone on an island with no hope of forging close relationships with others.
Disconnection is often a response to being excluded from a social group—you might feel like an outsider who doesn't fit in with anyone else.
It can also result from situations where you are included in a large crowd of people but still feel you're on your own.
Disconnection is one of the most severe symptoms of depression, as well as one reason it's so hard to recover from major depression and get back into normal life.
When you don't feel connected to others, it's difficult to find the motivation and energy needed to pursue the healthy social interactions that help you recover from depression.
Your thoughts about yourself and your life become pessimistic, and this pessimism can even make recovery seem impossible.
Feeling disconnected makes you feel hopeless and vulnerable—you may erroneously conclude that everyone else around you has their act together while you are the only misfit in the world.
For too many of us, the feelings of lonely disconnection permeate our being where purpose and value are absent.
It's not just the loneliness.
It’s the feeling that you’re unloved and unlovable — that you don’t matter to anyone, or that no one will ever know how much you matter to them; that your life is meaningless.
And that it will always be like this.
12 Strategies to Reconnect with Yourself and Others
The world is an overwhelming and scary place right now. It's easy to feel disconnected from yourself and others.
But it doesn't have to be that way. You can reconnect with yourself and others by implementing the following strategies:
1. Treat yourself with self-compassion
Self-compassion is the concept of being kind and understanding to yourself when facing hardships, rather than engaging in self-criticism.
In order to be self-compassionate, you need to be aware of what you’re feeling and not shy away from those emotions.
It can help to think of your negative emotions as visitors who are here for a short time. You don’t have to like them, but you have to acknowledge their existence and make space for them.
In order for self-compassionate to positively affect your life, you have to:
a) Recognize that whatever you’re experiencing, even if it’s pain or fear, is just an experience; it’s not who you are. It will pass eventually (even if it doesn’t feel like that at the moment). You need to recognize this and let go of any expectations that the experience will last forever.
b) Be kind and patient with yourself at the moment that you’re feeling what you’re feeling. This means recognizing when you’re being self-critical and then countering that by making kind statements about yourself.
2. Start a journal
Journaling is a way to get back in touch with what matters most to you—your goals and dreams for yourself, your hopes and challenges for the future—and being able to look back on previous entries will help remind you of how far you've come.
Journaling doesn't have to be formal or extensive; sometimes writing one sentence is enough to get everything out of your head and into a space where it can be processed.
3. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of what's happening both inside your mind and body (the "inside" part) and outside in the world around you (the "outside").
It's about paying attention to what's happening right now without judging it or thinking about how it compares to something else in your past or future.
Mindfulness is also about not getting distracted by thoughts that come into your mind—like worrying about what other people think about you—and instead focusing on the present moment (what's happening right now).
Practicing mindfulness can help reduce self-disconnection because it trains your brain to focus on things other than itself, which can lead back into feeling connected again, too!
4. Try Meditation
“Suffering is due to our disconnection with the inner soul. Meditation is establishing that connection.” — Amit Ray
When you’re feeling disconnected from yourself, it's easy to feel like there’s a barrier between you and the outside world.
There is—you’ve erected an invisible shield around yourself to protect you from feeling too much. To remove that barrier and start feeling more connected, try meditation.
The idea of meditation is simple: you find a quiet spot and some time to yourself and focus on clearing your mind of all thoughts and feelings while bringing your attention to the present moment.
From there, you can learn to let go of negative emotions and even physical pain, give yourself a break from the constant stream of thoughts running through your brain, and focus on the senses that help you achieve a feeling of peace.
When you stop and listen to your thoughts with awareness, they’re no longer just random chatter. They’re genuine feelings that deserve to be acknowledged—and can’t go unnoticed by your subconscious mind.
Whether it’s something specific or just a general sense of uneasiness, meditating lets you uncover those feelings that are blocking the flow of energy through your body, so it can flow freely again.
It makes it easier to cope with difficult situations in the present because you’re able to let go of whatever issues are causing you stress or anxiety from the past.
When we feel our emotions without attempting to change them or ignore them, we’re able to move through them more quickly and find clarity in their source.
We don’t need to blame others for how negative we feel; we can take responsibility for our current circumstances and make necessary changes.
5. Say Positive Affirmations Daily
Positive affirmations are a powerful tool to reconnect with yourself and others. They help you affirm the qualities that you are proud of and want to embody.
This may sound strange, but when you feel disconnected, it's hard to believe in yourself. Positive affirmations are statements that acknowledge your value and worthiness.
You can write them down or say them out loud.
Here are some examples: "I'm a good person who deserves love and support." "I'm strong, resilient, and capable of handling whatever life throws at me." "My feelings count, and I deserve respect from others."
6. Find any available support
Try to connect with other people who understand what you're going through. It's hard for people who haven't experienced being disconnected to understand how it feels, so finding someone who has been there will help you feel less alone.
It might be helpful to find an online community where people share their stories of feeling disconnected from themselves or others.
Take a risk and confide in somebody. Empathic people are out there. You'll not only gain a sympathetic ear, but you will see there are good-natured people who want to offer support.
This will help you feel more connected with your surroundings and less alone in your pain.
'Attempt to get out of your own headspace and take an interest in other individuals’ lives instead of just focusing on yourself.
Volunteering helps you connect with others positively, which can lead to a greater sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Helping others gives you a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Volunteering helps foster relationships with other people through teamwork activities or projects that require cooperation among volunteers in order for them to succeed.
This provides an opportunity for people to create meaningful relationships with one another based on shared interests and goals rather than just casual socializing outside of work or school environments.
8. Walk in Nature
Connecting to yourself and the world around you is key to staying happy and healthy.
We all get busy, and sometimes it can feel like we’re constantly disconnected from ourselves and the world.
Another anecdote to disconnection: take a walk in nature!
Nature is where we all come from, and it’s where we’ll all return. So why not embrace your roots and reconnect with what matters most?
A pleasant walk in the woods or even just sitting by your window while you look outside will help you remember that there’s more to life than what happens on your computer screen or phone.
The next time you feel a whirlwind of negative emotions, go for a walk in nature. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to be surrounded by the beauty of trees, flowers, and waterfalls.
Nature is so beautiful, so awe-inspiring; when we take the time to connect with it, we can’t help but feel better about ourselves, too!
9. Exercise daily
Exercising is an effective way to increase your energy levels, lower stress, and improve your mood.
It also helps connect you with your body—helping you feel more grounded and relaxed—and it helps you connect with others by encouraging social interactions (like going for a run with a friend).
Plus, it’s easy!
When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins—chemicals that exert a physiological response, making us feel happy. Those happy feelings can help us feel more positive about ourselves and the world.
Exercise also releases dopamine, which helps us focus and concentrate on what’s going on right now (instead of worrying about the past or future).
And if we’re focused on this moment, we’re more likely to be in touch with our emotions and more discerning of other people’s feelings.
So go ahead: put on that workout playlist and get moving.
10. Treat others with more kindness
We’re all connected, even if it doesn't feel that way.
Who we are and what we do affects the world—sometimes in ways that are obvious, and sometimes in ways that are less clear.
It’s easy to forget that our actions have consequences, but they do.
Therefore, it’s important to treat others with kindness and respect.
We get so caught up in our own lives and our own problems that we don’t have time to think about other people’s issues or needs.
But when we’re able to treat others with kindness, extending random acts of kindness and making a difference in their lives, we’re actually doing something amazing for ourselves as well.
It’s like getting an unexpected gift—you expect nothing from it, but when you get it and open it up, you realize just how much value there is inside.
As you make a difference in others’ lives, you will help yourself. You’ll feel happier and more fulfilled because you helped someone who really needed it—and that feeling of satisfaction makes everything else seem easier.
11. Join, take part and get out of your comfort zone
It’s difficult to get out of your comfort zone. You can feel nervous, or embarrassed, or afraid that people might judge you for being different than they are.
But the rewards are worth it. When you learn who you are by being around other people, and when you share your own unique perspective with them, you grow as a person.
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut and want to branch out, here are some things you can try:
Join clubs or organizations that interest you. This can be anything from a chess club to the local chapter of a charitable organization.
Seek out religious or spiritual gatherings, if you’re so inclined.
These groups will give you a sense of belonging, help build your confidence, and present an opportunity to meet new people with common interests.
You might be surprised by how many opportunities come about because of these connections—and how much fun it is to connect with others.
12. Live with intention and purpose
When you live intentionally, you make sure that every action you take is aligned with the things you value most.
That’s how you can make sure that the things in your life are meaningful—and the people in it are important.
When you live intentionally, you’re able to see where your actions are taking you and how they affect others, so that when you decide about how to spend your time or money or energy, those decisions actually matter for both your growth as an individual and for the health of your relationships with others.
When you live purposefully, what matters most isn’t just what happens today or tomorrow, but what will happen in the near future, or even distant future.
Purposeful living means thinking about a promising future—and then deciding today based on those goals.
That’s how we connect with ourselves: through intentional action taken today based on our hopes, dreams, and purposeful actions.
And as you navigate your goal-oriented life, you’ll be making connections with others, too.
"The loneliness you feel is actually an opportunity to reconnect with others and yourself" - Maxime Lagacé
The ability to connect is an essential skill for life.
To be emotionally connected to yourself and others brings a sense of well-being, security, and success.
To be disconnected from yourself and others leads to feelings of emptiness, loneliness, mistrust, and failure.
Disconnecting from yourself and others is not always easy to identify. It can be subtle and hidden, or blatant and obvious. Examples include:
- The inability to be in touch with your feelings.
- Unable to discern how you feel about a situation or person until it's too late.
- Feeling as though you're (negatively) intrinsically different from others.
- Feeling vulnerable, always on the alert for rejection and criticism.
- Being afraid to trust others because they might let you down.
- Feeling empty and hopeless, living without purpose and value.
Too often, we disconnect from our own bodies and minds. We forget to breathe, to speak, to sit still and simply be with ourselves.
This can lead to an array of problems—from stress-related illnesses like anxiety and depression to physical ailments like headaches and stomachaches.
And yet, it is so easy to fall into these habits. We are constantly bombarded with messages that tell us we need more: more money, more attention, more love.
Other messages, especially on social media platforms, indicate that everyone else is living full (fun-)loving lives.
It's easy to let those messages take over our lives and leave us feeling empty inside—and then we try even harder to fill that void, often by engaging in self-destructive actions.
But it's time to recognize your own value and worth and lead a life of holistic balance.
And as you get more in touch with who you are and your intrinsic value and beauty, you will be more inclined to venture past the confines of your own little world and less inclined to disconnect from others.
You'll have greater empathy, better communication skills and a far deeper understanding of other people—which will not only help your relationships with those around you but also your relationship with yourself.
Hopefully, you're ready to end the health-compromising and life quality-compromising feelings of disconnection and reconnect with yourself and others.
Take the steps toward these rewarding reunions.
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