Dear Ones –

A friend of this page asked me the other day how I have coped with extreme loneliness in my life.

I wonder if I might open up this question to the rest of you — to perhaps help others who are struggling with this great sorrow?

In my worst and loneliest times (post-divorce, mid-depression) the only thing I ever found that helped was magical thinking.

It might have been completely delusional, but there were times in my depths of loneliness when I was able to summon up the sense of an interior companion — a friend, a guide, a teacher — someone whom I could believe was with always with me, always inside me.

I used to write letters to myself from that invisible interior friend. I carried those letters, and that friend, with me everywhere. Every day, I wrote to myself from my friend. I wrote in the most loving, compassionate voice I could summon. I leaned into this idea until I came to deeply believe in it. The Sufi poets always wrote their poems to the figure they called "THE FRIEND" — something like God, something like the soul, something like the self, something like the ideal mother, like the partner you have always dreamed of meeting.

Children know the importance of this, which is why they invent imaginary friends. I've read that people on abandoned on lifeboats often report that, weeks into their lonely journey, they felt they were joined by another person. Polar explorers report this, too — a presence, a companion.

Maybe it's delusion, but maybe it isn't. Maybe there is a presence with you…

I'm not talking about madness, or the hearing of dangerous psychotic voices. I'm talking about cultivating a sense of love and tenderness toward the self, when nobody else is there to offer it.

I've attached here an excerpt from Eat, Pray, Love — from one of the letters I wrote to myself in my loneliest moments.

It helped. It always helped.

I hope this helps you…

And if anyone else has thoughts or strategies or kindness to offer here, please do!

All love,

via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall