How to Avoid Isolation

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: I have recently moved to Bethel. I have never lived so far away from everything. How do you avoid feeling isolated in an isolated place?

Answer: I was unable to locate literature related specifically to isolation as far as location. However, I found literature on loneliness and when I replaced the word loneliness with isolation, I think I found what you are asking about.

The following excerpt comes from an article by Kendra Cherry called, Loneliness: Causes, Effects and Treatments for Loneliness. Note that I have replaced the word “loneliness” in the excerpt with “isolation.”

“While common definitions of [isolation] describe it as a state of solitude or being alone, [isolation] is actually a state of mind. [Isolation] causes people to feel empty, alone and unwanted. People who are [isolated] often crave human contact, but their state of mind makes it more difficult to form connections with other people.

[Isolation], according to many experts, is not necessarily about being alone. Instead, it is the perception of being alone and isolated that matters most. For example, a college freshmen (sp.) might feel [isolated] despite being surrounded by roommates and other peers. A soldier beginning his military career might feel [isolated] after being deployed to a foreign country, despite being constantly surrounded by other people.”

And that is exactly what many individuals experience after coming to a place like Bethel for even a short time. However, if what Ms. Cherry wrote above is true, you might feel just as isolated in New York City, Chicago, London, or Manila. There can be people everywhere, yet you feel all alone.

The mind is very powerful, and if you begin to tell yourself that you are isolated, you may very well behave in ways that will keep you isolated. Psychology has shown that feelings follow thinking. If you think isolated, you will eventually feel isolated. The Book of Proverbs tells us, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly” (Proverbs 18:24, KJV). Avoiding isolation isn’t going to just happen; you have to reach out and touch someone.

Look for ways to make friends. The late psychologist, Albert Ellis proved to himself that more people than not would want to talk with you if you approach them. Also, he proved to himself that he would not die if they rejected him.

“At the age of 19, he gave himself a homework assignment when he was off from college. He went to Bronx Botanical Garden every day that month, and whenever he saw a woman sitting alone on a park bench, he would sit next to her, which he wouldn’t dare do before. He gave himself one minute to talk to her, calming his fears by saying silently to himself, “If I die, I die…” He didn’t die.

He found 130 women sitting alone that month on park benches. He sat next to all of them, whereupon 30 got up and walked away. He spoke to the remaining 100 — for the first time in his life — about the birds and the bees, the flowers, books, whatever came to mind. (RBT Network, May 2006).

I am willing to go on record and say that Bethel is one of the friendliest places in which I have ever lived. But so were Hoonah, and Juneau, and etc. “He who has friends must make himself friendly.” If you are a bit shy about inviting someone over for a meal, there are many good organizations in Bethel with which you can connect. If you are not attending church, give it a try. In fact, I would love to have you come and visit the church I pastor—right across from the AC Store—11:00 A.M. and 6:00 P.M. each Sunday.

There are other good organizations and clubs. Many years ago, I became involved in the Chamber of Commerce, and more recently, have had some involvement with the Rotary. Others have chosen the Lions Club. There are quilting clubs, sewing clubs, Ducks Unlimited, NRA, and the list goes on.

In Bethel, there is hunting, fishing, berry picking, dog mushing, and etc. There are Christmas concerts, sporting events, dog shows, talent shows, and I could go on and on. The main thing to avoid isolation anywhere is to get involved with people. And about that big box of books everyone told you to bring to Bethel because you were going to have so much time on your hands, there’s a fair chance, you will never have time to open it.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected].

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