On Loneliness and FOMO

How is it that you can feel so alone when surrounded by people who dearly love you? I don’t know this feeling well, because even when I DO feel disconnected from community, I can still enjoy time alone. I am content enough to entertain myself. Steven loves quiet time, and he socializes best with a small group of people.

 
(Recent photos for good measure. Indiana Pacers did well this season!)

Before Wesley was born, we would happily spend our evenings doing two different things in proximity to each other, hardly saying a word, and it was lovely. It works for us. But this child of ours, he’s right smack in the middle of our personalities.

As I write this, the lyrics to One is the Loneliest Number are popping into my head.

I took a brief online personality test for Wesley, and it claims that he’s an extroverted intuitive perceiver. Steven is skeptical about all the Myers-Briggs stuff, but I eat it up. This makes sense because I love to know about people and hone in on their skills (ENFJ, a “Giver”), and Steven believes it’s all bologna (INTP, a “Thinker”). What can I say? We are truly the ying to each others’ yang!

The test claims he’s too young to have a fully developed personality, so he could be more of a feeler (ENFP, an “Inspirer”), like me, or thinker (ENTP, a “Visionary”), like Steven. It’s so weird because he truly is a blend of the two of us. At any rate, I have to believe it’s a combination of these traits that causes him to bend over in near pain at the thought of being separated by people. This child has a serious case of fear-of-missing-out, or FOMO.

ENFPs and ENTPs are ruled by dominant extroverted intuition – a function that picks up on a seemingly endless slew of possibilities in the user’s external environment. While this is a wonderful skill at the best of times, it’s a stunting one at worst. ENFPs and ENTPs can easily become quickly paralyzed by their own rampant perceptions – wanting to experience everything and consequently following through on nothing.

These types needs to let go of their fear that there is constantly a better idea, situation, opportunity, person or chance out there for them to pursue. When they learn to focus in on what they’ve chosen, ENFPs and ENTPs are capable of incredible feats. But first they have to learn to say goodbye to FOMO.

-Heidi Priebe

I mentioned quiet times spent in the same room. We still do this most evenings, and Wes is so used to it, that he enjoys drawing or playing quietly when we’re both within his eyesight. Pulling him away is near impossible. Forget playing outside by himself (although he will if I’m also outside, a few feet away). Heaven forbid he get a cup of water without one of us assisting him.

Bedtime is the worst time of day for our 6-year-old son. Getting him upstairs is a battle of argument and manipulation, but I realize most kids are in this boat. Once upstairs and resigned, he stops fighting back and (usually) happily gets ready for bed and thoroughly enjoys our nighttime reading tradition. But once we reach the last page, he starts to protest, whine/beg and sometimes cry for me to stay with him until he falls asleep.

“It’s not fair that you and Daddy get to be together all the time.”
“I just want someone to be with me.”
“Why CAN’T you sleep with me?!”
“I hate nighttime. It’s not fair that I have to go to bed now.”
“What are you going to do while I sleep?”

He calls it “loneliness” or “being afraid of the dark.” I don’t discredit those possibilities, but he didn’t start complaining about bedtime or dark until a year or so ago. It’s gotten progressively worse, and based on his complaints, I think instead he’s irritated at being apart from (what he assumes is) the “action.”

It used to frustrate me to no end because it seemed to come out of nowhere. I refused to give in and appease him, but I felt terrible that he felt so scared. Eventually I started to ask him about his fears so we could talk through them, and it helped him relax. I stayed until he was almost asleep. It’s been routine ever since.

Yes, he’s only six, but I do worry about how to help him cope as he enters adolescence, especially with an increasingly online and social existence. We purposely don’t have tablets in our house, and while we do play a lot of video games as a family activity, we limit other screen time as much as possible. However, I don’t think I can blame social media alone for the world’s FOMO problem. Instead, I think it’s up to us to teach and instill gratitude.

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:12-13

There’s actually a lot of science about happiness, and much of it stems on gratefulness. Wes appreciates problem-solving and tackling an issue. He doesn’t always have confidence in the process, but if you can show him or demonstrate evidence, he is less defensive. I like this article about how to become happy:

  • Ask “What am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.
  • Label negative emotions and feelings. Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it.
  • Make decisions. Go for “good enough” instead of “best decision ever made on Earth.”
  • Give hugs and personal contact.

It seems a daunting task to teach gratitude. Wesley already has a soft spot for loving others, so I think, with time and practice, some of these tips and guidelines (some of which we already incorporate) and these Biblical reminders can assist in adopting gratitude and happiness to combat loneliness and fear.

Wes is probably the happiest sibling-to-be on the face of the planet. Gone are the crying fits, convinced that his lack of sibling must be a punishment from God for his actions. (Sometimes I think it’s these tears that defied our contraception methods!) He carcasses and whispers “I love you, Maisie,” to my growing belly, and he believes/hopes she will be the savior to overcome his loneliness.

Disappointment is inevitable, we all know, but he doesn’t – yet. I pray we can help him learn skills to address deep fears and teach him how to be grateful in all circumstances. We’ve got our work cut out for us!

Bright eyes gladden the heart; Good news puts fat on the bones. Proverbs 15:30

Posted: April 15th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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