Why do I have no friends?


This article is part of a series on overcoming loneliness. Click here for part 1, part 2, and part 3.

I miss you!missing things

When did you last miss someone?

Missing people is of course related to loneliness. When we say we “miss” people, it seems like quite a good descriptor, because we are “missing” also in the sense of not getting it, missing the mark, not realizing that they are still in our hearts, that they haven’t really gone anywhere.

Attachment is a cover up of isolation that increases our isolation. It looks for love but blocks us as the object is outside ourself, unreachable – we’re like that donkey chasing the carrot. Futility and frustration are endemic in attachment for we’re looking for relationship while grasping at an independent, ie, unrelatable, self and other. We are holding ourself and others to be poles apart (||) as opposed to poles dependent (/\). This means we cannot be together, however hard we try.

donkey-and-carrot

Uncontrolled desire, or attachment, takes us out of the here and the now. Have you noticed how, when you are attached, you are always wanting to be someplace different or with someone else, never content or satisfied in the present moment with the people around you?

And do you not find it ironic that the less dependent we are on externals, the less needy–for example through open-hearted equanimity and love–the more others seem to enjoy sticking around?! With grasping, sooner or later we lose everything.

Try this thought experiment

We can use Chandrakirti’s verse as an object of contemplation, and see how our self-grasping ignorance sets us up for attachment, asking ourselves:

“What or who is that I or me who is lonely? How am I holding myself and the object of my ignorance and attachment apart, like the two poles (||), unable to bring them together?”

 Then, when I try to bridge that gap, ‘I need you to make me happy’, what is that sense of me?”

We can see how we yearn to be close and yet our attachment pushes us further away from others. Frustration is guaranteed. The gulf between self and other grows greater the harder we try to bridge it with attachment.

Does attachment work? It’s what we’re turning to!

We need to bridge the gap through love and wisdom instead, effectively. So we can make the determination to overcome ignorance and attachment and increase our love and wisdom – this can be the object of our meditation.

This mountain, that mountain

The title of this article is “Why do I have no friends?” But the point is, you DO have friends, lots of them.

If we understand we are poles dependent (/\), we know that we are ALREADY in relationship. We don’t have to create relationships that are already there. We can however improve our relationships enormously by recognizing them.

There are various ways to understand that we are already dependent on others, and therefore in relationship with them. One is by contemplating “this mountain, that mountain.”mountain 3

The stronger our grasping at self, the stronger our isolation. We can seek more and more lovers, drugs, extreme experiences; but we remain in a state of lack. The happiest moments are when we forget ourselves and dissolve the gap between self and others through wisdom and love.

When we feel alone, we can feel like the only point of consciousness in the universe, the one and only actual “me” surrounded by an alien sea of countless actual “you’s” or “them’s” (or on a good day “we’s”). However, whoever is me is also you, and whoever is you is also me.

Living in Colorado at the moment, I get to hike the Rockies and witness the truth of what Buddha says … that if I am standing on a mountain the West and looking at one to the East, the mountain I am standing on is “This mountain” and the one over there really seems to be “That mountain.” No two ways about it – it really feels like it, as if it is inherently or intrinsically this mountain. However, if I walk down the mountain in the west and up the mountain in the east, what happens!?

This shows that this mountain and that mountain are relative, depending entirely on our perspective, not absolute truths that have a reality unto themselves independent of perception. If this mountain was real, existing from its own side, it would remain this mountain even when I moved.

This is the same for self and other – they are relative truths, not real or absolute truths, not independent of the mind but entirely dependent on our perceptions. If I walk down the mountain of self and up the mountain of other, other becomes self and, looking back at my previous self, it now feels like other.

This is just one of many insights Buddha gave us to help us understand the relativity and interdependence of all things — an understanding that blows up the bedrock of our ignorance and self-absorption, setting us free.

 

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 36 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to our everyday lives, and vice versa. I try to make it accessible to everyone who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

18 thoughts on “Why do I have no friends?”

  1. I think people who genuinely dont have friends really dont have friends. I know some people like that. Noone actually wants to be their friend. Maybe all the Buddhas are their friends but a friendship with someone who you input through the power of imagination does not answer the question…why do other people have human friends whereas I cannot get that to happen.

    Of the people I know who dont have friends, some of them are people who smell bad, have annoying habits and for other reasons are not nice to be around. Other examples are elderly and disabled who people avoid often because they are trying to avoid depressing images & seeing suffering. These people are not mistaken when they think they are being rejected.

    Most isolation is because your first social moves involve unintentionally (and without realising it) doing something horrible to the person you are trying to make friends with. The person still tries to connect with you though…enduring this horrible thing over and over. But after a while they have had too much horribleness..at this point things break down.

    I have a friendship with a man at the moment who is deeply lonely but refuses to wash himself or his clothes. When I tell him there is a bad bad smell he says I have a very oversensitive nose, & am too extreme about cleanliness & I am imagining it. It is exceedingly pungent!

    Because he has this mental block anyone he tries to get close to tries to endure it because he is otherwise a lovely person. However each time he makes their chairs/cushions, towels, coats on the hook, bathroom stink they just feel he doesnt respect them. Then he puts food directly on the table instead of a plate & refuses to use the plate, he spills drinks on the chairs and puts his grubby items on very pale chairs (which will get marks). He even puts his foot on the cream upholstered chair to tie his shoelace. He even wiped his arse with the hand towel after I got him to have a bath. I told him repeatedly to use the towel I have given him. I have to check the hand towel constantly! The towels stink which mean hes not cleaning his skin before using them.

    All these actions are messages – saying over and over again “I dont care about you”

    This is the message that leads to having no friends. Caring mentally isnt enough. This guy thinks he really cares about me & he thinks he really treated the others who rejected him with respect too. What normally happens with him is the other person gets more and more angry and eventually explodes. He has been hit with pans, beaten, and suffered a lot of domestic abuse in his life. And he is incredibly lonely. He has many friends now but always when he tries to get close to someone they end up lashing out because he constantly acts like he doesnt have any respect for them. He might as well be trying to make friends by going up to someone and smearing them with a rotten egg when they are wearing a white top that cost them a lot of money. BUT he is completely oblivious even if you spell it out to him calmly and respectfully with love & a stinky hug afterwards!

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    1. This is such a moving account of how we self-sabotage. I am so glad you are trying to be his friend.

      I wonder if it would help if you put these thoughts down on paper for him, in a very loving and respectful way. It would give him more time to think about it. There must be something in him that wonders why he is not able to hold onto his friends. You have made it clear to us, and maybe if it is written down it may be clearer to him?

      I don’t know if it will be enough, but is it worth a try?

      What is his name — I’d like to remember him in my prayers.

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  2. Love the explanation of this mountain and that mountain. Clarified what I read in Joyful Path quite a bit.

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  3. We turn love upside down, seeing it as something existing
    in the object, outside of our mind, and then giving all our power over
    to that object thinking it is the cause of our happiness or misery. Love is an inside job, and the more we realize this the happier we’ll become. I am happy to say that my own relationship has been strengthened through this understanding, which prior to finding Dharma we had know idea how to fix.
    Thank you Luna, for sharing on this subject.

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  4. Wonderful post!

    I recently received a message from a family member whom I have been estranged. I was planning to call her when I received a letter stating- “since we have no relationship your cards and emails have no meaning to me – so this will be my last to you.” I on the other hand, am content with the relationship I thought I had. My Buddhist practice has allowed me to be much more content with the appearances to mind and if I want to change things I can try and if I can’t, patience will bring about a change anyway. I may not like the change but change things will and resistance to change is such a huge part of suffering.

    Being close to others is the way things really are. When I think that others are out there independent of my mind I dwell in ignorance. When I realize there is no separation of self and other my mind can be peaceful and content. Loneliness comes from reifying the illusory difference that our ignorance creates. The above article tells it like it is and presents a reality suited to much less stress and anxiety! Thank you.

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  5. ‘Whoever is me is also you and whoever is you is also me’ I could meditate on this for a very long time Luna and it’s a phrase to remember day to day with people and animals.
    I’d like to tell you about my Mum – I was very close to her and was unable to imagine my life without her – even though I was grown up with my own family – the thought of her ageing and death terrified me if I’m honest. When she died I was very surprised there were benefits to the loss. Of course I missed her but on the other hand I felt much stronger – more whole. The qualities I thought came from her came back to me if that makes sense. I think in my attachment I gave away my power. If I’d realised this earlier it would’ve enriched our relationship which is a regret but funnily enough I find I still have a changing relationship with her – we become closer, she appreciates and encourages me and I appreciate her more and more – she is part of me.

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  6. THIS MOUNTAIN OF ME
    (morning song lyric inspired by posting)

    This mountain of me
    That I can’t even see
    Causes so much
    ………………….Misery

    I’ll climb down
    This lonely mountain of me
    I’ll cross the valley, climb up high
    And see what I can see…..I’ll see what I can see……..see what I can wed

    Then this mountain of me
    Will become another
    Mountain that
    I’ll be able to see

    When this mountain of me
    Becomes another mountain
    Then maybe I’ll be able
    To see………………..
    …You and me
    Maybe I’ll see
    You and me

    Well baby, now I know
    That I just can’t
    See…………………..
    This mountain of me

    Sean in Windermere

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