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Hi. Welcome again to Stronger with Rakesh Shukla. Today, surprisingly, we are going to speak again about loneliness. And there’s a reason for it. I’ve made two videos now so far and the response has been overwhelming. Well, overwhelming isn’t the right word. It is worrying in a way because there are so many of you writing from so many parts of the world. And I’m so surprised that so many people feel so lonely. You read about it in books, you watch movies about people being lonely… but I never really thought it was so pervasive.
here was some feedback that I got when I spoke about how to address loneliness and I spoke about solitude and finding purpose in life. These are really actually end stages. You cannot just find solitude in one day, or meditate and find the “purpose” in life and it all becomes hunky dory. It’s not like that.
So, I wanted to share with you my own life story. That’s because everything that I say is built around that, and so I have to share with you my own journey. But before I go there, allow me to tell you two things.
The first is that you need to remember that loneliness is temporary. It is not something which is permanent. It is not like now you are in a corner and you are by yourself and that’s how it’s going to be for the rest of your life. It is not a permanent thing.
The second thing you must remember is that loneliness is a feeling and not a fact. We start thinking things like, “I am cut off”, “nobody really cares for me” or “nobody understands me” or whatever is the mindset that you develop. And you start thinking that that’s a fact. Actually, nobody really cares either which way. Their lives, everybody’s lives are going on as it was before that happened to you, and it will continue. Nothing is going to change in their lives. So, it’s just a feeling. You started feeling cut off and lonely and alone. They don’t feel like that. Nobody gives a damn.
And a favourite has become this thing that people have started talking about… this thing called the Universe. Some people wrote to me a couple of years back saying, “The universe loves you, the universe does this, the universe does that”, and the first time I couldn’t even understand what it was because in physics, the Universe is a thing that I’m a part of, but now the Universe loves me? The Universe thinks that I should smile? What the fuck is that? My point is that we have a pattern of thinking, we think that there is a pattern, that there is a higher purpose and there is some reason why we are going through the trials of life that we are. So being alone or being cut off or being lonely is some part of some great scheme of things perhaps. The fact is that there is no pattern in life. Things just happen randomly, okay? There is no reason why I should become a successful entrepreneur and then I should become broke. It’s not like I made a bad business decision. I don’t overanalyze it anymore, it just happened. I am not moved by how hard I fell, I’m moved by how quickly I came out of it.
So, it’s not permanent, and it’s something that happens and life goes on.
I was telling you about my own journey. I look at my journey in three parts and the third part is where the steps and things that you can do for yourself are. The first part was the freefall. In 2014, and till the beginning of 2014 like I said I was a successful entrepreneur. A Btech MBA guy who runs a big company and all the big tech companies are my customers and you know, life’s good. And then suddenly I get into this place where people want to shut down what I do which is my passion for dogs and they want to really kill me off to kill the dogs. And there are police cases, and I’m in the newspaper for all the wrong reasons and essentially, my life just fell apart, and my company fell apart. The first thing that I feel is that I remember a very strong sense of isolation. I just felt totally alone and totally by myself. That’s what I felt at that time. The amount of disappointment that I had with people around me and the people who had worked with me is not even funny. The people who were professional managers who had worked with me for many years. That disappointment was absolutely great.
But at the same time, I had one person- it’s not like there was nobody. There was at least one person who got through to me and told me to get up and fight. And that made all the difference. And I was still grappling with that very uncertain place to cope with that freefall so I became kind of disconnected from everybody. I kind of walked away from a lot of people and a lot of people walked away from me as well.
[Aside] Gudda’s back. You’ve seen her in my earlier videos, my paralyzed baby… She just wants to kiss my face all the time.
So that disconnect was very real, and interestingly there was also a pattern to it, which was that when I went into freefall, the people who were with me all went away, but I attracted a new kind of people. I don’t want to use the word, but I was in a very disturbed place at that time, and interestingly, so were they. These were the people who came into my life and they started coaching me and telling me that their presence will heal me and their presence makes a big difference in my life. Actually, they did nothing to my life. But my point is that you start giving out a certain energy and a certain vibe, and you start attracting people like that. So, you need to be mindful of that.
Coupled with that was a great sense of disappointment and actually not being able to go anywhere, and I started drinking. I keep mentioning this repeatedly. You have many methods to cope, but substance abuse is not one of them. And it was just a difficult time and the truth is that that’s what I did. I would just try to cope through the whole day and in the evening I would drink.
In the second phase, I started becoming a little more aware of the fact that I could not go through the rest of my life either feeling sorry for myself or being in this corner where I think that I am totally alone. And I needed to pull back and I did a few things. Again, these are not things that I can tell you to repeat because they are not necessarily repeatable, but that is the experience that I went through.
The first of them was that I started exercising. I figured that if I exercised, I felt better, and the fitter I became the more I could exercise. It’s like a cycle by itself. And it took me away from that other cycle of only being alone only with that voice in my head.
The second thing that happened to me, and you will see if you have followed anything that I’ve written before is that I created this persona for myself. This thing called “Baba”. Because I was hurting so much and I felt so alone and unable to be able to talk to anybody really, that I started talking of myself in the third person. I started calling that person “baba”. I started talking about baba like “baba cannot get hurt” – if somebody asked me how I was feeling I would say Baba is okay, for actually a period of two to three years, I never referred to myself as me or used the word Rakesh Shukla. I only spoke exclusively about myself in third person as baba. It used to be annoying for some people, but that was my way of coping.
And the third thing I did is that I realized that this attention that I was getting, this wrong kind, this negative vibe I carried or this isolationist feel I carried just brought in people who were not interested in my wellbeing in the long run. They were just interested in satisfying something in their lives by being in mine. And knowing different parts of my life kind of allowed them to make that association and that personal connect and be in my sphere so to say. I disliked it a lot, because I wanted people to be away from me. So, to actually drive that wedge and isolate myself even more from any personal associations, I dumped my whole life online. I started writing, I made my Facebook timeline public. I started writing my deepest thoughts that I hadn’t been able to share for years with anyone. I started writing them publicly and I created a website and I started externalizing that pain and that isolation. So, these are some of the things that I did. I’m not saying you need to do that or you should do that. I’m just telling you how I went through it.
The third after when I started getting the hang of it and coping with it adequately well, and started feeling a little better- that’s the time I would call the recovery. That’s the point at which – I remember that day when I thought of that whole thing called purpose. I realized that if it is not money and if it is not myself, then what am I here for I realized that my life has a purpose, and I have a purpose, and I need to be able to endure this pain to deliver on that purpose. I remember this day as clearly as yesterday and it was a life-changing experience.
So, if you can get to that, great, this is something you should do as part of that recovery. One of the things I still do as part of that purpose, is when I feel that when I’m getting kind of low and lonely, I think of something big. In the last few weeks, I’ve had some health problems. It started with a back issue and then I stopped exercising. My blood pressure went up tremendously. It’s been almost a month and a half and I have not been able to exercise really well. And now that I’m recovering and getting back to normal, that sense of being normal is again worrying me. But when I get to that point, I start to think of something big. Because if I lose myself trying to do something big, it takes away all this other part which is who’s talking to you who’s not talking to you- all these things become irrelevant because you’re driven by something really big. And my next big thing is another hospital for the dogs. Those are my thoughts.
As a rule, you will feel much better if you give back. If you love something back and you give back in the larger scheme of things to others, you will surely feel like you’ve made better connects with others and you will be in a more peaceful place. That helped me. I spoke about cutting out a lot of different kinds of conversations because there are people talking to me about all kinds of shit over the last five years, and really very little of that made a difference to me. But there were some conversations I actively enjoyed. Only very few but there are. I realize that the thing that motivates me most, and I want to talk about it, this is something that excites me – is when I talk about work. It could be something else for you – it could be art, or music, or whatever. But for me it’s work.
My partner in crime is a lady called Beena who manages a lot of the business side of a lot of what I do. Even when I’m feeling really low and alone, if I talk to her – sometimes I just call her just to talk about work. Because I know that we have already discussed this thing but if I just talk, I will feel better, I will feel more in control, I will feel more a part of the system.
So, you need to pick and choose the conversations you want to have. Like I said, all the conversations aren’t a value-add to you, but you need to figure out which are the ones that make a difference to you. There is another gentleman called Vikram – he used to study with me and is a wildlife photographer. He would call me once in a while and I laughed so loud it’s not even funny – you could hear me a block away. I love talking to him.
There is another lady called Reeni, she’s a brand consultant of her own company, called Reeni Dutta. Sometimes I just talk to her for the heck of it. This is a business association but I would just talk to her because I know that she would end up making me laugh.
And I mentioned about exercise – and there are a lot of people writing in saying that I talk from a man’s perspective when I talk about anything. I cannot get away from that, I cannot become a girl overnight. I don’t think I use any sexist language which is that you know, men should do that and women should do that, or men or women can’t do that or talk like that. But one of the things that was said was that you always talk about doing weights and boxing and whatever. Exercise doesn’t mean that you have to lift weights. You don’t have to go to a gym or lift heavy weights. Do something. If you love to dance, just move your body and start dancing! If you love to sing – do something with yourself.
That’s the other part of what I wanted to say that you should do. You should start doing some physical activity that you enjoy. If you enjoy walking, start walking. If you enjoy dancing, start dancing. There are a whole lot of activities that you don’t need people for. Go into a museum or watch art or watch a movie. There are so many things that you can do that don’t necessarily mean that you have to be in a social setting. What I am saying is that there are all these things that you can do to take care of yourself till the point that you are ready to re-engage.
And I will close it by saying the same thing that I opened with. Which is – just remember that loneliness is temporary and it is not permanent. And remember that loneliness is only a feeling. You are actually not alone. You think that youv’e become alone because of whatever is going on in your head. The world doesn’t care. They are still where they were. Your family is still where it was. You have started seeing things differently. So it’s a feeling. And there are all these different things that you can do other than substance abuse to lose that feeling. And after a while it will become okay.
A lot of you are writing about how lonely you are from all across the world and it is heartbreaking. I wish you could do some things. Start moving in that direction. Just put it behind you. It’s not worth it.
I don’t have regrets of the last few years of my life, about whether I could have done this or done that. I couldn’t have done anything different actually. But I shouldn’t have lost that much time. And that’s why I’m here talking to you. Because what took me five years to figure out, maybe you can do in three years. That’s two years plus on your side. Life’s a long slog. You need all the time though. You need everything that you can show to make something of it. Life is beautiful. Remember that.
So take care. We will talk again. Like I said before, if you have something that you can’t talk about, send me a message, fill up a form, or send me an email.
Otherwise I have a whole list of things lined up for you. As always, I speak from my personal experiences. Not something that comes from a book or some divine intervention. I was not born happy, but I made myself. I was not born strong, but I made myself. I was scared, but I’m not now. All these things can be learned. And I hope this is an interesting journey for you.
Take care, have a good one. Goodbye.
The following is the transcript from the conversation.
Hi. Welcome back to Stronger with Rakesh Shukla and hopefully we’ll take another step today to make you stronger – emotionally, physically, and mentally. Most of the time they are pretty much the same thing. For today, let me first ask you this question.
If you look back at your life from your childhood to now, what do you think is the most devastating pain? The memory of the worst pain you ever had. Take a moment to think about that pain. Was it the pain of breaking an ankle or breaking a bone, or breaking your shoulder – did you fall from somewhere? Pain that is physical in nature or was it pain that was emotional – a slight from one your siblings or a slight from your mother or your father- that first girl and boy you loved and they then just disappeared? Which one of these two pains is the worst pain? And I’m just trying to reiterate the point that we focus so much on physical pain as a society, as people, and we don’t focus on, or we disregard the emotional pain. Have you ever seen that anybody call up your office, saying, “My girlfriend left me so I’m not coming to work because I’m hurting”. Do you think this is a legitimate reason? Do you think any manager will agree to that reason? On the other hand, if somebody says, “ I cannot come to the office or I cannot come to work because I got fever, or I hurt my leg” – that is a very legitimate reason. And the fact is that the physical pain – whether you hurt your leg now or you had a really bad fall – this is just a faint memory, and it will heal and the chances are that after that you don’t even remember the severity of the pain.
But emotional pain is very different. That pain kind of lives with you for the rest of your life. And it doesn’t just live with you. It shapes you. If I were to ask you to remember that slight of your parents, that you felt very strongly about, or when your spouse left or when your girlfriend or boyfriend left, chances are you will choke, you will still palpitate you will still start sweating. It has taken me quite a bit of time to become dispassionate about these things, but the fact is that they have shaped my life. Emotional pain is a very real thing and it has a very real, physical response as well. But somehow it is not considered a legitimate reason, as I said earlier. To the point that emotional pain becomes an illegitimate pain. Because you cannot talk about it to others. I’m not talking about a breakup and girlfriends are talking about it or men are talking about it for a little while, and even then, once the curiosity is satisfied and they go their own way and you are left with that pain by yourself. So that sharing is also not a legitimate sharing really and nobody can really understand your pain anyway. My point is that this pain becomes illegitimate and the only way you can handle this pain is to hide it.
So, the biggest hurts of your life from your childhood to now are all pretty much all emotional and all illegitimate. And they are illegitimate not because you have made them illegitimate, but also because by nature, in the social, moral context, they might be illegitimate. What is to say that you can only love the woman that you got married to or the man you got married to? Maybe the biggest love of your life was something else. But it is not something that you can talk about. By nature, a lot of this conversation is illegitimate. You go to offices and they are full of this unsaid conversation. This pain, this angst which is there right under the surface but nobody there can openly speak about these things. So, it is insidious and by nature, the emotional pain is illegitimate and that makes it very dangerous because it is this behaviour that changes your outlook towards like.
So, what am I saying? I am not saying that suddenly all HR personnel are going to become suddenly open to the fact that somebody says that I have had a breakup and therefore I don’t want to come to work for two days. I don’t assume that that’s going to happen anytime soon or that it should happen. But what I’m saying is that there has to be a conversation in offices, in the public discourse, between friends, within the family, about what emotional pain is.
The pain that I felt the most, I could not even speak to anybody about. I was telling you about my growing up years. The fact is that five years ago, I lost my company, I lost my shirt literally, and I was crores of rupees in debt. It came in the papers, it was frontline news. My friends knew about it but they all disappeared. The people I could have gone to for help or tell them or share this with were my parents. For three years I chose never to explain it to them or talk to them about it. Because, I did not want to feel that they were right in their disregard toward my life decisions, and so on and so forth. So the illegitimacy of this pain is a real issue and the first thing that we should be able to do is to recognize pain in ourselves. And not disregard it. So, we need to make it less illegitimate.
Today, I am much more in touch with my reality and my emotional state. So, if I feel bad about something or if something hurts me, I have the capability to sort it out in my head and figure out that this is what is causing me pain. And I suggest that you start evaluating yourselves for what causes grief and what causes pain. If you don’t understand the cause of that pain and that grief, you will be forever shaped by these past pains and you will never truly want to get going and move forward. And a lot in your life actually depends on not carrying that baggage. Equally we must be able to find it in ourselves to recognize this pain in others.
I’m not saying that I’m the most empathetic person, and on a deeper level maybe I don’t feel and associate with people that way, but I have a great capacity to understand where they’re coming from. And what is causing this pain. Because if I can participate in that process of discovering that pain, then I can perhaps allow people to see clearly what is causing that pain, and how to minimize that pain. So that’s not rocket science. Having empathy is not rocket science, and understanding others is and participating at a deeper level- not just conversationally but to understand how to isolate and manage that pain is a key life skill. And as friends, as colleagues, as managers, as parents, as children, it is something that is really key for not only our health but the health of people around us because the things we say and do are with people for the rest of their lives. So learn to recognize emotional pain in yourself and in others and hopefully do something about it. And when you do that, the one thing you get is respect. You will start respecting yourself more and you will start respecting other people more and that is priceless.
So, I wanted to talk about emotional pain for a bit.
And before I go, the one last example and the one last instance that I would like to throw at you is how it molds people. You look at the biggest prize fighters, you look at the most successful businessman, you look at the worst kind of criminals and serial killers- they have all this in common. All of them have this in common. Their sense of emotional pain was overwhelming, they were overwhelmed with it. And some people could manage it and channel it into something more productive, and some people became more destructive with that. But emotional pain, unless it is addressed, unless it is channelized, unless it is used can be a very debilitating force. And I’ve seen some of the people I love the most not being able to handle it. And I kept telling them that I can help, or they can get help from outside from some other people to be able to manage their pain. But they chose not to. And then it kind of just went south. I lost all those people and I am very sorry for that.
So, learn to respect yourself. Learn to recognize pain in others. Try to make an effort to address it if you can. It is going to change lives around you- lives for the better. Again, if there is something you want to talk about, let’s get into that conversation. Send me a message, make me a comment, all these channels are actually for us to converse. We are not sitting face to face enough to have one to one conversation but it can be a one to one conversation if you just write back to me and we can talk about those things.
So, stay strong because you only have yourself, you only have yourself to win the battle of life for the rest of your life. Stay strong.
For more insights, visit the Rakesh Shukla website.
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- Dealing with depression & mental illness
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