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Lonely at the Top

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Lonely at the Top

Do you suffer from excessive individualism?
Robert Holden Ph.D.
Robert Holden Ph.D. More by this author
Nov 06, 2009 at 09:00 AM

I recently coached a man called Clive who worked for a global pharmaceutical company. When I asked him what he did, he said “I’m in charge of Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.” He had come to see me because he was depressed. “On my bedside table, I have a copy of Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins and a bottle of Prozac,” he said. Clive told me that he wanted to “stop the craziness,” as he put it. He was lonely in his job and lonely in his marriage, and he had thought about leaving them both, but he was afraid of being alone.

Clive is a good example of the people I meet who have taught themselves that in order to be successful they must build tough exteriors and harden their hearts. Clive described himself as being “between a rock and a hard place.” I told him that I thought he was suffering from a broken heart and that he was hoping more success would somehow mend it.

“The problem is that if your heart is not open you won’t feel any success you experience,” I said.

In one session, Clive likened himself to the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, who had no heart. “If I don’t get my heart back,” he said, “I may as well die.”

In my Success Intelligence seminars, I present clinical research that proves there is a high correlation between loneliness and diseases such as heart disease. Many physicians identify loneliness as a leading cause of death, describing it as “a killer.” The loneliness they refer to is: (1) an isolation from other people, (2) an estrangement from our authentic self, and (3) a spiritual emptiness and perceived separation from God.

Excessive individualism and the lack of deep intimate attachments is not a formula for success. It breaks up communities and it breaks people’s lives. Excessive individualists seek to make an impression, but not to relate. They want admiration, not intimacy. They want to win, not join. They end up lonely at the top (if they ever get there) and suffer from appalling social illiteracy, poor emotional resilience, no spiritual rootedness, and no sense of belonging. They are on their own, and they are afraid.

I believe that it is a spiritual imperative of every human to overcome his or her perceived aloneness. Separation—the optical delusion—is the mental virus that causes so much fear, pain, and disease. My work with Success Intelligence recognizes that intimate relationships are the basic building blocks of true success and well-being.

Success Intelligence Tip – Relationships

Consider this thought: Relationships are the heart of success. How true is this for you?

Review your life and name the most important relationship lessons you have learned. Assess honestly how well you have learned these lessons.

Next, name three (or more) of the most important people in your life and your work.

Then review the present status of these relationships. Score the health of each relationship on a scale of 1 (poor) to 10 (perfect). Consider how you could make each relationship even better.

About Author
Robert Holden Ph.D.
Robert Holden Ph.D.’s innovative work on psychology and spirituality has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, a PBS show called Shift Happens! and a major BBC documentary called How to Be Happy, shown in 20 countries to o Continue reading