All of us, from time to time, have experienced the ache of loneliness, whether we’re actually by ourselves or among others. And, of course, it never feels good.
But, curiously, this “social pain” is actually adaptive. According to John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick in their book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection:
Keep in mind, too, that feeling the pain of isolation is not an unalloyed negative. The sensations associated with loneliness evolved because they contributed to our survival as a species. “To be isolated from your band,” wrote John Bowlby, the developmental psychologist who pioneered attachment theory, “and, especially when young, to be isolated from your particular caretaker is fraught with the greatest danger. Can we wonder then that each animal is equipped with an instinctive disposition to avoid isolation and to maintain proximity?”