Are You Lonely?
Many years ago, when I was a young adolescent, an adult in my life said that she dreamed about a great chasm, a chasm so deep that she couldn’t see to the bottom of it, with sheer rock cliffs on either side. She was alone on one side of the chasm, looking to the other side. On that other side, people were talking to one another, laughing and appearing to have a good time. She felt totally excluded and felt that there was no way to get to the other side of the chasm.
This vision has stayed with me through my life. There have been many times when I felt like I was on one side of a chasm looking across to a place where everyone else was having a good time. For me it was a very clear description of loneliness.
My studies, and my years of work in the mental health field, have convinced me that loneliness is a key factor in all kinds of mental and emotional distress. In addition, I have found that the incidence of loneliness in this country, and perhaps in the world, is at pandemic proportions. The value of meaningful interpersonal connection in our society is often minimized.
The frenetic pace of modern society and the need to be very financially successful to “just get by ” seems to have eclipsed the importance of having good people in our lives who affirm and support us. Many of us have little or no contact with family members or neighbors. Our work situations may increase our loneliness. Some people say they have forgotten how to connect with others, or perhaps they never learned. I feel so strongly about this topic that I wrote a book about it, The Loneliness Workbook (Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2000). This column will help you to think about loneliness in your life and give you some ideas on how to relieve it.
What Is Loneliness?
There are many descriptions of loneliness. They often contain words that describe feelings like despair, emptiness, hopeless and longing. Which one of the following descriptions of loneliness feels right to you?
- A feeling of having no common bond with the people around you
- Feeling disconnected from others
- Feeling sad because there is no one else available to be with you
- Feeling uncomfortable being by yourself
- Feeling that there is no one in your life who really cares about you
- Being without friends or a companion
- Feeling like you don’t have anyone who wants to be with you
- Feeling abandoned
- Being unable to connect with anyone on either a physical or emotional level
- Feeling left out
- Being alone and not comfortable being with yourself
You may want to write your own definition of what loneliness means to you.