Loneliness slowly drains the joy of living from a person. It doesn’t happen all at once. No, it is a steady process of erosion and is caused by just one thing. It is quite simple to identify the one thing and to explain it.
The official definition for loneliness really is missing the crux of the emotion.
Definition of LONELINESS: sadness because one has no friends or company.
Do you see what is missing from the definition?
I know loneliness.
It is very different than being alone, although sometimes you can be alone while being lonely and at other times you can be lonely in the middle of a large crowd of people.
“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.” ~ May Sarton ~
Of course, loneliness is worse when you are with someone. They are right there with you, maybe across the same room and yet…they might as well be a thousand miles away because they are not invested emotionally with you. Companionship brings with it the expectation of togetherness in body and spirit. When your companion doesn’t make the effort to BE WITH YOU when you need them, well, that is the worst kind of loneliness because it also feels like rejection.
“I am lonely, yet not everybody will do. I don’t know why, some people fill the gaps and others emphasize my loneliness.” ~ Anaïs Nin ~
Many people are alone and love it. They need no one and are totally content with their own company. Their alone is not lonely.
Those people are the exceptions.
Miller McPhearson, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and Matthew Brashears, sociologists at Duke and the University of Arizona, published the General Social Survey in the American Sociological Review. The findings were that one in four people do not have anyone to share their life with – not the good times or the bad times. Even more scary is that without family members, half the people have no one. This led the researchers to believe that in today’s society there is “a very significant decrease in social connection to close friends and family.”
Maybe you’re thinking, “Hey! I talk to people at work or in the neighborhood all the time!”
I’m sure you do, but chit chatting is not a replacement for soul connecting. Actually, it is just an intelligent cover up for loneliness. There are many ways to hide or ignore loneliness – watching television, going to the movie, being a workaholic, always cleaning, sleeping more than ten hours each night, using substances to escape life or having so many activities that you are constantly running hither and tither. The loneliness is still there, but it is masked by the other activities…temporarily.
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald ~
Humans have the need to be connected and understood.
It requires a person to lay open their soul and expose their vulnerability. Being vulnerable is a very scary thing and is often perceived as a weakness in both men and women. With more and more women moving into careers and working outside the home, the feminine vulnerability is disappearing at the same rate as the men’s desire to take care of his woman’s physical and emotional needs. Along with this shift is more independence and less shared experiences.
Less time devoted to each other means more time to feel isolated and lonely.
That’s just a fact.
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” ~ Mother Teresa ~
Although most of us are born and die alone, I do not believe we are meant to be alone throughout our life. I believe that we are meant to be in a nurturing companionship and enjoy wedded bliss. Laugh if you want, but there is a reason that Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden together. I do believe that there really was an “Adam and Eve” and I believe they loved each other dearly.
I am a romantic at heart and have always believed that love can conquer all.
Today…that belief is waning.
No matter how strongly a person can love another person, if both people are not unselfishly in the relationship one hundred percent, love will not conquer. Especially in a relationship where one gives all the time, requires so little back, and doesn’t get it. That lonely feeling, my friends, is the loneliest of lonely.
“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.” ~ Vincent van Gogh ~
I’m sure that someone is thinking, “You are never alone if you have God or your Higher Power in your life.” God or your Higher Power may bring you comfort and help give you direction, but God or your Higher Power can’t cook a meal with you, talk to you while eating that meal, hold your hand when you’re taking a walk, brush back the hair on your face, put the bait on your fishing line, help move the couch to the other wall, check the air in your automobile’s tires, greet you with a warm hug at the door, cuddle you as you fall asleep at night, or make love to you. Those are not experiences for you to have with God or your Higher Power. Not only wouldn’t it be right, it just isn’t feasible.
Loneliness doesn’t just make you sad. It has even larger implications on life. Studies show, but can’t explain why symptoms of depression, chronic pain, and fatigue are associated with chronic loneliness. That’s one reason why a therapist will tell you it is better to be divorced than to live in a marriage where you are neglected by your companion.
Yes, loneliness that lasts a long time will not only make you sick, rob you of a good night’s sleep, and literally cause tissue damage to your broken heart, but it can kill you. Even more shocking is the research that shows emotional isolation as a risk factor for poor health ranks as high as smoking. Yes, smoking!
But who wants to admit that they are lonely? Isn’t that like emblazing a scarlet “A” across your chest or better yet, holding your hand in an “L” shape at your forehead? Doesn’t L = Lonely Loser?
There is a TERRIBLE stigma surrounding being lonely. It’s almost like a crime to admit that you have feelings of loneliness. You can’t even go to the doctor and ask for a prescription to help you cure your loneliness. The doctor can help you lower your blood pressure, remove your gall bladder and control your allergy to pollen, but he can’t do anything to get rid of that lonely feeling.
“Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.” ~ Honoré de Balzac ~
Now I’ll tell you how I think the real definition of loneliness should read:
Definition of LONELINESS: sadness because one has no friends and no companion IN WHICH TO SHARE INTIMACY.
I’m at the point in life where all those younger years of jumping hedges and skateboarding are in my past. I won’t be having more children and I’ve already raised my sweet child. What stretches before me is a lot less than what stretches behind me. Life is very basic for me – a job where I can earn enough money for shelter, food, clothing, and an automobile; time to spend with family and friends; and to be able to reach out and touch a companion with my heart, mind and body.
Worry, sadness, hopelessness and pain may be the thieves of happiness, but loneliness encompasses all those emotions.
Unfortunately I know loneliness too well.
“In the silence of night I have often wished for just a few words of love from one man, rather than the applause of thousands of people.” ~ Judy Garland ~