Loneliness v Alone

‘Lonely’ is not the same as ‘alone’.  Lonely is a feeling and is a state of mind.  You can be lonely when alone or when in company; on a desert island or at a gathering in a big city.  But is lonely normal?  I believe so and would go so far as to say it is necessary in small doses.

We are often described as social animals and, certainly, with others, we instinctively create social structures.  At their most primitive, these may be hierarchy generated by the dominance of an alpha male, or by allegiance to a matriarch.  These relationships eventually lead to the development of organised groups and environments which are, in some way, mutually supportive or beneficial to the group as a whole. This is not necessarily always true for every individual, however.

In these environments we can thrive on the feedback we get from other persons and that thriving can help us feel secure and enable us to develop intellectually and emotionally.  But feedback can also diminish us if it is negative, or even just neutral or absent, when it might have been present.  We take the risk of receiving diminishing feedback whenever we are in company.  Sometimes that risk is too great.

Perhaps, for just the smallest of periods, even the most apparently self-assured of us deems that risk of engagement failure too great and we need to retreat into loneliness; into a mindset where we might take stock, summon courage to re-engage, or just languish for a while in self-pity.

Enforced ‘aloneness’ ……solitary confinement, stranding, or simply being ignored by others, will almost certainly lead to real loneliness and eventually to psychological damage.  But short periods of self-imposed loneliness are part of being us and can help our sense of balance.  Loneliness in small doses might be therapeutic; as long as it is not revelled in!

If someone ‘feels’ lonely and doesn’t want to, the solution lies within themselves; not with anyone else.  Overcoming unwanted loneliness requires a form of courage, but one we all have to a greater or lesser degree.  Not the courage to approach strangers and perhaps suffer rejection, which can be crushing, but the courage to engage socially at some level with others.  None-hierarchical group activities such community working, or in more developed societies, a choir, a walking group, a knitting circle, or a local history society are just some examples of largely neutral, non-threatening environments and activities.  By showing an interest in such common activities you implicitly show an interest in the individuals involved; and they in you!  It’s a first step, sometimes a big one, but what’s to lose,except loneliness?