Lonely is such a common term, one we first hear in childhood and then continue to hear throughout our adult lives. Even Elvis Presley crooned about it with his number one hit, in 1960 with, “Are You Lonesome Tonight”. Do we truly know what loneliness is? Webster’s defines the term loneliness as affected with or causing a depressing feeling of being alone. Huh? Psychology books have described loneliness as social isolation, or the failure to have intimacy in your life. Um okay…
Can People in Relationships Still Be Lonely?
Recently, I spent the day with four girl-friends. Three are married, and one is in a monogamous one-year relationship. All of which are lonely! They all have intimacy in their lives, they would deny that they feel affected by a depressing feeling of being alone, and none of which are socially isolated. Yet, they all described different forms of loneliness in their lives.
“Married Monica” talks of a separation with her family, specifically her siblings and parents. Her parents are aging and have become ill; mentally her parents are no longer the parents she grew up with. She is in the middle of conflict with her siblings.
“Married Stephanie” feels alone in her marriage. She feels like a single parent having lost almost any aspect of romance or passion in her marriage. She often feels alone, even when her husband is around.
“Married Rachael” no longer feels a desire to be intimate with her husband. The marriage is consists of trying to cope with the marriage and family life than with living and enjoying life itself.
“In a relationship Tabitha” has overlooked the idea of marriage and settled for a casual sexual relationship, placing the emphasis on sex and avoiding her deep desire of marriage and commitment.
So how are the women lonely? They are all in a relationship, have friends, engage in social activities with coworkers and friends, and they volunteer. The women would deny Webster’s definition that they are affected by the depressing feeling of being alone, as they are not alone. Loneliness is not the act of being alone, for these women loneliness is a feeling of not feeling connected. The feeling of being connected provides the feeling of happiness and of belonging. Loneliness has denied them the feeling of happiness; however, a feeling of dissatisfaction is identified with more than one of depression.
What is Loneliness Then?
Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D. describes loneliness using words like despair, emptiness, hopeless and longing. Copeland also provides a listing of the terms that people use to express loneliness and sites the following as ways to relieve loneliness; work on liking yourself, plan ahead, join a support group, go to meetings/lectures/concerts/readings and other events and activities in your community, volunteer, reconnect with old friends, strengthen your connections with family members, make sure that the relationships you have with others are mutual — that you are there for them as much as they are there for you, and if feelings of loneliness still persist, seek professional advice.
Perhaps loneliness is as minimal as the feeling of being left out of a decision or it can be as complete as being alone and not comfortable being with yourself. Because if nothing else shouldn’t we be comfortable with ourselves?
Loneliness and Mental Health
There are varying degrees of loneliness. Loneliness can be detrimental to our mental and emotional health. The degree of loneliness may have an impact on other aspects of your life both the physical and emotional. John Cacioppo, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago found that effective interventions are not about providing others with social interaction, providing social support, or teaching social skills. Effective intervention focuses on changing how people who feel lonely perceive, think about, and act toward other people.
As our lives continue to get busier and busier and more gadget integrated, will the sense of loneliness only increase? What about the generation of “TEXTERS” or the “FACEBOOK ADDICTS”? Is the ability to communicate via Facebook, email or by text causing the inability to develop and maintain relationships? These relationships provide people with the capability to fight feelings of loneliness. Whether we decide to get involved or to change the way that we are feeling toward other people, it is essential to our physical and mental health to fight feelings of loneliness. Maybe it is time that we put our gadgets down and reconnect with our friends and family, or we find another activity that sparks an interest and join in.
- Why Loneliness Matters (webmd.com)
- Loneliness. Alone. Solitude. (foodforme207.wordpress.com)
- How to Get Rid of The Loneliness (socyberty.com)
- Restless sleeper? You could be feeling lonely (news.bioscholar.com)
- The Roots of Loneliness (Psych Central)
- Easing Your Way Out of Loneliness (Psychology Today)
- Are You Lonely? (Psych Central)
- The Lonely Screams Understanding the Complex World of the Lonely (Psych Central)