THE STUDY OF LONELINESS
This is a condition that is widely distributed and severely distressing. Yet only a handful of psychiatrist, psychologist, and sociologist have studied the isolation of ordinary people.
Sullivan, the great American psychiatrist, is among the very few who have done so and among the very few in any of the social sciences who have attempted a description of the symptomatology of isolation.
His description is brief and sketchy, but nevertheless notably perceptive.
In particular he commented on the “driving force” of this issue – a force great enough, he pointed out, to cause people who were normally painfully shy to aggressively seek social activity.
Maybe you’ll start up a relationship. If so, then you’ll next have to learn how to deal with jealousy and insecurity.
He concluded that “the fact that loneliness will lead to integrations in the face of severe automatically means that it in itself is more terrible than anxiety.”
Others who have observed the the pressures under which the lonely seem to act by and large have agreed with Sullivan’s appraisal.
Why, then, has there been so little research on this subject? It is much more often commented on by songwriters than by social scientists. One psychiatrist has suggested that we neglect this issue because we have no theory with which to begin to cope with its manifestations. Is Facebook making us lonely?
There may be some merit in this position; scientific attention may be directed in part by the emphases of theory and the established preoccupations of the field.
But Frieda Fromm-Reichmann noted that at least one reason that we have no very good theory about isolation is that we have studied it so little.
She suggested that the absence of attention to be explained not by the challenge isolation is presented to understanding, but rather by the threat it presented to well-being.
She said that this issue is “such a painful, frightening experience that people will do practically everything to avoid it.”
The frequency and intensity of this feeling are not only underestimated but the isolated themselves tend to be disparaged. It seems easy to blame their issues on their frailties and to accept this fault-finding as explanation.
Our image of individuals lacking company often casts them as justifiably rejected; as people who are unattractive, shy, intentionally reclusive, undignified in their complaints, self-absorbed, self-pitying.
We may go further and suppose that chronic loneliness must to some extent be chosen. Surely, we must argue, it is easy enough to be acceptable to others.
All that is necessary is to be pleasant, outgoing, interested in others rather than in oneself. Why can’t the isolated change?
They must find a perverse gratification in their lack of company; perhaps isolation, despite its pain, permits them to continue a self-protective isolation or provides them with an emotional handicap that force handouts of pity from those with whom they interact.
Thoughts like these may justify professional as well as lay impatience with the isolation.
There may be some small merit in this characterological theory of isolation. But there is also implicit in it a rationalization for rejection of the isolated and the problem of isolation.
Each is pictured as easy to understand: the lonely are people who move against others or away from others and of course they then feel bad because they are alone.
Along these lines, advice for the isolated would seem obvious: be pleasant, outgoing, interested in others, meet people; become part of things.
If the isolated cannot behave in these ways, then they ought to enter psychotherapy, change, learn to be more outgoing.
Yet for those who suffer from ‘lack of company,’ advice of this sort often seems oddly beside the point. There may seem to them to be something in emptiness that is ‘uncanny,’ to use Fromm-Reichmann’s word.
It is peculiarly insistent; no matter how much those who are ‘feeling empty’ would like to shake it off, no matter how much they may berate themselves for permitting it to overcome them, they find themselves possessed by it.
No matter how devotedly they may count their other blessings, no matter how determined they may be to put their minds to other things, the isolation remains, an almost eerie affliction of their spirits.
Isolation is not simply a desire for company, any company; rather it yields only to very specific forms of relationships. Isolation is often uninterrupted by social activity; the social activity may feel “out there,” in no way engaging the individual’s emotions.
However the responsiveness of isolation to just the right sort of relationship with others is absolutely remarkable.
Given the establishment of these relationships, isolation will vanish abruptly and without trace, as though it never had existed.
There is no gradual recovery, no getting over it bit by bit. When it ends, it ends suddenly; one was lonely, one is not any more. You don’t have to be lonely. What you need is to build your confidence and go out and face the world.
So what do you think? Did you enjoy this article? If so, please share it on your social media page.
See Below What We Can Help You With Or Someone You May Know:
Free Satin Toy Bag when you spend $30 on Bondage – with code AFFUSKINK
When you buy something from this website, I may receive an affiliate commission.
These are my opinions and are not representative of the companies that create these products.
My reviews are based on my personal experience and research. I never recommend poor quality products, or create false reviews to make sales.
It is my intention to explain products so you can make an informed decisions on which ones suit your needs best.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 2, 2017 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.