Being alone does not mean one is lonely and a lonely person is not always alone. There’s a difference between being lonely and being alone. One can be lonely while in the company of many.
Loneliness is a universal phenomenon, says an on-line magazine.
“It visits every human soul at some time in every culture, every race, every class, every age, and at all times in human history. It is inescapable, and has been expressed throughout the ages in music, literature and art.”
Romanceopedia.com, an on-line information center with bias towards itself says, “Loneliness is the result of having come out of a long-term exclusive relationship and finding yourself feeling overwhelmed by a sense of alienation. No longer able to enjoy the friendship, companionship, and the intimacy of being with someone on a regular basis; you feel like a mathematical anomaly; divided by two when alone and multiplied by three when at a social function.”
Close enough but loneliness is not always the result of a stray romantic relationship. There are many lonely people who are in good relationships; conversely, many relationships contain numerous lonely spouses.
To be lonely, is to suffer the feelings of loneliness, to want people, social contact, and yet be unable to get any.
“Given this fact, it is quite possible to feel lonely when you are alone, and it is also possible to feel lonely when you are NOT alone.”
The Existentialist has its own view of loneliness saying that a human being’s existence is a lonely existence. At the end of the day, we are all alone, it says.
“Can anyone ever truly understand what it is to be you, to experience all the things you have experienced, to understand your joys and happiness, your pains and sorrows? Surely we can talk to other people about how we feel, we can draw pictures, we can play music, but all this attempt to communicate ultimately leaves something behind. We cannot always get our feelings, ideas or experiences across exactly. There is a painful reality that ultimately we are alone, by ourselves, and ultimately lonely.”
It goes on to say that, to some, loneliness is a curse, a shadow that follows them all the time, and that rears its ugly head at every human contact, that surrounds them in their waking and in their dreams.
Still, the definition of loneliness leaves us wondering what it really is since most experts have a bias towards their clientele.
“Loneliness is a feeling that can strike a person at any time,” says the University of Southampton Counseling Service. “It is not dependant on being physically alone – in fact, it is quite common to experience loneliness when surrounded by people with whom we do not feel a common link.”
But the University of California at Los Angeles has a somewhat closer and more neutral definition saying that it is already known that a person’s social environment can affect his or her health, with those who are socially isolated – that is, lonely – suffering from higher mortality than people who are not.
“Now, UCLA researchers, publishing in Genome Biology, have identified a distinct pattern of gene expression in immune cells from people who experience chronically high levels of loneliness,” reports the Environment News Network. “The findings suggest that feelings of social isolation are linked to alterations in the activity of genes that drive inflammation, the first response of the immune system.”
The study previously established that lonely people suffer from higher mortality than people who are not lonely. Researchers are now trying to determine whether that risk is a result of reduced social resources, such as physical or economic assistance, or is due to the biological impact of social isolation on the functioning of the human body.
“What this study showed is that the biological impact of social isolation reaches down into some of our most basic internal processes – the activity of our genes,” said Steve Cole, an associate professor of medicine in the division of hematology and oncology at the School of Medicine at UCLA and a member of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology.
“We found that changes in immune cell gene expression were specifically linked to the subjective experience of social distance,” said Cole, who is also a member of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “The differences we observed were independent of other known risk factors, such as health status, age, weight and medication use. The changes were even independent of the objective size of a person’s social network.”
To feel lonely is to join the rest of humanity in acknowledging that we are somehow fundamentally separated from each other, doomed to speak and yet never fully understood.
There are different types of loneliness and there is a small but noticeable difference between aloneness and loneliness.
“To be alone is to be by oneself. You may or may not FEEL lonely when you are alone, but the only important condition for being alone is that there is no one else around you.”
Rupert Ward, a pastor and counselor/adviser to his worshippers, says there are different types of loneliness and says two are of particular interest to him.
Situational. “This is the type of loneliness that is caused by the situation you find yourself in. A spouse dies, a relationship breaks up, you move house or location, friends move away, you change church etc. Although a painful reality for many people, this can be alleviated by finding new friends, starting a new relationship, joining a club or finding another group to belong to. This is probably the kind of loneliness that many old people find themselves in, as well as others at other stages of life, e.g. going to university.”
2. Internal. Ward says this type of loneliness is not dependent on our situation, and would still be present even if the circumstances of our lives change.
“It springs from a longing to know others fully, and be known. To be authentic, and transparent. It is longing to return to kind of relating to others in the story of Genesis 2 in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve are naked and unashamed. We can be seen for who we really are, and know that another accepts us and loves us unconditionally.”
He says we can find profound and real change in this type of loneliness, but we will, in this life, always still be hiding to some extent, and therefore living with a disconnect between our revealed self, and authentic self.
There is also state loneliness. This is loneliness that is generated more by the environment than the person. “So you probably will experience loneliness only when it’s a long rainy day and you have nothing to do, or you go on vacation and you are missing your friends at home or something like it. The loneliness is generated by the circumstance you are in, and usually doesn’t last very long (a day, a week).”
Trait loneliness is the type of loneliness that follows you everywhere. “The loneliness is generated from the person, although particular circumstances might aggravate your experience of loneliness. So regardless of the situation or circumstance, when you think about it, you are still lonely.”
Loneliness is a very powerful emotion. It can lead to depression, illness, even suicide. Although it may often hit the old, sick or handicapped people, it is very common among young people too.
Are there some answers then?
Yes, there are!
Problems of Life, a counseling service, advices sufferers to remember that they are not the only ones feeling that way and estimates that more than 25 percent of people around us feel the same way.
“Do you have an interest or hobby? Find a group or society with this interest and join it. Don’t look for the answer to loneliness in a sexual relationship. Many people, especially girls, move from one quick sexual relationship to another, desperate to find closeness and meaning. The sort of people they find usually only want the sex part of the relationship, and do not offer more in return. You are worth more than this!”
It goes on to say that even in a stable relationship or marriage, you should still not expect your partner to meet all of your emotional needs.
“They should certainly meet many of your needs, because your partner should be your best friend. But you should also have a network of good relationships with other friends, giving and taking help and support.”
The counseling service says it can be easy to live out our lives through the imaginary relationships in films, TV, books, or even arm-length relationships on the Internet.
“These aren’t real! TV and film characters do not act and talk like real people! It is an imaginary world, very different from the real one. Live in the real world! Don’t drink too much – it may take away feelings of loneliness for a few hours, but does not answer the real problem.”
SOURCES: Mentalhelp.net, UK Student Support, Vaden Health Center, Internet.