One of the scariest things for many people is not being with other people.
I don't mean intentionally not being with others--taking time away from the hustle and bustle for yourself--but rather being left alone.
Think of the horrors of POWs kept in isolation, prisoners put in solitary, or just everyday kids icing out other children in school, adults marginalizing colleagues at work, and family members abandoning spouses and children at home.
Elizabeth Bernstein makes the distinction between being alone (a potential voluntary state) and loneliness (when you feel that you are forced into an isolated state) in the Wall Street Journal today.
It's an awesome article that explains so much about loneliness:
- We all experience loneliness from "homesickness, bullying, empty-nesting, bereavement, and unrequited love."
- Loneliness can occur when you are without anybody ("isolation") or with the wrong somebody ("dissatisfaction").
- It's a survivalist function and evolutionary to feel scared when your alone, because when you are "too close to the perimeter of the group, [then you become] at risk of becoming prey."
- Loneliness is also associated with memories or fears from childhood--when we were young and vulnerable--that someone wasn't there or going to be there to take care of us.
- Too much loneliness is a "strong predictor of early death"--greater than alcoholism, 15 cigarettes a day, or obesity.
- Loneliness is on the rise, with "some 40% of Americans report being lonely, up from 20% in the 1980's" and this is correlated with more people living alone, now 27% in 2012 versus 17% in 1970.
- Loneliness can be placated by "reminding yourself you're not a [helpless] child anymore," building emotional health and personal self-sufficiency, doing things you enjoy when alone, and reaching out to connect with others.
She jokes at the end of her article that when we aren't feeling lonely, we are annoyed that people just don't leave us alone.
This is a very real concern as well, especially with a multitude of family needs (significant others, young children, elderly parents), 24x7 work environments, and the reality of pervasive online communications and even invasive social media.
Not exclusive to introverts, too much people can make us feel put upon, crowded, and even worn out--and hence many people may even run from excessive social activity and crowds.
Yet without a healthy dose of others, people can literally go crazy from the quiet, void, boredom, as well as from the real or perceived feelings that they are in some way unworthy of love or affiliation.
So even though some people can be annoying, users, or try to take advantage of us, no man is an island, and growth, learning and personal serenity is through degrees of love and connection, for each according to their needs. ;-)
(Source Photo: here)