Feeling lonely on days of love

Umbrella, rain, alone, solitary, lonely, Romania

Loneliness is a feeling of isolation and disconnection that is cold and miserable, wherever you are. It can be worse at a noisy party than alone in the rain.

In these days running up to Valentine’s Day and its Romanian version Dragobete and Martisor, we are fed images of romance and love, and the whole world seems wrapped in a rosy haze of togetherness. But what about those who don’t feel the love? Who feel disconnected, isolated, and invisible?

Loneliness feels so much worse on these days when you’re supposed to be happy – especially in Romania, where the culture is so family-orientated and open-hearted. The upcoming love-fests can be agonising for those who feel …. Read more…



All the lonely children

Loneliness can blight the life of a child

Much of the focus on loneliness is aimed at the elderly. Not before time, but they’re not the only group of people who feel lonely much of the time. Too many people begin their lonely lives when they are still children.

Lots of people hide their emotions, disguise how they feel and pretend that everything’s just fine. Truth is that we never know what’s really going on behind the disguise, let alone behind other people’s front doors. Loneliness can lurk behind the smartest doors and the busiest schedules.

Look again at the children around you. They may not say they feel lonely. You may not guess from their behaviour. But more children than you’d think feel lonely most of the time, and it has nothing to do with being alone. Loneliness feels lonelier if you’re around other people.

Chronic feelings of loneliness and isolation are high within these groups, for example:

Bullied children and their bullies; children who look after a sick parent; children of alcoholics; children with disabilities; children who have been scarred or disfigured; children with a parent in prison; children whose parents are focused on an ill or injured sibling; children who are expats or immigrants; children in a bereaved family…

Know kids who behave badly? Some of them maybe yearning for attention and don’t know any other way to get it; ‘attention-seeking” may be another way of saying “lonely”.

Christmas is coming – how will you make sure the kids you know aren’t feeling excluded, invisible or unloved this year?


A touching remedy for the lonely

It’s clear enough that the sense of touch is important for babies – lots of people learn baby massage, and the sling is back in fashion so that infants are carried next to their parent’s body rather than at arm’s length in a pushchair.

But don’t we grow out of the need for touch?

Well… have you?

Children get as much touch as they like from their pets

Kittens never reject affection and are perfect for touch-deprived humans

I haven’t. I learned as a small child not to expect touch, and then to do without it. I had pets instead – dogs and cats, who adored being stroked and patted and weren’t ashamed to ask for strokes. Am I alone in relying on pets for innocent physical affection? Did anyone else experience this? Is this why Anglo-Saxons love their pets so much?

[Oh.. I’ve just remembered that psychologists in the 1960s – Eric Berne and then Thomas Harris – used the word ‘stroke’ to mean the emotional equivalent of a physical stroke: a compliment, praise, an endorsement, an award. Something that makes you want to purr. A feel-good moment. Imagine a cat stretching and purring under a stroking human hand…]

Touch is the first sense to develop in the human foetus. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and develops from the same stem cells as the brain. Frequent pleasurable touch for infants results in positive change in brain tissue, while chronic touch deprivation or trauma results in measurable brain damage. Lots of scientific studies have shown the critical importance of good touch to the developing infant and the growing child. It remains vital – touch-deprived adults may turn to food, alcohol or drugs to make up for the lack of physical contact, or adopt behaviours from promiscuous sex to shop lifting.

Think about your skin. There’s a lot of it, and it’s far more than a barrier between you and the outside world. it’s in organ, like your heart or your lungs, and in it are thousands of nerve endings which pick up a mass of information that help us operate and survive, give us pain or pleasure, and a whole spectrum of subtle emotions and reactions that we don’t consciously notice.

Think of losing all that information because you don’t get touched. For the elderly, who are the focus of current campaigns, loneliness is often the result of losing a spouse, family moving away, friends becoming housebound or dying… that’s bad enough and can be devastating. But imagine how appalling it must be to live your whole life, from childhood onwards, feeling out of touch, not connected, lost and alienated in a crowded world, because you didn’t get the touch your body and brain needed in your early years.

What about young adults who leave home to go to university or to a job in another city; dealing with a whole new world with only strangers around you, with none of the contact and support of home and friends…

And so on through life. Being deprived of touch is one of the key causes of loneliness, and getting touch is one of the key remedies.

Related articles

Three ways to keep loneliness from the door

In the middle of a long post on her blog 1000 single days, Vanessa has this to say about loneliness, and why is hasn’t hit her so far.

“The reason that I believe I have not experienced loneliness thus far can be put down to a few things. Firstly, I am too fricken busy for loneliness right now. When you raise 2 young boys and a teenage girl on your own while studying a full time degree and writing a blog, while working out like crazy every day due to ‘Operation Banging Body’, when you get a knock at the door, and you open it, and there is loneliness standing there with his bags packed, ready to move in, you just have to shrug your shoulders, apologize, explain there is simply no room, and close the door.

Secondly, I have said it before, but my friends and my family. I really do believe that I may just have the most incredible network of friends, and a more remarkable family than anyone could hope for. They all support me in this crazy thing I am doing of course, and just as I would never have begun writing if not for them, nor had the courage to begin this journey, I would not have the strength to finish it if they were not such a huge part of my life. I am often told by my nearest and dearest, that they are noticing I am changing. I am becoming strong. That I seem more at peace. That there is not only a happiness in my face, but a joy coming from inside me somewhere.
When you receive feedback like that from people you know tell it like it is, it is a huge deal. I have spent the last few years being told ‘Whats happening to you Ness, you’re changing…. you seem so sad.’ One friend told me not too long ago that my eyes didn’t have any life in them anymore. How hard is it to hear things like that? Its devastating. How is it to hear that they believe you are coming back to life? Rising up from a close call, a near death experience? Its wonderful, and I need to hear it.

Finally, just as getting to know a person who you have just met, inside out may take a lifetime, getting to know who I am, especially after neglecting to do so up until this point means I have a lot of catching up to do, and loneliness will not translate from a mere word into an experience for as long as I am making an acquaintance with myself. I have begun by learning the real ABCs of Vanessa. For the first time in my life, I actually have a favorite colour (Hot Pink) and I have finally come out of the musical closet and embraced the fact I love filthy rap music, (my itunes is sounding a lot more ‘gansta’ these days) And the whole ‘Banging body’ thing came about because I had enough time to think and realise that I am honestly just a much happier person when I am thin and after a few years of trying to jump on the whole ‘love your post-baby body’ bandwagon, I have just had to throw my hands up in the air and say ‘you know what, I hated my post-baby body. I want a banging body, and despite all the bumper stickers that tell me I should feel beautiful no matter how fat my arse is, I want to be thin’ And that is a bit of a big deal to admit, because people hate it when other people say things like that, but after getting acquainted with myself, I realised that was where my happy place was, and just accepted it.”   Read the rest here

City ghost – survival of the invisible

Feeling like a ghost in a crowded London park

Sitting invisible, a ghost in plain sight

The times I can feel loneliness are when I’m in a crowd, in a busy street, at a station, in a shop, at a party. Twice in the last year I’ve felt completely invisible in the midst of people busy about their lives: once at Oxford train station, and once in a park in London. And I finally realised why.

It’s a survival mechanism. Without it, we’d probably go nuts. Some of us go nuts anyway, of course.

Earlier this month I was in London for two days, staying with friends and enjoying the change from the peaceful bubble of paradise in the mountains. On Sunday morning, while my friends were at church, I went for a stroll in the park near their house. It was a glorious day – warm and sunny, a rare thing for London this summer. People were out enjoying the late summer weather, walking dogs, sitting on the grass talking, playing tennis, strolling through the trees.

I’d wandered over to the tennis courts to watch people playing reassuringly bad tennis, soaking up the sunshine and getting a bit of exercise chasing missed shots and fuzzy yellow balls soaring over the chain link fences to bounce away over the dry grass. A London Sunday. I heard two English voices – mother and son, by the look of it. All other voices were speaking foreign languages, few of which I could even identify. London: world city. It was relaxing, pleasant to watch people for a while, sitting on a bench by the path, in the dappled shade of a lime tree.

Invisible in the crowded street, feeling lonely in a crowd, no more loneliness, full of lifeAs figures passed me by, I realised how we all cope in cities where there are too many humans in the crowded space. We have learned the skill of ignorance. Literally, being able to ignore what we don’t have to notice.

It’s self-protection, being able to pull our awareness in to avoid bumping up against other presences, other energies we don’t know and we don’t want. We can live in our own little bubbles, protected from strangers, pretending (subconsciously) that we have all the space in the world when in fact we are crammed into pens like veal calves and battery hens.

You must have noticed… we can survive the city commute every day, rammed together in busy trains, on the bus, on the rush-hour pavements. Nose to armpit, wedged between three other hot bodies, managing to avoid eye contact and retreat into our own worlds. You don’t glance at anyone, don’t smile, don’t talk, never connect. Not enough space.

In a small village, on a mountain path, walking by a river, you’re more like to catch the eye of a passing stranger and say hello or compliment their dog. Plenty of space. No threat. Time and peace to connect with another human being. Every animal needs its territory.

I found it quite pleasant sitting there, invisible. No responsibility, no accountability if you’re not really there. But on a bleak day I might feel the chill of disconnection and alienation.

The presence of other people is far from enough if you’re feeling lonely. Accidental contact is not enough either. You need to make eye contact, swap a smile, maybe a friendly and deliberate touch on the arm. Awareness, intent, interest exchanged. It only takes half a second, the connection, but it counts, where an hour in a crowded park may not.


Non-attachment -v- loneliness

2011: The Year of Planned Abandonment

The Year of Planned Abandonment (Photo credit: benrmatthews)

Interesting article, this (read it HERE) – but I think the writer used the wrong word.

“Abandonment” is a passive term to imply that you have been abandoned, ie it wasn’t your choice, and you don’t like it. There are lots of very negative emotions resulting from the feeling of abandonment, whether it first happened when you were a child, or at any stage afterwards. It’s closely related to rejection, which is never comfortable…

Having read the article, I think what they’re talking about is the Buddhist concept of non-attachment – not hanging on to things in the past, needing very few material baggage, and carrying minimal emotional baggage. it’s interesting to see how similar the Christian and Buddhist teachings are on this, although of course Christians are taught to put their faith in God, where Buddhists are encouraged to take responsibility for their own lives.

The essential argument of the article, though, is hard to deny – the more we think we need Stuff, and depend on others (human or divine) to make our lives better, the more we are likely to be disappointed.

And that lovely point about health insurance – how true! Do you recognise that paradox?

Whether, like me, you’re not of a religious bent, or have a strong faith, I’d love to know what you feel about this article. Do please leave me a comment.

English: pink lily flower

English: pink lily flower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)