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…
I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.
After five family bereavements in 14 months, I had a melt-down in 2008 which had a serious impact on my business, on friendships and work relationships, on my finances and my whole way of life. It resulted in a huge change – leaving the country and starting a very different life in Europe. The peace and clarity of the mountains gave me back the ability to think, but it took years to reach the point of being able to go back into the ‘real’ world. For many reasons, I wouldn’t turn the clock back as, despite the bad bits, I have learned so much and found so much good in the process. I would only wish to undo the damage I unwillingly caused to others.
This blog is a major route to putting something back, to sharing what I’ve learned and, maybe, giving people some new options to getting out of deep ruts.
Loneliness, whether chronic or acute, can be wrapped up in the despair that leads to thoughts of suicide. Read this powerful post and keep your eyes and ears open for the tiny clues that might alert you to family or friends’s hidden feelings. If this is you… talk to someone, please. If you feel that no-one you know cares enough to listen, talk to someone whose job it is to listen. You won’t be a burden – exactly the opposite. They’ve trained for years to be able to help you and all of us who need help from time to time, so they are completely focused, ready and more than willing. Please… pick up the phone, send an email, or walk in. Don’t fester on your own. Another perspective really helps to pull you at least part of the way out of your rut. And when you get a better all-round view, you may start to see some solutions. There will be some, but you need to be in a position to spot them. You can’t see anything when you’re in the depths where it’s dark and cold. Let someone give you a hand to reach the light and the warmth…
Is this the face of a good listener? Would you like to have her as a friend to talk to?
One crucial thing to understand is the way we connect with others. It’s not enough to be in the same place as other people. You can be in a crowded room, a busy station, a park full of people, even in bed with your spouse… and still feel lonely. In fact, it can feel much worse – to be close to others but be shut out, shut off from them, invisible. Sometimes you feel that even if you yelled and screamed, no-one would hear you.
Sometimes even if you’re in the middle of a conversation, you can feel that your companion has drifted off, distracted by something else or just daydreaming. They’re not listening to you any more, and when you prod them, they are startled as they pull their attention back to you.
“Sorry, I was miles away…”
Not very flattering, is it? Is what you were saying so boring?
Who knows what was going on in their head. Maybe they were terribly worried and couldn’t concentrate. Maybe they saw something fascinating over your shoulder. Maybe they’re exhausted after a hellish day. Maybe they’re shallow and selfish and need a slap…
Ignore that last bit – it’s how it makes us feel but it’s almost certainly not fair.
We’ve all had it happen to us… but have you ever been guilty of it? Not listening, not keeping your attention focused on what someone is telling you?
Being a good listener is a great way to connect: here are seven points of a listener.
Are they listening? Are they people you’d want as friends for their kindness and empathy?
1. Keep eye contact as much as possible; keep your eyes on the speaker’s face, at least.
2. Listen with all your senses – more is said with body language and tone of voice than with words.
3. Don’t interrupt. Don’t argue. Ask questions to get clarity, not to interrogate.
4. Stay close but not too close – don’t invade the speaker’s personal space unless invited.
5. Let your body show your interest; lean forward just a little, don’t fidget, but nod your head to indicate you hear them and understand.
6. Listen with empathy. Don’t criticise, and don’t judge – not even in your head.
7. Be kind. The speaker will feel your kind intention.
Do you know how it feels to have a good listener to talk to?
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?
Watching a comedic television show helps provoke laughter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Laughter’s good for you. We know this. It causes all sorts of healthy jiggling about of organs and ions and lively goings on inside you. It puts you in touch with yourself… in fact it does much the same as a vigorous massage. It connects you with yourself, and with the wider world.
You can’t be afraid when you’re laughing, you can’t be angry, you can’t move much, you can’t even talk properly. You can’t feel lonely if you’re laughing. It’s a Very Good Thing. You feel full of life…
I mean proper laughter, not nervous laughter or tormentor’s laughter, which come from somewhere different in your psyche. I’m talking about the helpless, spontaneous, happy laughter that surprises and captures us.
Do you know… laughter is universal in humans, and in many mammals (probably all mammals, if we knew how they all laughed). We know how dogs laugh, and how rats laugh, and how chimps laugh. It’s a social glue, it’s reassuring, and appeasing, and bonding, and is about more than responding to something funny. Laughter is infectious – can you hear someone laughing helplessly without joining in?
Laughter by tickling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We laugh 30 times more often in company than when we’re alone. That’s why so many TV and radio comedy shows use a laughter track, to encourage us all to laugh together. We might find something funny if we’re on our own, and maybe it makes us smile, but it’s relatively rare to laugh out loud.
When was the last time you laughed until your ribs hurt? It’s SO good for us to laugh like that, that if someone hasn’t produced a laughter app, they should do. You should. We should. Anyone know about producing apps?
“Intimacy is the opposite of loneliness, I get that. But that takes me only halfway to enlightenment. The trouble is, I can’t put my finger on what intimacy is.It’s one of those words that I understand on a cellular level, but struggle to define.”
Mother and child have the most intimate relationship of all – for the first nine months of life, at the least
Merriam-Webster online defines intimacy as the state of being intimate, and defines the intimate as:
1 a : intrinsic, essential
b : belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature
2 : marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity <intimate knowledge of the law>
3 a : marked by a warm friendship developing through long association <intimate friends>
b : suggesting informal warmth or privacy <intimate clubs>
4 : of a very personal or private nature <intimate secrets>
Sophia concludes with this paragraph:
“Intimacy requires more but I’m not sure what. I’m not even sure exactly what it is, except that I know it when I feel it.“
Her feeling is spot on. She has touched on it several times in her article, which Merriam-Webster fails to do.
Go to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, and you find the clue. Intimacy’s derivation is the latin phrase tunica intima, the under-tunic, the garment worn next to the skin. The OED goes on to define intimacy and intimate using words like deep, close, connection.
The intangible extra that you’re missing, Sophia, is actually the tangible element. Touch, contact, connection. If you only put your physical finger on it, you’ll have put your metaphorical finger on it.
The fundamental factor in intimacy is being next to the skin – inside the social barrier we all keep around us for all but our intimate friends and family.
Everyone needs their own space, and everyone unconsciously sets their own rules for distance. Think of meeting someone for the first time – you probably stand at handshaking distance. Once you know them better, begin to trust them, maybe find them attractive, you may be within arm’s length, but only when you really trust them, like them and are attracted to them (not just sexually), do you let them get close – perhaps within hugging distance. That’s intimacy.
Intimacy is feeling comfortable body-to-body, and even skin to skin. It’s not just a sexual thing. It’s a parent holding their baby in their arms; girlfriends sitting next to each other, touching at shoulder, hip and knee. It’s lovers, arms entwined and holding hands; it’s child cuddled by grandparent… It’s an unconscious state of trust and affection – you don’t think about it, you’re just there, in touch and connected.
So, Sophia, I hope this makes sense to you and fills the gap in your definition. Stay in touch.