Paulette Tomasson, RN, RCC, MA
Loneliness, something we've all experienced, combines feelings of loss, sadness, disconnection and incompleteness
Loneliness, something we've all experienced, combines feelings of loss, sadness, disconnection and incompleteness.
If loneliness continues unresolved for a prolonged period of time, it can be detrimental to our physical and psychological health.
A recent study in the United States showed that antidepressants were ineffective for the majority of patients with depression. This wasn't because the antidepressants didn't have a pharmacological affect; they did alter brain chemistry. The reason for their ineffectiveness was because the majority of depression in our society today is the result of loneliness.
More and more individuals are being separated from their families and communities. Careers can take us away from our support networks, and then we come home from work tired and stressed and don't have the energy to go out and connect with our friends. We end up numbing out in front of the TV or the computer, forgoing real life relationships in favour of fictional relationships with sitcom personalities.
And yet the basis of human nature is connection. This is a very basic and primal need. Our minds long for good conversation, for the stimulation of intellectual challenge and inspiration. Our bodies also need contact and connection. We all know the wonderful comforting feeling of a warm hug from a friend in times of sorrow. Studies show that baby monkeys will forego taking food from a wire-framed mother figure and will cling to a foodless mother figure covered with fur.
Our hearts yearn to bond. A sense of bonding began with our earliest sense of connection, the sound of our mother's heartbeat. Human heart tissues that are placed beside one another in a lab will start beating in rhythm and will continue to beat in rhythm even when separated and moved to different rooms.
We long to connect and partner with someone. We have a deep biological urge to mate and procreate. Our spirits become depressed when we feel disconnected from our sense of purpose and meaning in life. Humans were not meant to live in isolation; we were meant to live in connection and community.
What does all this mean? Just as hunger lets us know that we need nourishment, loneliness lets us know that we need connection. As described, there are different types of loneliness, and if you can identify the type of loneliness you are experiencing, then you have a much better chance of finding the right type of connection. If you are not aware of the type of loneliness you are feeling, you may end up "looking for love in all the wrong places." Many failed relationships start out from people feeling lonely for one type of connection and trying to fill it with another.
How do you know when you are lonely? Become familiar with your process. Do you feel restless? Are you bored? Do you get agitated? Do you get hungry? Do you start to put yourself down? All of these can be symptoms, and it is important to get to know yours.
Ask yourself pertinent questions. What am I feeling? Is there a feeling that is even deeper than this one I have identified? Give yourself permission to express any feelings you have uncovered. Then proceed to identify the type of loneliness you are experiencing.
This may take a little time; however, it could save you from going down the wrong road looking for relief. Once you have identified the type of loneliness you are experiencing, it is much easier to look for ways to resolve and make connections that will be satisfying in your life.