A couple nights ago, while chatting with a female friend, she asked to how how I am coping without anyone to talk to, in the neighborhood.
I replied: ‘I am coping pretty well. Thing is, although I am alone, I am not lonely’.
Friend: ‘It’s pleasing to know that you’re not lonely.’
Of course, being alone and being lonely aren’t the same. Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, restorative.
According to Wikipedia, loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connection or communication with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people.
I do not feel lonely, not because I have a romantic partner to fall back to whenever loneliness beckons. Not because I have a thousand and one friends who drop by to gist, chat, laugh and talk about random vanities. Not because siblings are readily available.
Far from all those! So, I did a little reading and arrived at the following:
People feel lonely for different reasons. It seems to me that there are several types of loneliness. Of course, not everyone experiences loneliness in the situations described — for instance, not everyone wants a romantic partner. But for some people, the lack of certain kinds of relationships brings loneliness.
Once we’ve pinpointed the particular kind of loneliness we’re experiencing, it may be easier to spot ways to address it. Here are some types I’ve identified:
Six Types of Loneliness
1. New-situation Loneliness: You’ve moved to a new city where you don’t know anyone, or you’ve started a new job, or you’ve started at a school full of unfamiliar faces. No friend. No partner. No physical buddy. You feel lonely.
2. I’m-different Loneliness: You’re in a place that’s not unfamiliar, but you feel different from other people in an important way that makes you feel isolated. Maybe your faith is really important to you, and the people around you don’t share that — or vice versa. Maybe everyone loves doing outdoor activities, but you’re a social vegan — or vice versa. It feels hard to connect with others about the things you find important. Or maybe you’re just hit with the loneliness that hits all of us sometimes — the loneliness that’s part of the human condition.
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3. Baeless/Booless Loneliness: This is common among younglings (teenagers, that is). Even if you have lots of family and friends, you feel lonely because you don’t have the intimate attachment of a romantic partner. Or maybe you have a partner, but you don’t feel a deep connection to that person. You feel lonely, though surrounded by family and friends.
4. No-time-for-me Loneliness: Sometimes you’re surrounded by people who seem friendly enough, but they don’t want to make the jump from friendly to friends. Maybe they’re too busy with their own lives, or they have lots of friends already, so while you’d like a deeper connection, they don’t seem interested. Or maybe your existing friends have entered a new phase that means they no longer have time for the things you all used to do — everyone has started working very long hours, or has started a family, so that your social scene has changed.
5. Untrustworthy-friends Loneliness: Sometimes, you get in a situation where you begin to doubt whether your friends are truly well-intentioned, kind, and helpful. You’re “friends” with people but don’t quite trust them. An important element of friendship is the ability to confide and trust, so if that’s missing, you may feel lonely, even if you have fun with your friends.
6. Quiet-presence Loneliness: Sometimes, you may feel lonely because you miss having someone else’s quiet presence. You may have an active social circle at work, or have plenty of friends and family, but you miss having someone to hang out with at home — whether that would mean living with a roommate, a family member, or a sweetheart. Just someone who’s fixing a cup of coffee in the next room, or reading on the sofa.
I believe there are other forms/causes of loneliness. Know of any? Help list them on the comment section.
What then must one do to combat loneliness?
Remember that beating yourself up about being lonely is counter-productive. You really have two choices here: wallow in a destructive way, or use the feeling in a constructive way.
We feel loneliness for a reason – it’s your brain telling you that it wants you to get out there and connect with others, not that it wants you to sit in a dark room with shame, self-loathing and self-pity.
If you’re lonely, connect with others in your life. Meet up with some other single friends. If you can’t in-person, you can connect with them online. Consider chatting with them on the social media or reconnecting with somebody on the phone that you haven’t spoken with for a while.
Try reading, gaming, take a walk or anything fun enough to send loneliness on a long journey of no return.
In all, be your best friend and loneliness will be a stale tale. Do have a pleasant week.
– Stefn Sylvester Anyatonwu
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