You are good enough.
If we have all been alone in our lifetimes, and we have all experienced loneliness, then in truth we are not alone. Or, conversely, we all are, or have been.
We are born alone. We die alone.
During both the beginning and the end of life, we may be physically in the presence of others though each experience is personal and singular. Who we meet and the value placed upon our mutual attractions in the intervening years makes the difference between physical distance and longing for another’s company.
Psychologists say there is also a defined distinction between being alone and loneliness. In her April 16, 2020 article in “Psychology Today,” entitled “Being Alone vs, Being Lonely,” psychologist Eglantine Julle-Daniere differentiates the two concepts:
”Being alone is the physical state of not being with another individual, might it be human or animal. Being lonely is a psychological state characterised by a distressing experience occurring when one’s social relationships are (self-)perceived to be less in quantity and quality than desired.”
Mental health professionals appear to largely agree with this differentiation, though some subtract “animal’ or pet from the equation.
Some further statistics (and sources) before we jump in: According to the 2021 Health Resources and Services division of the U.S. government, 40% of Americans have stated they sometimes or always feel their social relationships lack meaning, and 20% have reported they feel lonely or socially isolated. See here. A previous 2019 CIGNA survey of over 20,000 U.S. citizens found the following: “46% felt alone either sometimes or always, 47% felt left out, 27% rarely or never felt as though there are people who really understand them, 43% felt that their relationships are not meaningful, and 43% felt isolated from others.”
As an introduction to this new article, posted here is a piece I posted to Newsbreak last year about what those of us who are feeling lonely today can do as we approach the difficult winter holiday season: “Alone for the Holidays. Alone with Depression.”
Take a read, feel free to send me your comments so we can discuss, and let’s move on.
Where experts are sometimes flawed in their analyses is within the human element of suffering true loneliness. For example, a person who has never experienced depression, regardless of how well-meaning the intent, can never fully penetrate the heart and mind of one who has been diagnosed. Of course, widely-accepted medications and other therapies, including psychiatric, that exhibit positive results are readily available, but these therapies tend to only suppress the symptoms and not cure the disease.
The same can be said for being alone, and loneliness. In the event of the former, some people sincerely feel better and more comfortable in an alone state. Still others feel an emotional fulfillment in the presence of cats, dogs, or other pets. Some even feel better being by themselves bereft of pets, as various issues such as trust and responsibility factors make these individuals weary of further crowding their lives.
In the event of true loneliness, however, a chronic longing for meaningful emotional and/or physical attachments can become overbearing. It is beyond the scope of this piece to psychoanalyze each and every possible reason behind this scenario, but I will state many hugely successful creatives have disclosed painful and often lonely childhoods before becoming the artists we know today. Some, such as Tim Burton and Guillermo del Toro, as examples, spent more time reading monster magazines and cultivating their crafts than going out and socializing. George Lucas, who in various interviews considered himself a quiet, introverted young adult, wanted to be a race car driver. He made “American Graffiti” in part based on his teen experiences, and a modestly-budgeted science fiction follow-up called “Star Wars” that proceeded to forever change the landscape of popular culture.
Author Anne Rice, of “Interview with the Vampire” fame, lost her daughter Michele to leukemia at the age of five in 1972. “Interview with the Vampire” was published in 1976, and the character of Claudia was based on her daughter.
Loneliness has many reasons: loss of a loved one, mental health issues including feelings of inadequacy, illness. Artists frequently channel their grief into art.
But, as it regards artists like Burton, del Toro, and Lucas, another artistic tendency is to become of single-minded focus.
For those reading this who are not in an artistic industry, to further explain this phenomenon many of your creative brethren have spent a great deal of time in their own thoughts — writing music, short stories, movies — which in turn sacrificed sports and social time with others. Of this group, many aged with a degree of social awkwardness that led to something of a deliberate trade-off and determination to forge an artistic career.
Though it may have been difficult for some with that mindset to meet friends or romantic interests, once that new focus took hold a great deal of other concerns dissipated and life fell into a manageable order.
For myself, my wife and I have been together for 21 years now but for many years my own loved ones wanted to find me help for my own loneliness.
I personally know this world all too well.
To the title of this piece, indeed there should be no shame in loneliness; there should be promise. To that, as I review my words, I would also add purpose.
It is certainly not always easy — it rarely is, in fact — but if you can identify your life’s purpose and focus upon that you may notice both your alone time and your loneliness may substantially decrease. If that is what you truly want, you just may be able to change your life.
Ask yourself, then, and respond honestly: “What do I want?” For your focus to change, make a determined effort to find the answer to that difficult but pertinent question, and you just may be on your way.
Thank you for reading.