Day in, day out Richard sat by the window over looking a secluded, solitary road. His wife died years ago and he had no children. Life seemed meaningless and absurd to him. Depression and despondency overpowered. Fear and misery of being friendless and lonely was gnawing him perpetually. Whatever friends he had were living at distant places. Since he was not internet savvy, he could not get in touch with others. The only ray of hope was the landline to get in touch. He had no interest in life and nothing interested him. He had given up driving long ago.
The feeling of being alone, unaccompanied, and unattended was agonising. Too much of fretting led to mental health issues. Loneliness and abandonment was killing him inside out. He couldn’t bear the fear of solitude and seclusion which is paradoxical in essence. He started having suicidal tendencies. It was an eternal pain, which nibbled him gradually and gave him a feeling of alienation, nothingness and emptiness. There was an inner, emotional turmoil and commotion which was hard to handle and bear. He started having convulsions.
Thanks to a kind neighbour who rescued him from this distressing situation. He drove him to the nearest psychoanalyst and through counselling and medication he was able to overcome his helpless, grim state of mind and was able to regain the lost confidence and started finding joy in each and very object and act of Nature.
Like Richard, there are umpteen examples of people who start negating life out of loneliness. Life becomes awful and bizarre for them.
Loneliness is inexorable and inevitable. It comes naturally, congenitaly and instinctively and we as social animals need connections, social bonding and when loneliness nibbles you gradually, life becomes awry and what we need at that moment of time is to be in constant companionship and share closeness with someone.
We all have faced loneliness in one way or the other. Especially in Covid times, the people who have few friends, and have been leading a solitary and unsociable life, had a real taste of it. Moreover in fast paced, changing modern world no one has a moment to spare for others. The heart aches. Living alone , eating alone and sitting alone sent shivers to the spine. Life becomes a nightmare. The whole prospect is frightening.
Loneliness can strike at any point of time in life and can affect anyone regardless of age or gender. Not only the aged but the people in their early twenties also feel isolated and secluded due to many issues which they are not able to overcome, handle and recover. They have minimal contact with others. Either one stays away from home or one lives in a family, loneliness captures silently. Heartache – and sometimes short lived relationships – leave us strained, helpless, and shattered. One feels devastated.
What is loneliness?
World famous psychologist Carl Jung, described that: ‘Loneliness does not come from having no people around, but from being able to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.’ What he meant was that letting go and expressing oneself as an extrovert can change lives.
For Sigmund Freud ‘aloneness and anxiety’ are often the cause of many phobias. Even a small child is scared and intimidated of being seperated and this anxiety remains forever with the child.This fear is the fear of separation, separation from the loved ones.
Loneliness doesn’t mean you are in isolation and have no meaningful connections. Loneliness and abandonement go hand in hand. It is not always that you are abandoned by someone. It can be you, yourself, abandoning yourself by getting detached, when you feel you are not being heard and valued. One can be lonely even in a family, with friends when you are not properly looked after or ignored. But then there are others who are alone and are happy with the choices they make to be alone; for them, solitude is voluntary. Now it all depends on the intensity with which we encounter loneliness which is hostile and difficult to be overpowered.
Why do we encounter loneliness?
Detachment and indifference to the outside world and people, differs in intensity and is varied in different people and their situations. Sometimes you are lonely when there is bereavement and deprivation and you are shattered emotionally and psychologically. At other time you are lonely in the social context because you don’t have a big circle of friends and family. Many a times it is short lived and is not eternal. Weekends, holidays and festivities also make you lonely when you have no body around to chat, laugh and celebrate with. Then there are people who are eternally lonely.
Man being a social animal needs to interact, enjoy and celebrate company. Social events and activities add to his life. Once you detach yourself you become alone and lonely.
What’s the impact of loneliness?
There can be many serious corporeal and cognitive health issues and disorders which can have scary and petrifying repercussions. People start abusing and neglecting their body with too much of drinking and become immune to drugs. The functioning of the brain slackens, leading to many grave infirmities like memory dysfunction, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disesase, depression, insomnia, obesity, stress – among others. Some of the victims indulge in anti-social conduct and deportment. The immune system becomes weak leading to loss of appetite. They start having reclusive tendencies. Some worry excessively and have Separation Anxiety.
How to handle loneliness?
Life is a wonderful gift. Enjoy life to the lees. Meeting other people, engaging oneself with activities which interest us, should be sought after in every stage of life. Plan your life in a way that you remain engrossed in finding little little joys in life and that can further lead you to more joy. Self- motivation and self -absorption can bring positive results. Live for yourself. Engage in activities which thrill. Reading, gardening, bird watching and feeding, painting, writing can keep you busy and especially in the world of books, you are never lonely. Start writing a diary. Try new ventures. Make music your companion.
Keeping yourself busy can alter your lifestyle. Make a daily routine. Plan your days in advance. Go out stare at Nature. Start volunteering. Meet new people. Spend time in old age homes and orphanages. Start teaching. If possible start travelling. Explore new places. Enjoy every moment of life. Don’t give up.
How to recover internal peace and happiness?
Meditation and yoga can heal you completely. Although we are mortals and life is transient but there is lot to see and do in abundance. Peep inside your own being. That’s the place where you get to see your own self which can give you perennial joy from within. That will be the healing experience which you are looking for. Never lose heart and give away your self to the service of humanity and try to make this world a better place to live in. Leave no stone unturned till the last breath of your life.
Geeta Bhandari, PhD is the director of Global Education, an educational organisation based in India.