Loneliness—Identifying the Causes
LONELINESS is not the same as solitude. Rather, according to one dictionary, loneliness “more often suggests isolation accompanied by a longing for company.” The same dictionary explains that solitude can refer to the situation of “one who by wish . . . is cut off from normal contacts.”
So solitude can be desirable under some circumstances. Many often seek it for prayer or meditation, as did Jesus Christ. (Matthew 14:13; Luke 4:42; 5:16; 6:12) Loneliness, on the other hand, is a painful feeling. What can cause feelings of loneliness?
● Isolation in Crowded Cities
In big cities thousands—even millions—of people live in close proximity. Yet, paradoxically, this cramming of people together engenders widespread loneliness. The hustle and bustle of city life can prevent many from really getting to know their neighbors. Hence, city dwellers end up living among strangers. The all-too-common distrust of strangers and the desire to protect one’s privacy may indeed play a big role in the incidence of loneliness in big cities.
● Inhuman Work Methods
The way many large business concerns and industries are managed has led their employees at all levels to feel lonely and inadequate. Workers often experience unrelenting pressure and stress.
Moreover, within large companies, the systematic relocation of staff creates feelings of insecurity, isolation, and loneliness among workers. Commenting on a spate of suicides among the personnel of some French corporations, the International Herald Tribune said that many French workers feel “pushed beyond their limits by the pace of economic change.”
● Cold Communication
In Japan, Professor Tetsuro Saito said: “Communication ability is bound to decline as cell phones and other devices are now getting between people.” In Australia, The Sunday Telegraph reported: “Technology is . . . causing people to become more insular. People . . . e-mail or text one another rather than talk.”
Describing a reason for her feelings of loneliness, 21-year-old Rachel, who lives in France, complained: “I find that people make less of an effort to see you, as they believe that texting, e-mailing, and chatting online is enough. But it only makes me feel more lonely.”
● A Changed Environment
The economic crisis has caused widespread mobility, obliging people to relocate in order to keep their jobs or find work. Change of residence wrenches people away from their neighbors, their friends, their school, and sometimes their family. Those who are thus uprooted feel like a plant that has been transplanted but has left its roots behind.
Francis remembers the day he arrived in France from Ghana. He explains, “The language barrier, the lack of friends, and the cold climate all contributed to making me feel very lonely.”
Recalling her arrival in England as an immigrant, Behjat confides: “I found it difficult to adjust to the local culture. I had acquaintances but no real friends or family members with whom I could discuss matters and really express my feelings.”
● Loss of a Loved One
The death of a marriage mate leaves a huge void in the life of the surviving mate. This can be especially true of a person who has nursed his or her spouse over a long period. Feelings of total emptiness often occur.
Fernande, a widow who lives in Paris, explains, “What is hardest for me is no longer being able to confide in my best friend—my husband.” Anny states that she misses her husband “particularly when having important decisions to make concerning health problems or other matters.”
● Divorce, Separation, Unwanted Singleness
A divorce or separation often leaves in its wake feelings of loneliness and failure. Children commonly suffer the most, much more than was previously realized. Some experts believe that children of divorce are more liable to become lonely adults.
Those who are unmarried because they cannot find a suitable marriage mate commonly experience periods of loneliness. Such feelings may be intensified when others make tactless remarks, such as, “Wouldn’t you be happier married?”
Single parents too experience loneliness. Parenthood involves not only joys but also problems, and single parents have to solve these without a partner to consult.
● Old Age and Youthful Inexperience
The elderly may often feel lonely, even if they are not neglected by family members. Relatives or friends may be able to visit occasionally, but what about the other times—perhaps the days or weeks when no one visits?
At the other end of the age scale, young people commonly suffer loneliness. Many become addicted to solitary recreation—to watching TV, playing video games, and spending countless hours alone in front of their computer.
Is it possible to find a solution to this increasing trend? How can one cope with loneliness?
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“The language barrier, the lack of friends, and the cold climate all contributed to making me feel very lonely”