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Psychological Perspectives


January 25, 2018

Photo provided

Ken Silvestro, PhD.

Loneliness is a feeling that covers considerable psychological ground. In other words, it is complex like most psychological expressions and experiences. Most people feel lonely from time-to-time, particularly when major events or changes occur. But as we get older, loneliness can dominate our lives.

In an attempt to avoid being lonely, people socialize. That is, people meet with friends, maintain permanent relationships, seek out groups and even go see therapists for companionship. People are naturally social; therefore, seeking to satisfy our social needs makes sense.

Psychologically, however, we are not only social; we also are individuals. This often overlooked side of human nature can lead to loneliness as well. What does this mean? It means being content to live with one's sense of identity and feeling comfortable when alone in various settings. It also means following one's inner creative drives and needs. Most importantly, it means being able to relate to the Self. As mentioned in previous articles, the Self is the center of a person's psychology or psyche which carries the potential for personal meaning and direction in life. When a person's sense of "I" or identity relates to the Self, the person is never truly alone.

Of course, the trick is to find a balance between relating to the Self and socializing with other people. Just living with one or the other is too one-sided and promotes loneliness. And then, unfortunately, there are many people who don't live with either side!

Many people who are in relationships or have friendships, however, often express loneliness as well. There is no greater loneliness than being in a relationship and not receiving any recognition, love, kindness or tenderness from the other person. In other words, the greatest feeling of loneliness occurs when we are physically present with other people but receive little response from them.

The dynamic that helps us to not feel lonely is the give-and-take that occurs when we're social or living with connections to the Self. The social give-and-take is a common experience that most of us can understand. The dynamic with the Self is not as easy to understand. It is experienced through creative projects and personal reflections and growth but most often it is expressed through the meaning in one's life. That is, the meaning associated with who we are and how we are meant to live! Just imagine someone writing books, focusing on political issues or painting; that is, living their meaning from the Self. That kind of focus occupies a person well beyond the point of loneliness.

Loneliness naturally occurs, especially as we age. Seeking a balance between connections with the Self and other people can help us feel much less lonely.


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