Loneliness – The Negative Cycle

21 Sep

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As the world grows smaller, more connected, more crowded, and ironically, increasingly lonely for many of us.

Loneliness is subjective and not all lonely people live in isolation. A person might have many friends around them, yet feel alone. For some of us, loneliness begins steadily. One friend graduates and moves away, another has a child, a third works a sixty hours a week, and before we realize the social circle that we had in the past ceases to exist and we find ourselves spending most of our time alone. For few, loneliness is a result of life changes such as leaving for college, losing a partner to death, divorce; break up, starting a new job, retiring and losing the daily company of friends and colleagues, or moving to a new city, state or country. The longer our loneliness lasts, more challenging it can be to break the mindsets and judgments.

Loneliness tends to impact our perception such that we are likely to view our existing relationships more negatively and pessimistically. We assume people are not interested in our company and that if we reach out to them they will turn us down. As a result we take little initiative and find excuses to turn down invitations when we do get them. Our pessimism and unwillingness to give our friends the benefit of the doubt pushes them away even further. As we are consciously not aware to our part in creating the distance, we see their pulling out as confirmation of our fears and become even more convinced they no longer care about us. They are not willingly drawing away, but it’s you who are causing them to part away and then you assume that it’s their fault. Also, loneliness is very visible to others who are likely to tag us as less interesting, less enthusiastic and less appealing. This combined with the negativity and mistrust on our part makes it challenging for us to establish new social and romantic relationships. Loneliness is also contagious and over time, lonely people ‘infect’ those around them such that they too become pushed to the border of their social networks.

The more socially and emotionally isolated we are the more our social skills and relationships tend to deteriorate. Skills, no matter what social or technical often weaken when unused and our ability to connect and relate can easily get rusty after a period of isolation as isolation becomes your second nature. If things go bad when we try to use these skills we don’t attribute the failure or rejection to our skill sets being rusty but see it as further confirmation of our belief of undesirability.

Relationship is a lot like food. We need it to survive and that human beings have fundamental need for inclusion in group life and for close relationships. A lack of close relationships can bring the emotional discomfort known as loneliness. More than anything else, the cure for loneliness lies in breaking the negative cycle that we created in the first place.                                     

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