“People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges” – J.F. Newton.
Loneliness is a condition which most people will experience at some point in their lives. It can occur as a result of life circumstances such as bereavement, relocation, a of change job or through the break-up of a significant relationship. A person affected by loneliness can experience a strong sense of emptiness and being alone. Loneliness can also include a feeling of being unwanted and unimportant. People who experience chronic loneliness can have difficulty forming strong inter-personal relationships.
Loneliness is not the same as solitude. Being physically alone can be a positive and enriching experience and people often choose to be alone for periods of time. It is a sign that an adult has reached full maturity when he or she is comfortable with their own company. It indicates that the individual’s relationship with their self is healthy.
By contrast lonely people cannot bear to be alone. For them it can be regarded as evidence that they are unloved and unwanted. People who experience loneliness have a sense of being alone even when they are surrounded by other people. Their loneliness results from an inability to connect with those around them.
What causes this disconnection? Very often it can be the result of an experience of exclusion during childhood or early adulthood. Children and adolescents who have experienced bullying can become isolated and convinced that there is something wrong with them. This can lead to a sense of being different and not belonging. Loneliness can also be the result of a lack of emotional support during critical developmental stages creating an expectation that nobody will understand or support them. A likely outcome is that the individual will lack confidence and be reluctant to attempt to change or too scared to try new experiences for fear of social rejection.
The problem with loneliness is that it is self-perpetuating. Lonely people tend to shun social contact because they feel nobody understands them or wants to hear what they have to say. This leads to further isolation and the possibility of depression.