To Anyone (loneliness and isolation) | ADAVIC Anxiety Disorders Association of Victoria, Inc
Loneliness and isolation are often mutually inclusive, but not simply because they seem to be related words.
Both phenomena are often identified with specific social groups in our society; for example, with the disabled, the poor, the ageing or elderly or migrants.
But also anyone who has had their social network strongly disrupted, or has a major change to their lifestyle, are susceptible to isolation and loneliness.
Whether it’s through retirement from employment or relocation, loneliness can creep up on us from a lack of social nourishment.
Loneliness and isolation can exist in us even when we have the physical company of others.
Materialistic, democratic societies can cultivate loneliness by their very nature. Improved communication technologies designed to foster a ‘virtual self’ means that people can be very connected, yet feel very isolated and spiritually lonely.
Australian Bureau of Statistics research indicates that loneliness and isolation can affect different sections of the community in various life circumstances. For example, research on people between the ages of 25-44 found that men living alone and lone fathers are at the greatest risk of experiencing loneliness, yet this age group represents that which is supposedly competently ‘in tune’ with the ‘global connectedness’ of an online community.
Single mothers also experience high levels of ‘emotional loneliness’, regardless of the world being ‘at their fingertips’ or help being ‘just a click away’.
This technology is not a substitute for a meaningful relationship and family structure.
In 2007, lonely people aged 16-64 years were more likely than people living with others to have had at least one mental disorder in the past 12 months.
If loneliness can be defined by a detachment of one’s ‘virtual’ self or ego from their inner self, then loneliness might be defined as an internal split or schism from one’s true self.
Loneliness then, in this sense, might be defined as a mental or spiritual disconnectedness more readily than it can be construed as a purely physical separation from a significant other.
Company is not a substitute for meaningful connection. Many of us have felt completely alone even in the company of family and friends.
The keeping of company cannot replicate the desired experiences of a lonely person. Loneliness has a cause, a root that substitution or replacement cannot necessarily fix.
Fulfillment of experience conquers loneliness. Fulfillment is achieved by a commitment of oneself to another (thing, person or concept) as much as it is by reciprocity.
The removal of the significant other or an estrangement from one’s conception of themselves can be wrenching.
Arbitrary replacement is inadequate compensation for addressing the root causes of the loneliness and may increase the negative emotions caused by the separation because it emphasizes that loss even more so.
From personal experience, the loss of someone significant creates untold pain, loneliness and isolation. When my father passed away from this world, I had my young adult children and a vast network of colleagues and friends available for support. Nevertheless, I experienced a prolonged period of depression, stemming purely from my fathers absence, which made me feel alone with my profound loss. It was a long journey and a process of grieving that forced me – or rather allowed me – to reflect inwardly for answers .
Many organisations have schemes available that connect isolated or lonely people. One such scheme is the Red Cross Visitor’s Scheme. They match volunteers to visit and befriend a person who has invited contact and support (who may also feel isolated being in organizational care).
One might prefer to start volunteering through phone conversations. Organisations such as Wesley Mission are involved in setting up ‘phone friendship’ links where volunteers use phone calls to establish links with those in need by simply supporting them with conversation or specifically regarding their particular needs or the issues they currently face.
Other organisations provide volunteers to transport isolated, disabled and frail people to appointments, shopping or excursions. The organisation will try to best match the volunteer with the person by some sort of interest table or by some basic psychological regard.
Meaningful connection with others is a necessary pre-requisite for a healthy, emotional existence. In today’s morally tainted and complicated social realm, it can be easy to forget that the stranger on the street – while not uniquely significant to us – is still a representation of ourselves; as we are a stranger ourselves to others. Civil politeness, respect, generosity and warmth go a long way towards fostering a healthy local community spirit. Next time you are in a social situation, remember how effective goodwill can be in making others, and yourself, feel connected.