Loneliness is often associated with being weak or being a loser. Most people see it as a dark, negative state. I used to think that too, until I started studying it more seriously.
Here Is How To Understand It Better
Imagine if you didn’t have the sensation we call “hunger.” You’d never feel the urge to go feed yourself. You’d probably get very skinny, and maybe even damage your body, without knowing it. You’d deprive yourself of essential nutrients, and would probably die very young. In that sense, hunger is essential to your survival.
Imagine now if you didn’t have the “thirst” mechanism – same thing, you’d barely have an urge to drink, end up with dehydrated and damage your body. Again, the urge to drink keeps you alive.
It’s the same thing with “physical pain.” If you didn’t have it, you could get into a lot of trouble. For example, you wouldn’t have the instinct to take your hand out of a fire and end up burning yourself.
These urges, although we take them for granted and see them as negative, they’re there to help us survive.
Loneliness Is Just As Natural
Loneliness is there to signal to us that we need to go meet other people and socialize. It’s actually a good thing, now that you know it’s there to help you.
Loneliness is there as a signal, it makes us pay attention to our vital need for social connection. We’re just not made to live isolated, and it’s there to help us remember that.
But wait, does loneliness help us survive, like the hunger, thirst, and physical pain do?
Loneliness used to save us from imminent death. In the ancient times, being alone meant that you couldn’t hunt animals so easily, and couldn’t protect yourself against predators like bears or lions. So, the more isolated you were, the more likely you would die.
Therefore, yes; loneliness played a role of saving us from trouble; it kept us together.
But, now we live in a very different world, don’t we?
Indeed! We no longer have to hunt a big giraffe to eat; and we certainly don’t risk being attacked by a lion… well, at least most of us don’t.
But we still have the same reactions to social isolation. We still can’t bear living a life deprived of social connection. We still need understanding, care, love, impact, communication, and interaction. We deeply know that “if you can’t share your happiness, what’s the point?”
Bottom line: loneliness is useful signal that tells you to go seek social connection.
Here Is How Loneliness Can “Trap” You
In our minds, feeling lonely is still associated with being rejected, being at risk, and danger. For that very reason, unfortunately, it can create a vicious cycle in your life. Not only do you feel lonely, but you also feel rejected, threatened, and secluded.
This makes you think that most people don’t want you around; it makes you so scared of rejection, that you think that you’re better off not trying any social activity at all.
That nervousness that comes with loneliness makes you want to protect yourself. You start to perceive a lot more risk of rejection and criticism in socializing with people.
This fear makes you retract yourself from others, and distract yourself with Tv, internet, etc… which leads to more isolation, which leads to more loneliness.
It’s a trap.
If you’re feeling lonely right now, understand that the fear you have of rejection is just associated with loneliness; they come together. It doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you; you just FEEL like rejection is just around the corner. It doesn’t make it true.
What To Do About It
When you feel lonely, the right approach is to snap out of that trap. It’s time to seek social connection.
The immediate fix is to call or visit someone you know well, an old friend, a family member; you can also do a random act of kindness or contribute to a charity.
Those short social connections physically remind you that it’s okay to be around people; and that there is no need to ìprotectî yourself from others.
The long-term solution to loneliness of course is to learning social skills, and making friends.