The Problem of Loneliness


by Jayaram V

Why some people prefer to be alone? There are many psychological, social, situational, religious and spiritual reasons why people make the choice of staying alone, avoiding the company of others and keep their thoughts and problems to themselves. One of the chief reasons is depression. Usually those who feel uncomfortable in social situations or experience anxiety in the presence of other, may make a conscious choice to stay alone to avoid the stress.

Traumatic experiences, absence of trustworthy friends, feelings of guilt and shame, excessive criticism from friends and family, introversion, low self-esteem, fear and distrust also force many people to remain aloof and away from public glare. Other factors include social practices such as purdah, discrimination and excommunication, and spiritual practices which demand isolation and seclusion prompt people to go into some form of emotional hiding.

Certain social factors also contribute to loneliness. For example, senior citizens and old people in many countries live in self-imposed exile as people, including their own family members are too busy to pay them attention. Geographical conditions, harsh climate and absence of proper roads or communication, may also force people to spend most their time alone.

Loneliness and alienation caused by such characterological or psychological factors is different from loneliness, which may be caused by situational or spiritual factors. It requires treatment or counseling.

People may experience loneliness even when they are amidst people, if they experience social, cultural or psychological barriers or difficulty in communicating with them. Emotionally, loneliness is an escape from the realities of life and unwillingness to live in the present. Extreme trauma, such as the death of a dear one can force people to go into temporary self-exile and avoid outside contact.

Loneliness is prevalent across many cultures and communities irrespective of their social or financial or other conditions. Prolonged loneliness, which one feels trapped by intrinsic or extrinsic factors, is a painful experience. It lower’s self-esteem and makes it difficult for the people involved to rationally resolve their problems as it is believed that those who suffer from loneliness do so because of preconceived notions and irrational thinking.

American Psychologist, Carl Rogers believe that to enjoy a good life one must be open to experience, live in the present moment, trust in oneself, take responsibility for the choices made and regard oneself and others in positive esteem. Lonely people have problems in all these areas. Hence, they live and think not according to their experience but their preconceived notions about themselves, the world and others.

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