So it seems like just another day, lounging across your couch, sipping a cup of tea, routinely looking through your emails, or scrambling to catch up with your assignments. Either way, it does not look like your getaway trip to the park or your favourite detox spot is happening anytime soon. Due to the Pandemic, there is not much you can do outside the vicinity of your homes. The family members that you live with come together every once in a while in a harmonious social gathering, and it seems that most people take the initiative to have a good time. Your ever-flourishing group of friends have their weekly hangout calls and you join them whenever you can… so there seems to be some type of social connection that makes you feel bonded right? Or not. Let’s talk about Emotional Loneliness for a while.
What is Emotional Loneliness?
A commonly heard, yet complex term, Loneliness is defined as a perception of emotional/social isolation that one experiences, and it mainly occurs when one feels emotionally disconnected or detached. Loneliness is a state of mind; a state where one could even be in the midst of a lively group, and still, experience the looming grey cloud of loneliness above their head. When it comes to emotional loneliness, however, it would be surprised how common it can be; there are a number of us who would much rather keep our problems to ourselves, for fear of being misunderstood or ridiculed. It can come from a lack of emotional relationships between family members, friends, partners, coworkers etc. This isolates us from those around us and withholds us from engaging in social activities, regardless of whether or not the opportunity to socialise has been given to us. Eventually, it can make one want to physically isolate themselves willingly. Humans who experience loneliness also describe it as a fear of connecting with people because of the judgment and the Anxiety it brings with it. If this is you, I completely understand how you feel. Especially with the Pandemic going on, most of our time is limited to an enclosed space; it might be challenging for one to try and bond with another.
Why do we have to be aware of this, especially during the Pandemic?
“Research has shown that human connection is a big way we get through tough times. We don’t do nearly as well isolated as we do together.” suggests Waldinger in a Harvard article by Powell (2021). Through the years and numerous studies done by dedicated Researchers and Psychologists, loneliness has been looked at with keen interest in trying to understand its causes, its potency, and effective ways of coping with it. Why is it of major importance you wonder? Because of how prevalent it has been amongst children, young adults as well as the elderly; to the extent of affecting their well-being. It can make someone feel as though they have exhausted their willpower to do anything productive or social. Especially through times when hearing the news of losing loved ones to Covid is not very rare, it could add to the ever-growing worry and grief that it brings about. When coming together to emotionally support and care for one another would be of dire importance, we are told to socially distance ourselves and stay safe to avoid making things worse. How debilitating it is for one to have to go through such times alone and lonely. Now that hits close to our hearts, very close.
But the good news is that we are not alone in our Loneliness!
In a world populated with billions of humans, chances are, there are a number of us who feel emotionally lonely and isolated at times. This might sound cliche but there is meaning in loneliness, and even in loneliness we are not alone. Let’s consider this scenario: Starting with you; you might have felt emotionally detached at some point, despite the meaningful relationships you have made. But how does it feel to know that there is someone else out there, who feels the same way you do? Someone who goes through similar grey thoughts of emotional solitude, with no reasonable way to come out of it and connect with others who understand how you feel? In the age of advanced technology, where social media is in its prime, many of us have taken the opportunity to share how we feel on online platforms. Sharing in real life is important, but since it is not easy during a time like this, sharing how you feel online can take place within your homes. So when we see different people, from different cultures and nationalities, expressing how they feel in their languages and ways, it starts to make sense. This, however, is when it strikes you that there are others like you, who feel the way you do. Together, those who feel lonely become lights in the darkness of the pandemic.
Loneliness affects everybody, there is no way to escape the reality of the situation. As Leizrowice (2018) suggests, when we become comfortable with the loneliness and the lack of presence of other Humans, we tend to want to keep it that way. Should the said social situation arise, we then recline back into personal bubbles, unwilling to reach out and connect with others. But that can be different when you know that other people feel just as isolated as you do. And so, knowing that we have each other can help us feel a little less lonely within ourselves. A connection within the familiar feelings of loneliness is made. What does that make us? Lights in the darkness? Like little lanterns that light up the night sky. If you have ever come across lantern festivals during Diwali or in other cultures, you would see why being a light in the darkness is so special.
A light in the darkness
Now, it might be daunting when you think “Do I have to talk to strangers?” Or “Would anyone even understand me if I try? Is it even worth it?” But you know what? You matter. You are worth it. No one is ever meant to enjoy the perks of life by themselves, we are social humans after all! But what about your emotions? Are you meant to feel them by yourself? Of course not! We have the ability to feel the same things and go through similar experiences, especially loneliness. Your emotions matter. Your mental health matters. And the first step to emotionally connect with other people is to be compassionate towards yourself. You are just as deserving of the love you believe someone else deserves during hard times such as these. So don’t be afraid to reach out to talk about your loneliness, how it affects you and what you can do to cope with it. This can be done in the form of posts on Social Media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. It can also be done through different creative forms such as Art, Poetry, and Music for example. We are all in this together. Compassion, here, is a powerful feeling within us, that allows us to connect with each other on a deeper level of understanding. Since emotional isolation stems from a deeper part of us, accompanied by social and physical aspects as well, someone who really gets why we feel so isolated is a way of combating loneliness in itself. This is why compassion is so important to practice, amongst our communities, homes, workplaces and anywhere we are! You never know when you might come across someone who feels emotionally lonely, who can in turn help you cope with your loneliness during the pandemic.
A writer who has experienced loneliness and took to the platform to talk about it once said “Ending loneliness starts with truly understanding how it affects us. We can’t break the cycle if we don’t see it and see how it’s changed us. We can’t connect with others if we believe the lies our brains tell us about them and ourselves.” (Leizrowice, 2018). Combating Loneliness starts with you and it starts with the light that you shine from within, by reaching out to others. Stay safe, stay inspired.