Loneliness in Our Times
Loneliness is the essence of being human. Each human being comes into the world alone, travels through life as a separate person and ultimately dies alone. Coping with this situation, accepting it, and learning how to manage his life with some degree of grace and satisfaction, is the human condition. The condition is complex, usually an unpleasant emotional response to isolation, and typically is associated with some degree of anxiety and even anger. An accurate definition is difficult, but roughly one can define loneliness as: a reduced degree of social interaction available to the individual, compared to the amount of such interaction that he or she needs to feel satisfied.
The condition is more common in those past middle age, it also affects young people causing more severe unhappiness, and is not rare in adolescents and even school children. In younger people it may follow after being left alone for prolonged periods with a carer, or with people with whom the person is not very familiar, whilst there is yearning for the mother, an image of whom is kept in the mind.
Family breakup, divorce, loss of important long term relationships, or loss of a person from one’s social circle, can trigger the feeling of loneliness or isolation. Living alone, absence of close family ties, retirement from work, loss of a loved one, lack of purpose in life, and language difficulties, can usher in the condition. However, recent demographic studies have produced spectacular data showing that genetic causes account for about 50% of cases of loneliness, particularly in young people. Finally, clinical or subclinical mental disturbances e.g. depression, neurotic or paranoid states, may lead to social isolation or overt loneliness.
What can help such people to break the vicious cycle of Loneliness?
- Where the family is available, re-connecting the person with family members can work wonders.
- Getting out of the house, one or a few hours, best with friends or spouse for social or other reasons, is most helpful, particularly if done regularly.
- Maintain good health by eating and sleeping properly. Alcohol should be avoided. It is a depressant and has corresponding effects.
- Join a volunteer organisation: helping others is therapeutic.
- Renewal of old friendships – it is amazing what and whom you can find.
The problem of Loneliness has been dealt above from the general point of view, as it affects modern people in a social environment, made more complex by the uncontrolled effects of technology. However, there is a form of periodic loneliness or social isolation practised by devout Christians, for the purpose of advancing their spiritual life. The person enters into a state of Spiritual Quietness, where the mind is in a condition of quietness as to matters of the world, resting its thoughts in God alone, either simply with reflection or in association with mental [noetic] prayer.
This is the conviction of the Church, according to God’s directive “Take time out, and know that I am God” (Ps 45:11). It is under such circumstances that Saints in the past, and Saintly people who are alive now, were and are seeing God [Θεοπτία]. This is not a wish to have a rest, but on the contrary a valiant effort to be as close to God as possible. Loneliness does not affect such people, as they are in the company of God every day!
Source: Lychnos April 2018 / May 2018