Understanding Loneliness

What’s the recurring phrase we hear about the people who massacre others? He was a loner.

But have we connected our murder rate with our increasing isolation and loneliness? Do we even  see loneliness as a problem?

People go to a psychiatrist for depression, and they get a pill. Maybe what they really need is help figuring out how to make more friends.  Loneliness isn’t even a diagnosis!

All the studies say we’re increasingly isolated. We live alone; we have fewer friends; fewer people we can talk to in times of crisis. In fact, a quarter of our population says they have no one to turn to! No one!

Unfortunately, this seems to be part of our American heritage. The lone cowboy;  but “every man for himself”  leads to“last man standing.”  All alone.

If it ever worked in our past, it’s not working anymore. At least we used to have barn raisings. When do we gather to help out our neighbors these days?

But it’s not just our wild west past. Growing up I learned to say, “I’m not a joiner,” as if that made me somehow superior. I learned to think that hanging out with my friends was a waste of time — much better to be reading or writing something.

And our American belief that if we’re rich we’ll be happy has led us on the pursuit of wealth at any cost. And what does wealth buy? Distance from other people. Bigger houses, more cars, private swimming pools instead of public parks.

There are things we can do, but first we need to realize that our lack of connection  — our loneliness —is a problem!

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About Cecile Andrews

Author, Living Room Revolution (New Society Publishers, April 2013)
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