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Loneliness is worse than any disease. We know this because when comparing two individuals who may have the same ailment with low survival estimates, it is more often than not, the one who has a support group of some kind who does so successfully. While disease and sickness may scare many of us, the death of those that we love can also create mental strain and emotional havoc within us which can be detrimental to our own wellbeing. If we have people around us, who love us, with whom we can relate, who will simply have conversation with us, then we are able to mourn and grieve as healthy as one possibly can, and quite frankly, keep from eliminating ourselves as well.

So where does loneliness stem from? Why are there some that can go without speaking or seeing any other human being for weeks, possibly even months, and others go crazy if a day passes and they haven’t talked with anyone? Are some humans needier than others, or is the process of loneliness one in which some are better equipped through those everyday habits and rituals which stave off connections to people to begin with?

Regardless of why it is that people feel lonely, can it even be said that one only feels lonely when they are alone? If this isn’t the case, then what exactly qualifies as loneliness when the lonely individual in question is not physically alone?

You have probably heard people complain about their spouse, if they feel that they are locked in a loveless marriage. They speak of feeling lonely, often because their once significant other is working all the time, or is just doing other things that take away from the time that the couple once spent together. While these individuals still live in the same dwelling, and they may come together to eat the same meals, etc., one individual claims to be “lonely,” even though, clearly they are not “alone.” These individuals may begin to look outside this relationship for ways to keep themselves from feeling so lonely, and this is, paradoxically, how we may begin to define what loneliness is, under these circumstances.

Let’s assume for a second that this “lonely” individual is still faithful to their spouse, and has not simply sewed up their loneliness with intimacy from someone else. How then may they fill their lives to alleviate this loneliness? Conversation is key.

Conversation is the impetus of all human progress. As one mind and heart alone is not sufficient in changing the world, conversation comes into play. Even Einstein needed a book publisher, or a room to speak in---ways to transfer the knowledge in his own head, and every step along that path, he was most assuredly engaging in conversation. The question at hand is why he felt the need to do so? What was it about Einstein that made him want to share his thoughts with the world? What made him inevitably choose to do so, after recognizing his own wants, concerning the subject?

Conversation can cover every subject that affects us, while the substance of the conversation is always useful, the act of conversing is ever more so. If you are communicating with someone else, be it within each other’s physical presence, on the
telephone, texting, twittering, using instant message, etc., all of these modes of conversation satisfy the need to know that there is someone else in the world. More importantly, there is someone else in the world, and they have taken the time to speak with you.

Still, this doesn’t solve the question as to why some feel lonely even within the process of conversation itself. When one is telling another that they feel lonely, it must be said that they feel less lonely than they would if they were not doing so. The very fact that an individual who is sick may be even more so, if they have no one to tell, must factor into our consideration. There is the possibility of sympathy that comes in the exchange of difficult details about one’s life to another, and that may very well alleviate the loneliness that one felt prior to the exchange, however, it may not. The fail-safe method of conversational tactics when explaining one’s difficult details seems to be in the want of relating, which we are not all receptive to, and this is a risk factor in conversational etiquette of sorts.

For instance, if you have a relative that is not well, and this affects you greatly, you may feel the need to go outside yourself in an attempt to lessen the burden of sadness and loneliness that you feel when considering the inevitable loss of this person. In doing so, when conversing with another and telling them your particular difficult details, you find yourself trying to make them relate, or at least opening the conversation up to the possibility. Your conversational partner may in fact be able to relate to what you are speaking about, and in doing so, they may tangent off into a story about how they dealt with their own difficult details concerning the same subject matter. When this happens, the alleviation of loneliness and the sadness most often accompanying it can be tenfold.

Is there a line that one can overstep, where conversation for the sake which can healthily alleviate loneliness becomes conversation for the sake of validation? Do people speak to one another in a deceitful manner whereby the conversation at hand can really be a way of coming to terms with their own insecurities, and is this necessarily wrong? Does it cheapen the conversation, when the one being used understands the real reason that their input has been sought?

If we come back to our initial opening statement, that loneliness is worse than any disease, then we must understand that much like a disease, loneliness can spread. It can infect others, especially those who are listening, those who are trying their best to help the lonely individual in question. So, in conversation with those that we love, if we find ourselves falling into a pool of pity, is that when loneliness is most apparent to us? Is this really loneliness?

One submits that unless you are physically alone, you are never lonely. If there is another person present, you always have the possibility of stepping outside yourself and engaging in conversation. Those who believe that being lonely in such a context constitutes something of a comparable feeling to those that have been and are truly alone and subsequently, lonely, have never actually been alone. If they had, then they would not feel that being in the presence of another individual, with whom you can interact, and not being in such a situation is the same thing.

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The following comments are for "On Loneliness & Conversation"
by delapruch

Very insightful. You really got me thinking! Do you think loneliness is more a perception and not really based on who you are with in a room or on a street?

Is the loner one who does not converse but finds solitude to be better for him or her? Is the loner one who validates him or herself without conversation or social contact?


( Posted by: sandra [Member] On: June 20, 2011 )

Perception & Solitude
First, Sandra, thanks for reading! As to your question, I think that loneliness is most definitely a state of mind---a perception of the reality, the context in which you find yourself at any given time. Though it can be very much influenced by past events, as well as the anxiety about events to come (ex. loved one dying, your own illness), loneliness does not simply "happen"---it does not depend on who is spending time with you in a room or on the street. If you are in a room or on the street with others, you are not alone---to claim that you are alone when there are other physical bodies present alongside your person, is simply a farce. People who are lonely in such cases, in my opinion, have never actually been truly physically alone. Until you have been truly physically alone, you have nothing compare this feeling to, and so you claim that to be "alone" & "lonely" are one in the same. The truth is, to be alone, to dwell in solitude, is a way in which one can delve into deep introspection & without the distraction of others, they can find out things about themselves and their own reality which they never would have been able to in any other context. To be alone in this manner is delightfully enlightening (especially for a creative person)! In recognizing this, is it appropriate to call all philosophers, writers, painters, musicians, etc. who think deeply & create, needing plenty of time alone to do so, loners? By definition, a loner is "one who prefers to be alone"---creative individuals who do their best work when they are alone, certainly prefer to do so, but I don't think they are anti-social because of this. Good art, good creativity, it all comes from conversation---without our influences from others, our favorite writers, filmmakers, musicians, painters, philosophers, entertainers, etc., we would be nothing. Anyone who claims to never have been influenced by anyone is clearly a liar---or they have lived with wolves on an island all of their life, and even then, they were influenced by the wolves that reared them. I would say that an independently minded person is one who validates their own existence on their own, with or without the opinions of others factoring in---and if you want to call them "loners," go ahead. They should not care, either way, as it is they alone who define themselves. In this kind of self-definition there is a pride & a sense of self-worth that simply doesn't exist when you live for others, allowing them to decide who you are.

( Posted by: delapruch [Member] On: June 21, 2011 )

Thanks for your reply. I see the difference between being alone and being lonely.

Even though creativity may evolve in solitude, it's communicating to others through sound, image, smell, touch and taste that an artist's vision and talent are shown. Be it cuisine, film, painting, music, sculpture, writing, etc. it needs to be out there where people can converse and experience it.

cheers, Sandra

( Posted by: sandra [Member] On: June 21, 2011 )

This really hit home for me in some strange ways and brought up some uncomfortable questions I didn't want to answer. Great job, hope to read more of your insightful writing.

( Posted by: HavocTheDemon [Member] On: September 4, 2011 )

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