- Being accepted even though we make mistakes. We all make mistakes at some point. How people we care about react to these mistakes either helps us learn to accept who we are or learn to hate who we are. When Elsa made a mistake and hit Anna with her frozen "ray", her parents reacted by trying to make her deny part of who she was. You often see in lonely folks the belief that they feel not lovable or worthy. Who could ever love someone so damaged and broken, who has made so many mistakes in the past? Learn to love ourselves and others despite our faults is a step out of loneliness.
- Overcoming childhood abuse. Usually there is a story of abuse with individuals who feel chronically lonely. Taking Elsa and locking her up for a significant portion of her childhood, I would consider child abuse. It reminds me of the old days when families would lock up their children who had mental disabilities in the attic or basement. That's not how you treat children who are different. Being isolated all those years, being told to suppress who you are, having you live in fear, eventually that takes a toll on your psyche and you are taught not to trust anyone, because the ones you love hurt you and you hurt the ones you love.
- Discovering our inner, magical power. There is a magical power in all of us. Deep inside all of us is a magical power that is ours and ours alone. It is an inherent part of who we are, and to deny it, is to deny our very existence. Despite Elsa's attempts to suppress her magical powers, it came out anyways. If you try to fight it, it comes out in ways that are often dangerous to others. But if you embrace it, you can make things that are truly beautiful. Lonely individuals are often taught self-loathing and try to suppress the powerfully, magical, creative sides of themselves, instead of letting it come to the surface for everyone to see.
- Finding our inner child. There remains in all of us, our inner child. Everybody loves Olaf, maybe perhaps because of his childhood innocence and his caring. There is a little Olaf in all of us that likes warm hugs. When we are lonely, there is a little Olaf in us begging to get warm hugs and not getting any. When we can't satisfy our Olaf, we may often try to bury Olaf and forget about him, but he's always there, looking for a way to make things right.
- Controlling our Marshmallows. Similarly all of us have a Marshmallow. Marshmallow comes out when there are those around us who are hurting us and we want them to go away. We become mean, monstrous, and wild. And we don't stop until the threat is completely removed, even if it sometimes means we can potentially hurt the people we love. In chronically lonely individuals, there is usually a Marshmallow guarding our fortress, and whoever comes to visit has to get past a Marshmallow first. More times than not, people just give up and go away instead.
- Giving love instead of taking it. Often we think that to help thaw our cold heart, we need the love of someone else. When Anna's heart got frozen, the immediate assumption was that she needed to receive the love (aka a kiss) from the person she loved. Lonely people often think similarly that the way out of loneliness is to receive the love of another. But the real secret to breaking the curse, to melting a frozen heart, is to give love, selfless acts of love.
- Someone does care about you. There is at least one person who is one your side and trying to help you. Lonely people often think that there is no one that cares for them or loves them. Like Elsa, the goal is to isolate themselves from everyone else. And like Elsa, she fails to realize that some of the same people you push away is the people that can help you, really help you overcome your feelings of loneliness. But it means letting your guard down means opening the possibility of being hurt or hurting others. You have to take the risk in order to gain the reward.
- You cannot run away from your problems. Sometimes lonely people think that if I isolate myself, if I surround myself with an ice fortress, then no one will be able to harm me, the problems I created outside my ice fortress will not affect me any longer. But you cannot run away from your problems, if you do not stand up and deal with them, they will come looking for you. You cannot run away from loneliness, it will come looking for you wherever you are.
- Just cause they like you, doesn't mean it is a good idea. When you have been isolated for a long time, any prospect of a romantic relationship looks really good. Anna wanted to marry the first guy that showed any interest in her. She was desperate to love and to be loved and she opened herself up to be taken advantaged of. She ignored any tell-tale signs that the person she was interested in was dangerous and not good for her. Very often when we fall in love, we often ignore the signs that that person may not be right, we pin all of our hopes and dreams on this one person. Famous loneliness researcher Robert Weiss called romantic relationships the "anti-loneliness pill" because at even the mere prospect of getting involved in a romantic relationship seemed to make loneliness magically disappear.
- Animals are great company and can help us feel less lonely. (See here for example). In that spirit, Kristoff had wonderful companionship in the form of Sven. Even though he talked for Sven sometimes, it seemed like his animal companion kept him company on a many lonely night.
If you have not already had enough of Frozen here is a list of ways the movie, Frozen is the story of loneliness:
Manifesto of Loneliness
By Ben Mijuskovic
And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said,
I’ll make me a world.”
Then God walked around,
And God looked around,
On all that he had made,
He looked at his sun,
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at His little stars;
He looked at His world
With all its living things,
And God said, “I’m lonely still.”
And God thought and thought,
Till he thought, “I’ll make me a man.”
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust,
Toiling over a lump of clay,
Till he shaped it in his own image:
Then into it He blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
The Creation, A Negro Spiritual (J.W. Johnston)
Man emerges in the realm of Being in God’s image as the being which is essentially lonely. The essence of Man is loneliness. Ever since the Old Testament; the Greek myths of Prometheus, Sisyphus, and Deucalion and Pyrhha; the dialogues of Plato; the treatises of Aristotle; the novels of the eighteenth-century; and on to the Existentialist writings of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Sartre, Man has expressed his intrinsic and universal situation of unfathomable loneliness. “We are lonely from the cradle to the grave and perhaps beyond,” declares Joseph Conrad. We find the mirror of our loneliness everywhere, in the arts, in the social sciences, and in philosophy.
Where we were to inquire what is the most serious, the most intense, the most dangerous medical condition facing human beings, we would probably generate some disagreement surrounding a number of viable candidates: heart failures; cancer; diabetes; etc. But if we were to ask what is the most intense and terrifying mental condition facing each of us, alone, we would, I believe, invariably all reply that it is loneliness.
I have argued in books, articles, and lectures that the soul and mind of Man is permeated by loneliness; the greatest estrangement is to be separated from God (Kierkegaard); the greatest alienation is to be separated from our fellows (Marx); and the greatest anguish is to be separated from the mutual intimacy of the other self.
Why this is so has been a special concern of mine for four decades. Our natural narcissism from the beginning craves and depends on the physical nourishment and the emotional nurturance provided by our first caretaker and we subsequently seek the latter in a lifelong struggle to find it, retrieve it, and secure it.
The cure for loneliness has two prongs: Insight and human connection. The first is strongly intellectual. For example, it stresses that like death, loneliness is universal and inevitable. We fight against it with varying degrees of success just as we battle with disease and illness with different outcomes. The second efforts for success lie in forging mutual bonds of trust and developing a strong sense of empathy with the other self.
The opposite, the conquest of loneliness is intimacy. The Web of Loneliness offers the two most powerful strategies available in our intellectual and emotional arsenals for transcending and vanquishing loneliness: Insight and Social Support.
I have had a few conversations with some folks recently who mentioned that generally speaking they are okay, but there is this underlying feeling of loneliness. Generally these feelings of loneliness become more prominent when they are under stress or have been hurt, or other such similar situations. Outside of those times, loneliness in effect became background noise, it is always playing in the background, but they do not always pay attention to it. When they do pay attention to it, it is because a situation has triggered an even greater degree of loneliness that forced them to pay attention to it. They have what I call functional loneliness - it is functional because most of the time they can carry on with their day without feeling crippled by feelings of loneliness. However, there are those occasions where loneliness gets the better of them and shuts them down. So how does functional loneliness come about, why do certain situations trigger it, and is it okay to just continue living life with functional loneliness?
Functional Loneliness - What is it?
I believe that functional loneliness occurs for individuals who have found somewhat effective ways to cope with their loneliness. Unlike individuals that may have overwhelming feelings of loneliness, people with functional loneliness are able to successfully suppress their feelings without having to deal with it directly. Usually it is because they are so busy doing other things that there is little time to have these feelings bubble to the surface. They are almost forced to suppress these feelings in order to do their job, take care of their families, or other such things. It is like a drowning person desperately trying to keep her head above water, it is a sink or swim situation. Functional loneliness folks have learned to do some amount of swimming and keep their heads above water whereas other folks just get drowned by their feelings of loneliness. The fact of the matter is that in both situations, the underlying root causing feelings of loneliness is still not being addressed. The cause is that they are not getting the kind of intimacy that they need in their life. The social interaction, the friendships, the disclosure, the feeling of connection and belonging is simply not enough. While they can ignore it with distractions, they cannot get rid of it that way. It will always be there waiting to remind them that their lives are not complete.
When functional loneliness becomes dysfunctional
It is no surprise then that certain situations would trigger these overwhelming feelings of loneliness that would shut them down. These situations demand the support, intimacy, and connection of others, something that was never fully satisfied in the first place. For example, when we experience an embarrassing moment, or someone hurt our feelings, or we feel overwhelmed with the work that we have to do, it helps to have someone to talk to. Even better, it really helps to talk with someone we are close to. However, when that person is not around or does not exist, then feelings of loneliness crop up, and for those with functional loneliness, it becomes very difficult to continue to ignore that background noise of loneliness. That noise has become a lot louder and a lot more distracting. Even ironically, it may be affecting their behavior and they don't even realize it. Someones we feel too stressed, or tired or just have no energy or simply feel lost. Underlying these feelings may really be feelings of loneliness, hiding in the shadows behind these other feelings. We become so good at ignoring the noise of loneliness that even when it distracts us to the point we become dysfunctional, we still do not recognize the noise. So our life may become a series of functional and dysfunctional periods marred by our ever constant loneliness.
Living with functional loneliness?
The other question to ask ourselves is, is it okay to continue living life with functional loneliness, with our ups and downs. The answer really depends on the person. Change usually happens when one has enough motivation to make it happen. That whole cycle may not be enough to motivate us to do something about it. However, living with functional loneliness is living a life incomplete. It involves being able to start trusting others and open up our lives to them. Others cannot be sources of comfort, support, and connection if we do not let them into our lives, let them know what is going on, and ask for help. It involves taking a risk and moving outside of our comfort zone. Sometimes we get so used to a bad habit that we forget it is a bad habit and how much of a detrimental effect it has on our lives. And habits are hard to change, but if you are willing to make the effort, you can make that background loneliness noise go away, or at least become a very quiet whisper that you can deal with, even in the tough times.
One of the interesting characteristics of some members on the Web of Loneliness (WOL) online support group is the fact that they are online gamers. I've often mused over the question about whether online gaming helps alleviate loneliness or increases it. To me, it seems like if you are in an online game where you need to connect and collaborate with others, it would naturally lend itself to creating relationships and reducing loneliness. In fact, the online world could become so powerful that people neglect their lives in the real world. For example, there have been multiple stories of parents neglecting their children to play online games (see examples here, here, and here). That leads to the question, if online gaming is so immersive and capable of connecting people together, why were there members popping up in the support group who were lonely.
A study recently published by Visser, Antheunis, and Schouten sort to look at how playing the online game, The World of Warcraft (WoW) affected players social competence and loneliness. Some of the major findings included that there were no direct effects between playing the game and a person's level of social competence or loneliness. That means that just because you play the online game, WoW, it doesn't automatically mean you tend to be more lonely or less socially competent (or vice-versa). The study also showed that the amount of time a person spends playing the game is also not related to loneliness or social competence. What they did find however, is that if you had a variety of communication partners in the game, a person is less likely to be lonely. In addition, if you tended to experiment with your identity more, you tended to be lonelier as well. The question becomes, why do less lonely players having more communication partners and experiment with their online identity less.
Some insight into this question comes from one of the members on the WOL support group. He thought that online games in which you get to shape your environment, so-called sandbox games, had a better chance of reducing loneliness than your basic run-of-the-mill action packed, violent games, such as WoW.
To me, there seems to be two distinct threads running through the findings of the study and the comments by the WOL member. One thread is the idea of authenticity. Online games give you the opportunity to pretend to be someone else, someone who is not you, to wear a mask, and hide your true self. Very much in real life, we do wear masks and hide our true selves from others for a variety of different reasons. One of the biggest ones is probably because we are afraid we will be rejected if we show our true selves to others. The problem with mask-wearing is that you can never truly connect with others, whether it be face-to-face, or online. You cannot share the deeper, more intimate aspects of your life with others and without that connection, the relationship will remain shallow and meaningless. This thread of authenticity is connected to the finding of identity experimentation, where the real self may be hidden behind a variety of experimental identities. Similarly sandbox games allows for a much more complex, rich, and revealing manifestation of one's self. It allows a person to really express who they are in a variety of ways beyond just the typical avatar in online gaming. Imagine creating a world that is a reflection of you and then having others interact with it. That is certainly a powerful tool of communication.
The second thread is the idea that online gaming does not magically make things different. If a person is lonely offline, when he/she goes online, the difficulty of connecting with others still remains. It's no surprise that less lonely folks have an easier time having a wider variety of communication partners online, because they already have the skill set to do so. They already know how to initiate conversations, how to build collaborations, how to resolve conflict, how to ask probing questions, etc. But for lonely folk lacking that skill set, getting immersed in an online world won't make a difference. I think this fact is reflective in other areas online as well. I've heard many lonely folk say that online dating sites simply do not work. Perhaps that is true, but if you had difficulty dating offline, you are going to have difficulty dating online as well. Nothing changes except the means of communication. If you are, for example, a jealous person, it will become manifest in either medium.
Online gaming can certainly be a powerful tool for helping people connect with one another. However, if you are a lonely person, being able to use that tool to connect with others may still prove to be difficult.
Are Lonely People Just Selfish?
My friend, let's call him Jeffrey, told me the other day that he thinks that the reason people are lonely is simply because they are selfish. Naturally I was a little taken aback when he first made that statement but I asked him to explain further. He said that if you really think about it, lonely people seemed to be wrapped up in themselves a lot.
They are, for example, ever wrapped up with the thought about why people don't like them. I have heard lonely people say that they think they have special interests that other people don't, or that other people are very judgmental. Jeffrey continued his thought: have lonely people ever thought that perhaps to have a friend, or partner, or spouse, you first have to be a friend/partner/spouse first? If you're constantly focused on your needs all the time then clearly people are going to get tired of you and leave.
Sometimes I believe that it is difficult for lonely folks to establish friendships. Sometimes there are social anxiety issues and it is really difficult to meet someone because of the fear of rejection, the fear of putting yourself out there and being turned down. Sometimes people have trust issues, having been betrayed in the past, they are more careful about trusting others and being open. To some degree, painful past experiences limit lonely people's ability to form new friendships.
"Fair enough," said Jeffrey, "but social anxiety or trust issues still revolve around the issue of selfishness. Because they are so focused on their own emotional stability and avoiding rejection and betrayal, they inevitably lock themselves into their own loneliness. Their selfish self-focus leads to their own imposed isolation."
Wow, that's pretty hash I thought, but certainly there is some truth to it. If we get too wrapped up in ourselves, it could inevitably lead to loneliness. It reminded me of this article based on a study that found those who over-value happiness put too much focus on themselves and in the end damage their relationships and their sense of well-being. Maybe by focusing on others and by trying to be a good friend first, we might have a better chance of forming a relationship.
But there are cases when some lonely folks try to be too good of a friend, they sacrifice their own needs and wants in order to try to build the relationship. I have also seen lonely folks who have a martyr complex, and they will do anything and everything for others at the expense of themselves. In the end, these relationships turn out to be one-sided and drain the lifeforce of the poor folks trying to be a good friend.
"Doesn't that poke a hole in your theory?" I asked Jeffrey, "here are folks being selfless and still ending up lonely."
Jeffrey thought about it a bit and incredulously he said, no, those folks as just as selfish. I was flabbergasted.
"How could they be just as lonely?" I asked.
"Well," Jeffrey said, "those folks are only nice to others because they think that if they are nice then the other person will be friends with them." But you just said that up above, I thought, to have a friend you have a be a friend. Jeffrey explained further that it was about being a friend, not about being likable. Everybody likes someone who is focused on them. But that's not necessarily being a friend. Being a friend means that you create a reciprocal relationship, you support your friend as much as your friend supports you, it's a two way street. The minute you make it a one-way street, you either become too demanding or don't also seek support, it becomes less about the other person and becomes all about you. Lonely folks with a martyr complex, deciding to provide all the support and not ask for any, are simply selfish individuals trying to force others into a friendship.
These are harsh words from Jeffrey. What do you think, are lonely folks really selfish?
One day, Ruby comes to life. She is in his house, making breakfast, and behaves like a continuation of Calvin's story. At first, Calvin thinks he is crazy, but when he realizes that everyone else can see Ruby too, he realizes that something magical has happened. He is also aware that Ruby is a creation of his writing. In fact, he could change who Ruby is, simply by continuing his manuscript with whatever he desired. So for example, he could make Ruby talk French by simply typing in the manuscript that Ruby talks French. He decides though to hide the truth about who Ruby is from her.
The premise of the movie is great. How many lonely folks would not like the same magical event to happen to them? Simply conjure up what you think your perfect mate is and bam, there the person is. There is no effort required to go find this person, and this person is specifically designed to be what we think is perfect. In fact, for a while in the movie, Calvin locks the manuscript away, believing Ruby is perfect and nothing else needs to be written. The trouble is though, what we think is perfect for us, may not necessarily be so. Eventually Ruby decides she wants to leave Calvin. The perfect woman, constructed through Calvin's mind, somehow decides she wants to leave him. The reason she wants to leave Calvin though, is because of the way Calvin is. While Ruby was ready and willing to engage in a relationship, after a while it was clear that Calvin was not.
The movie very beautifully demonstrates the simple principle that no one can rescue you. A person cannot come along and magically pull you out of your depression or loneliness forever. No one can cure you. If a relationship is going to happen, it is going to happen because you made yourself ready for it - because you made yourself lovable. Not even the most perfect person you can conjure up can rescue you. Eventually they will give up like Ruby did.
Everything that happened after that in the movie was a painful demonstration of that simple truth. Calvin decided to take the manuscript back out and to make some changes to Ruby. At first, he made her need him a lot. Ruby changed and became excessively clingy. And while that worked for a while, eventually Ruby was not happy again and Calvin could not deal with her excessive neediness. No matter how he changed Ruby, the relationship still didn't work. Calvin was under the false impression that the reason the relationship kept failing was that he did not make Ruby perfect enough. It was the other person that needed to change, not himself. How many times have we cycled through relationships because we always blamed the other person for the relationship failing and never accepted any responsibility ourselves?
Towards the end of the movie, Calvin decides to reveal to Ruby that she is in fact, just a creation of his mind. There is a heated argument and a powerful demonstration that Ruby was simply a mirror of Calvin. Ruby thought, said, and behaved in whatever way Calvin specified as he typed in the manuscript. In the end, Ruby was a mirror of Calvin, his hopes, fears, and desires, all the things he refused to face. And when he was forced to face it, he realized that it was he that needed to change, not Ruby. It is easy for us to demand from others, to try to change people, to try to get people to like us. But it is harder to look inside ourselves, demand from ourselves, change ourselves, and to get us to love ourselves.
The Rubys of the world are not going to fix us, to magically cure us. The Rubys of the world can only stand like a mirror and show us our own inadequacies, needs, and desires.
Many of us are still trying to wrap our heads around why anyone would walk into a theater and start shooting people, including children. So far the authorities have not given or found any motive behind the actions of the Colorado shooter who killed 12 people and injured another 50+ people in a movie theater. His actions echo similar similar actions by other persons, most notably the Columbine shootings and the Virginia Tech shootings. At least one article has already suggested that the common thread behind all of these killers is loneliness.
Nothing can excuse these killers for the actions they took against innocent people. But how could feeling lonely generate such vicious actions? No one can understand the pain of loneliness unless you have been there yourself, feeling it like a constant shadow against your back, day in and day out. Being a lone mass killer is an extreme, atypical reaction to loneliness, but loneliness has driven people to do many a strange thing. Another story that was recently in the news talks about a woman that keep a dead body for two years because she did not want to be alone. But what about ordinary folks? Would ordinary folks to outlandish things to fit in and feel accepted? Social psychologists have done a number of experiments to show just how far people will go to fit in and obey authority. One of these experiments was done by Stanley Milgram, who showed that individuals would be willing to deliver painful shocks to other people when instructed to do so:
In another popular experiment, it showed that individuals in a public place would display apathy and often refused to help someone who was in distress, rather than helping. Here is a video showing an example of people just passing by when someone was in need of help:
It is not just simply the fact that loneliness and the need to fit in, the need to belong, can drive us to behave in very destructive ways, but also the fact that loneliness can have drastic effects on our health. For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has said that loneliness is as bad for health as obesity or smoking. In the UK, there have been calls for loneliness to be treated as a major health issue in the elderly, with 5 out of 14 million elderly saying that television is their only source of company.
The fact of the matter is that loneliness can have a profound effect upon us and sadly many of us do not realize or acknowledge this fact. Loneliness is often not treated as a serious issue that can have serious consequences on our behaviors and our health. There are not very many organizations focused exclusively on loneliness, compared to other organizations dedicated towards addressing social issues such as hunger, obesity, or smoking. I am sure the average person does not think of loneliness in the same drastic context as hunger. And yet, if you take the time to look, you will see that loneliness is making as much of an impact as hunger or any other major, popular issue right now.
The fact of the matter is that loneliness is a response to a basic need of every human being, arguably in much the same way as our need to eat, sleep, or breathe. Baumeister and Leary have argued that the need to belong is a basic, fundamental human need, in much the same way as any other basic, human need we have. And what happens when we cannot fulfill our need to belong? The same thing that happens when we have a need to eat but no food is available. We feel hungry, but in this case, we call this hunger, loneliness. Loneliness is response to our social need, it is our bodies telling us that we are not getting the social interaction, the sense of belongingness that we require. And just like hunger, if it continually goes unfulfilled, it has negative consequences on our health. To some degree, hunger is easier to fulfill than loneliness, all we need to do is provide food. But for many of us, being able to build a sense of connection is difficult, very difficult. It is almost as if we have not developed the ability to feed ourselves and thus have trouble getting that sense of connection. We can also very easily see someone who is starving and in need of food, but it is a lot harder to spot someone who is lonely.
Until society acknowledges that loneliness is as much of a social issue as other basic needs such as food and shelter, we will have problems stemming from loneliness continuing to persist in our society. And it is a growing problem, not just in the elderly, but across all age groups as well. A recent study in Norway suggest that 40% youth ages 18-29 feel lonely "often" or "quite often." And another study in Australia show that at least 30% of Australians feel lonely, up from 10% ten years ago.
I, for one, will not stand by and wait for another tragedy to happen, wait for someone else to come to the rescue for those who feel lonely and isolated, for those who are longing for connection and cannot find one. I have hosted the Web of Loneliness for over 10 years. I am now moving onwards and upwards to establishing the Web of Loneliness Institute to find ways to raise awareness, and help the lonely. If you are willing to follow me on this journey, contact me, I'd be happy to have you along!
Feeling lonely? Then go join a club.
On the Lonely Quiz, I ask if joining a club is one of the most effective ways of treating individuals who are chronically lonely. Only 34% of the people answered this question correctly. The correct answer for this question is no, joining a club is not a very effective way of treating chronic loneliness.
The first question you may ask yourself is; why is not joining a club effective? More people (66%) were able to recognize that self-help books and websites are not effective treatments either. Ironically one of things that makes self-help books ineffective is the same thing that makes joining a club ineffective. The problem has to do with particular individual traits that a chronically lonely person has. Someone who is chronically lonely, is lonely regardless of the situation that they are in. They are lonely when they are by themselves, and they are lonely when surrounded by others. There are ebbs and flows to stronger feelings of loneliness, but if you were to ask someone who is chronically lonely, they will admit that loneliness is always in the background, like a shadow, always there following their every move. Depending upon the situation, sometimes you are aware of it more than other times, but it is always there.
Chronically lonely individuals have a vicious, cyclical pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving that keep them trapped in their feelings of loneliness. Perhaps they think that they will always be rejected in social situations, perhaps they are very shy or suffer from social anxiety, or perhaps they have trouble trusting others. Regardless of the specific reason, these types of thoughts/feelings create barriers to establishing friendships. Thus, if you have trouble trusting others, you would be unable to get close to them and deepen a friendship. If you are socially anxious, you probably avoid social situations altogether. So, what happens when you take a chronically lonely individual and you throw them into a social group, like a club or a class? Not much. Like anyone else, they reproduce their personality patterns in the group. If they were shy before, pushing them into a club won't make them less shy, they will still withdraw from others.
When it comes to things like chronic loneliness, self-help books have a hard time actually changing people for the better. This is because these patterns of thinking/feelings/behaving are deeply ingrained in the psyche, and it becomes almost impossible for a person to heal themselves. Very much like if you get injured in a car accident, you cannot heal yourself, you need others to help you. Most people who answered the Lonely Quiz seems to have understood this, but at the same time, thought that just being around others with help relieve the loneliness. Again, if you are injured in a car accident, just because there are others around, doesn't mean that they can help with your injuries. The best person to do that would be a medical professional. You need someone who will be able to 1. focus on your injuries and 2. have some knowledge of how to treat your injuries. Similarly, if you are chronically lonely, you need someone who can serve as that medical professional. It may be a therapist, but it may also be someone who has been through chronic loneliness and understands it.
What I'm trying to understand is why so many people think that simply joining a club will effectively deal with chronic loneliness. One simple explanation is that people didn't read or understand what I meant by chronically lonely. Joining a club, in fact, can be very effective for someone with transient loneliness - who experiences loneliness a lot less frequently and less intensely. People with transient loneliness are better able to overcome their feelings of loneliness and move on. Their feelings of loneliness stem from the situation they are in, rather than any personality characteristics. So perhaps, some people got it wrong because they were thinking about transient loneliness as opposed to chronic loneliness.
But surely, not everyone made that mistake. It seems like chronically lonely people would know that joining a club can be ineffective. However, perhaps some chronically lonely people may think that the entire problem lies outside of them and in the environment. Therefore the reason they are lonely is because they haven't found the right set of people to connect with - if they joined the right group, then their loneliness would go away. They are merely victims of circumstance. This mindset is comforting, you can effectively blame the situation around you for your feelings of loneliness. It relieves the chronically lonely person of any responsibility for having the change, "I'm lonely because everyone else sucks!" Under these circumstances, it is understandable that a chronically lonely person may think that joining (the right) club would be an effective treatment for loneliness.
What about individuals that aren't chronically lonely? Why would they think this would be effective for chronically lonely folks? I think part of the reason has to do with the often nonchalant attitude the average person has about loneliness. Loneliness is often not seen as a big problem, the cause seems pretty simple (you have no one around to make friends with) as does the solution (go join a club, meet some people, and make some friends). It ignores the deep-seated roots of chronic loneliness, often in childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect. Lonely people aren't losers because they can't do something as simple as making some friends. Making friends can be very difficult to do, especially if your past has taught you that anyone you love will hurt you. Just dismissing it by saying, go join a club, is actually a rather insulting, crass thing to say to someone who has been dealing with loneliness for years. If it were that simple, I think they wouldn't be lonely today.
Chronic loneliness takes years to form, and by extension, I also feel it takes years to dismantle. There are no simple solutions for this complex problem.
Find out more about me in the about the owner section.