Monday, February 29, 2016

Loneliness - I am always striving to understand FEELINGS & BEHAVIOUR.


I am always reading and striving to understand behaviour and the feelings driving it.

Every person I have talked with in the last year
who has said “I am lonely”
Wept as they spoke.

It is a privilege when someone is able say that.
There is so much stigma attached to this experience.
If you are in that place.
If you have not shared the experience with another - 
I would encourage you to do so.

Choose a person is is in a helping relationship with you.
Someone who can manage facing your pain
because they have known pain themselves
and can support you through it.

These out-takes stand alone - don’t flow as the book will do.
They are highlights chosen by me for
to blog
to re-enforce within me some deeper understanding.

These following words are from a long series of articles about Loneliness.
There are some questions and Responses by the Author.
Take what you wish from them.
Buy the book.
Talk to someone.
Study pain.
Feel your pain.
it helps to understand someone else’s - always unique.


The revelation of loneliness, 
the omnipresent, 
unanswerable feeling that I was in a state of lack, 
that I didn't have what people were supposed to, 
and that this was down to some grave and no doubt externally unmistakable failing in my person: 
all this had quickened lately, the unwelcome consequence pf being so summarily dismissed. 

So much of the pain of loneliness is to do with concealment, 
with being compelled to hide vulnerability, 
to tuck ugliness away, to cover up wounds as if they are literally repulsive. 
But why hide? 
What's so shameful about wanting, about desire, about having failed to achieve satisfaction, 
about experiencing unhappiness? 
Why this need constantly to inhabit peak states, 
or to be comfortably sealed inside a unit of two, turned inward from the world at large? 
I have been lonely, and no doubt I will be lonely again. 
There isn't any shame in that. 
Loneliness is a special place, I'm certain of it: 
adrift from the larger continent of human experience, 
but intrinsic to the very act of being alive. 

Give me three traits of a good person. 

So relationships have to go both ways to be beneficial? 
Yes, and it doesn't end there. 
Because you interact less well with me as a neighbour, 
when you go to work we can see you are more likely to interact negatively 
with someone else. 
And so it goes on. 

There is that sad quote in your book from someone saying ::
"I can remember exactly the year when eye contact stopped…" 

Why do we sometimes seem at pains to avoid connection? 
What we think we prefer is often counter-productive for us. 
Loneliness is like an iceberg, we are conscious of the surface 
but there is a great deal more that is phylogenetically 
so deep that we cannot see it. 

OK. So actually your answers are consistent across age and across culture. 
What you see about them is that the good person cares about themselves primarily 
in relation to other people. 
Whereas the evil person cares first and only about themselves. 
We wouldn't be a social species without that universal agreement.

What worked best? 
Well, there were four major types of treatment we studied. 

First: social engagement. 
You take lonely people and you just put them together. 
That doesn't work because it confuses the idea of loneliness with the fact of being alone. 

The second is social skills: 
this is based on the idea that people are lonely 
because they have poor social skills. 

Actually, this is again false. 
Just about everybody has good social skills to begin with, but when you experience loneliness 
you focus more and more on yourself, 
your brain engages in selfpreservation. 

You are not necessarilyaware of that happening, 
but you become like the animal on the edge of the herd. 
If you feel vulnerable you often stop taking empathetic or compassionate positions 
and therefore you lose social skills. 

The third treatment is social support. 
This suggests that lonely people will be "cured" just with the support of people around them. 
That is not the answer either because getting out of loneliness 
takes reciprocal connections not one-directiona] ones. 

If it were just about support, people would not feel lonely in hospital because they are surrounded by it. 
But we know that people in hospital often feel very lonely. 

The last treatment we looked at is changing how lonely people think about other people, 
having them understand what happens when their brain goes into this self-preservation mode. 
And those kinds of treatments actually seem to work, 
although they have been applied only a few times.

Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection 
is published 
by WW Norton & Co (£12.99). 
To order a copy go to or call 0330 333 6846
© Olivia Laing