Loneliness is a complex situation and is different from being alone. You can be alone by choice and use that opportunity to be creative and productive. Being lonely is usually not by choice; it is a self-conscious emotional isolation making the lonely one consciously aware that something important is missing in life. Regardless of any definition, the problem is painful and we cannot dismiss the pain by running away from the problem.
Loneliness may be caused through the loss of a dear one or by rejection by a group which results in lack of self-esteem.
Lonely people are often timid, they hesitate to take action and pity themselves. So they communicate less. Finally, there is a cold war in relationships and thereafter a breakdown. Outwardly they are happy and radiant, but inwardly they are crying.
During the Second World War when Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, among others, they took seven Americans as prisoners and kept them in solitary confinement without any contact with the outside world. When they were released after the war, it was found that they had all tortured themselves by biting their tongues, pulling out their hair and beards or scratching the skin off their bodies with their long nails. These men were victims of loneliness.
Today, many elderly die due to loneliness while the young commit suicide because of it. Mother Teresa used to constantly remind us that the greatest suffering of a human being is that of loneliness — feeling unwanted and unloved.
Loneliness demands sympathy and approval. So look at yourself and others to see if you detect the following symptoms of loneliness:
- Retreating into the past: Imagining and dreaming of the things that might have been.
- Self-imposed busyness: Workaholics who are constantly busy and want others also to be like them.
- Getting away from it all: Constantly leaving one activity and joining another.
- Meaningless socializing: Wanting to be seen with the elite and moving in high society.
- Meaningless imitation: Trying to imitate others rather than be themselves.
- Getting high: Trying to escape through alcohol or drugs.
- Being funny: Saying funny things loudly at a party or gathering in order to gain attention.
Many people intentionally project an image of loneliness in order to get the attention of others or of some particular person. This leads to real loneliness and self- destruction.