Posted On 10 Dec 2018
Loneliness is rampant.
According to a recent study done and reported by The Economist [Sep 18], 22% of adults in the United States always or often felt lonely. Furthermore, 35% of Americans over the age of 45 always or often felt lonely; obviously, that’s more than 1 of every 3 people.
These “findings complement academic research which uses standardized questionnaires to measure loneliness.”
What is loneliness? How is it possible to tell if S[omeone] is lonely?
‘Loneliness’ is an abstract noun that stands for a concept. It should not be confused with either solitude or social isolation.
If S chooses to be alone, S is solitary. Like living a life of frequent interaction with family, friends, or tribe, being solitary has advantages and disadvantages. According to Nietzsche, genuine philosophers (as opposed to, say, those who are only students or professors of philosophy) usually have a taste for the advantages of solitude.
If S interacts infrequently with other human beings, then S is socially isolated. Being socially isolated is not necessarily a problem.
The only way to tell if S is lonely is to ask S. If S perceives himself or herself as lacking the social or interpersonal contacts with others that S desires, then and only then is S lonely. Loneliness is perceived social isolation. It’s a kind of dissatisfaction.
Although they are difficult to measure, it seems that both social isolation and loneliness are increasing.
There have been correlations noted between both social isolation and loneliness and various health problems including “heart attacks, strokes, cancers, eating disorders, drug abuse, sleep deprivation, depression, alcoholism
The correct causal explanation for these correlations is unknown. It may involve behavior (those who suffer from social isolation or loneliness may slide into poor health habits because they lack loved ones to encourage them), biology (those who suffer may experience more stress that, for example, impedes sleep and, so, undermines health), or
Not surprisingly, people who cohabitate or are married experience less loneliness than others. On the other hand, since creating great relationships is difficult, they may also experience other difficulties that are not experienced by those who do not live with someone else.
Sometimes, loneliness has an obvious, specific cause such as the
Sometimes, loneliness can be exacerbated by specific causes such as heavy social media use.
The truth is that modern science has no effective cure for chronic loneliness. Episodic loneliness diminishes with time.
What can be done about chronic loneliness?
The good news is that there is an effective cure for chronic loneliness.
The key is to notice that loneliness is a feeling, an emotion. If S feels lonely, then S is lonely.
Loneliness is a negative or unwanted emotion.
Since the biological imperatives are to survive and reproduce and since living in a group enhances survival, it’s likely that Mother Nature or evolution predisposes us to loneliness when we live apart from others. In other words, not living apart can have survival value.
All unwanted emotions are curable.
The reason is that all emotions are egocentric, which is a thesis I’ve argued for in, for example, EMOTIONAL FACELIFT. Since, ultimately, the ego is a delusion, everything spawned by the ego is also a delusion.
The reason is that separation is always the cause of dissatisfaction. Since that is so, whenever you want to find a cure for something that causes dissatisfaction [suffering, discontent, misery], identify the separation and see if it can be replaced by unity.
In the case of loneliness, since solitude is not the same as loneliness, physical separation cannot be the cause of loneliness (or, otherwise, all people such as hermits who choose to live in solitude would be lonely and they are not).
The cause of loneliness comes from thoughts that separate such as “I am lonely” or “I am apart from others when I don’t want to be apart from them.”
All such thoughts are about what eastern spiritual [yogic, meditative] traditions call the small or little “self”, the ego/I, the historical or temporal self. Loneliness presupposes exclusive, implicit identification with the small self.
It’s true that we are our stories, our temporal narratives, our autobiographies. For example, we were born in a certain place at a certain time, we grew up and went to school somewhere, and so on.
However, and this is the critical point, exclusive identification with the small
Everything else is the big “Self.” Each of us is Self as well as self. Furthermore, the Self is infinitely larger than the self.
Although it’s true that, for example, “I am my self,” it’s also true that “I am Self.” As
That makes sense, doesn’t it?
Is it, though, true?
If it’s true, how can that truth be apprehended?
The critical point is that Self cannot be thought. Why not?
The reason is that thoughts are conceptualizations. Since concepts are principles of classification, to conceptualize [think, judge] is to separate [divide, classify, sort, categorize].
There’s nothing wrong with thinking. We typically solve important problems by breaking them down into their parts.
From the standpoint of dissatisfaction, however, there’s everything wrong with too much thinking, which creates separation that in turn creates dissatisfaction.
So the cure for loneliness (and all unwanted emotions) is to let go of thinking. Seriously. It’s to open consciousness or awareness to Being instead of focusing exclusively on
That is realizing one’s wholeness, interconnectedness, or big Self. It requires nonconceptual apprehension of Being, which is the formless plenum-void or whole.
Since there can be no loneliness without perceived separation and there is no separation in Being, opening to Being cures loneliness.
It’s impossible to think Being. However, by detaching from incessant thinking, it is possible to apprehend Being.
So how does one detach from incessant thinking? The traditional way is by mastering some meditative practice or other (such as zazen or aliveness awareness). Obviously, it’s impossible to think one’s way out of incessant thinking!
Such mastering is not anti-conceptual but non-conceptual. In other words, wisdom is not just something to be thought about — it’s to be practiced, lived.