Loneliness is universal, especially now with social isolation. If we don’t learn anything else from this time, I hope we learn it now. The truth is, I think we have always been lonely. We just had a million-and-one ways to distract ourselves from it.
Do you ever wonder why people can be lonely even in the presence of others? I can think of a few reasons. One reason is trauma. Many of us carry around a belief that for whatever reason we are unlovable or that we don’t belong, no matter how untrue it may be at the time or how unhelpful the thought is. Those feelings come from inside, so they can be present whether we are with someone else or not.
Once you realize that we have always felt lonely, you may also understand that we have been distracting ourselves to fill the void of lack of connection. I believe we have lost some ability to connect.
What is connection really? It is a sense that someone else understands how you feel and that you understand how someone else may feel. We as humans evolved to be social, so we evolved a need to connect with each other. You don’t even have to connect at a deep level. People can connect through sharing likes or dislikes, comforts or discomfort, or it could be deeper.
Effects of Harmful Socialization
Those feelings may also be triggered by what is going on externally. Some of our pre-Covid feelings of isolation had to do with socialization. I believe it has particularly been true for white men (and it explains the increasing prevalence of suicide among white men ).
Men are especially conditioned not to communicate their feelings or needs, so much so that they likely don’t even acknowledge them. As our society and culture changed with women entering the workforce, a few generations of women have been similarly socialized.
So yes, we are lonely, and regardless of how we were socialized, yes we still need connection. Perhaps that is why physical and social distancing has been so hard for us. And perhaps that is why some people are willing to become violent to end it. If knowing that makes you feel incredibly sad, you are not alone.
If you need help dealing with loneliness during social isolation and beyond, contact Sarah Tso, LCSW to schedule an appointment.