Sunday, May 27, 2018

Philip Perry - There's a loneliness epidemic in the US and it’s getting worse

In the richest counties in the world there's a lot of loneliness as we become less group orientated and more individualistic.

In primitive societies the group was very social, for instance, I always wondered how very young women coped with being teenage mothers when there was no age of consent so most of them may have been still children. But young inexperienced mothers would never be left alone all day with nagging children as the grandmothers and great grandmothers - who would have considerable child rearing experience - would always be around to help. Also, a small group of women would look after the infants during the day while the other mothers worked in the fields. Of course, most of the men all went hunting together.

The stress was different too, there was no unemployment and if your house burnt down everyone in your village would help you build a new on.  But we know it was no paradise either. KV

Philip Perry

I’m going through a divorce. It’s amicable, mature, and adult. We just don’t work together as a couple anymore, but we’ll try and remain friends. As a writer, I work from home. I’m alone all day and now, no one is coming home at night. As a result, I’m taking great pains to be social, to go out, to see friends and family, to make phone calls, and to avoid social isolation. There’s no shame in admitting as much, although our rugged individualist society may look down on opening up about such things, especially as a straight male. Aren’t we supposed to be stoic mavericks, able to set out on our own, without anyone’s help at all? Turns out, not so much.

In fact, staying connected is the healthiest thing to do, and not just psychologically. According to a 2014 University of Chicago study, loneliness can have a significant negative impact on physical health. It can increase the rate of atherosclerosis—the hardening of the arteries, increase the risk of high blood pressure and stroke, and decrease retention, which can even hurt learning and memory. What’s more, the lonely often make worse life choices and are more prone to substance abuse.
Global health services company Cigna recently teamed up with market research firm Ipsos, to investigate loneliness in America. They conducted a nationwide survey, which found that 47% of Americans lacked meaningful interpersonal interactions with a friend or family member on a daily basis. 43% reported having weak relationships, experiencing feelings of isolation, and an overall lack of companionship. 46% said they felt lonely often, while 47% reported feeling left out.
Big Think


Anonymous said...

In so far as we have no connection to the self within us, we come into this world alone and we leave alone. And really, we travel from birth to death alone; but we are unable to come to terms with this. Whosoever discovers the self within them travel hand in hand, with the only friend we have. And in the right direction.

We should not get confused with all the relationships we have on the outside. Human relations are human relations and we get what we can out of them. Keep them simple. But not one human relation on the face of this earth has ever fulfilled the human heart – despite the stories we tell. One empty bucket can never fill another. We do not understand the difference between ‘like’ and ‘love’.

This is why Socrates said ‘Know thy self’. The personality life is a wave on the ocean. The heart is forever. If you are alone, it is just because you have never been introduced to your self. I’m not the first one to say this by any means. What you are looking for is already inside of you. And nothing on the outside will do. You are the book you need to read and understand. Even if you are the greatest psychologist on the face of this earth, you still need to know the self to be able to understand human nature.

Kabir stood in the marketplace watching people hurrying to and fro and said: ‘No man is my enemy and no man is my friend. To each Kabir bids, fare well’. Kabir knew how it was on the inside and he knew exactly how it was on the outside (he was terribly politically incorrect) - he definitely was not alone. His heart sang with joy!

Ryan Harris said...

Nah. Just nah. You create your own reality that is filled with people or not. It's a conscious choice to be alone or more importantly to feel alone.

Konrad said...


I agree.

When you feel lonely (by “you” I mean anyone reading this) I recommend that you go out and look for people who are worse off than you are. Homeless people are everywhere. You can give them a bit of money if you wish, but it is just as important (if not more so) to acknowledge them as humans. Seek to give attention rather than get it. Ask them questions like, “Why are you here?” Be candid, but sincere and compassionate. Help them in whatever way you can within your own limits. By seeking to ease their loneliness, you will ease your own loneliness.

It is not sufficient to do this only once or twice. You must make a habit of this if you want to keep loneliness at bay.

When people encounter someone who is disfigured, most people feel awkward, and do not know what to say. So they pretend that they didn’t see it. Don’t do that. Instead, approach that person and, with compassion in your eyes, ask them directly, “What happened to your face?” (Or what happened to your whatever.) Listen carefully to what they say (or to what they avoid saying). Show them that they are not freaks. Ask if they need help.

We stay lonely when we wait for someone to cure our loneliness. We stay in hell when we wait for someone to save us. The way out of hell is to make a habit of helping other people out of hell.

You are not required to save the world, or to make herculean efforts, or suicidal efforts. You only need to be aware that we are all in this together. This awareness makes you do small gestures that mean a lot to others.

You can stay in hell if you wish, for as long as you wish. The choice is yours.


One other thing: It is often said that courage does not mean the absence of fear, but acting in spite of fear.


Courage comes from love and compassion. We have courage when we overcome our own egos. A mother, for example, will give her life for her children, because her love for her children is far stronger than her concern for herself.

Fear and loneliness arise when we become self-centered.

If you make a habit of doing what I suggested above, you will see so many people in so much pain that when it is your turn to feel pain, you will know that you are not the only person in pain. You will be suffering, yet you will feel love for those people you saw. This will give you courage, and it will ease your loneliness.

This has been my experience, anyway. Take it or leave it. As always, the choice is yours.

Anonymous said...

I understand the pov of R. & K. above, and many people would say exactly that – they create their own reality, and the choice of whether or not they are alone is theirs; they can alleviate their own discomfort by helping others. In terms of the personality life these are conditionally true.

However, I am speaking of the solitude of the soul. By this I mean there is a place, a space inside of each and every one of us, where we are totally alone. No human comfort can reach there; there is nothing in the outside world that can fix it for you. No one can help you and you have no choice. There are no walls, floor, or ceiling; nothing to hold on to. You have no identity because there is nothing there to attach yourself to - other than you. It is a state of your being which has always existed – you just haven’t been there, yet. You can choose and choose as much as you like and it will not alter the existential fact. Nor will any act of service in the outside world. I know and I know that many other people know, because I have read and heard them say so. That too was their experience. If you haven’t been there, then that is your experience.

At this time, the friend is closer to you than ever before; and if you are just plain lucky (because god knows you don’t deserve it) you will discover you are not alone. There is an energy, a self of which you are a tiny little spark. This too is written in human history. In the darkest of places at the darkest hour, a little light can break in – from out of nowhere.

Konrad said...

“There is a place, a space inside of each and every one of us, where we are totally alone. No human comfort can reach there; there is nothing in the outside world that can fix it for you.”

There is everything in the outside world that can fix it for you. Live for others. Transcend yourself by offering to help others in their own nightmare. Some may take you up. Some will reject you. All that matters is that you offered. You cared. You tried. You endeavored. Even Jesus could not make people choose. People can only choose for themselves. The universe is cruel, dark, empty, and lonely. This is what makes every act of kindness so magnificent.

No one can help you, and you have no choice.

There is always a choice, and there is always someone to help you, if you are genuinely ready to be helped. Let us take responsibility for our choices. Let us admit that we’ve not always been very bright. Certainly I have not.

There are no walls, floor, or ceiling; nothing to hold on to. You have no identity because there is nothing there to attach yourself to - other than you. It is a state of your being which has always existed – you just haven’t been there, yet. You can choose and choose as much as you like and it will not alter the existential fact. Nor will any act of service in the outside world.

It is precisely because we are helpless and trivial insects that our every act of compassion is monumental. We are gods because we are trapped in a feeble envelope of earthly flesh, struggling against the impossible. You know in your heart that I speak the truth.

“At this time, the friend is closer to you than ever before; and if you are just plain lucky (because god knows you don’t deserve it) you will discover you are not alone.

“Deserve”? Every atom in this universe deserves reverence, simply for existing. I deserve to be loved and worshiped, because I say that YOU deserve to be loved and worshiped.

Anonymous said...

For Konrad:

As I said above, and respectfully - ‘that is your experience’. It is also the experience of every humanitarian on the planet. I have no quarrel with this or anyone who accepts and practices compassion. I admire such people tremendously.

I hesitated to comment as I did above for that very reason; but I also know things can change on the road ahead – so I made my comment. And that in my experience and in others who have gone long before me, at that point on the road, what I have said is also true. So the comment is not personal in that sense. That’s it ....

Konrad said...

@jrbach: The essence of heroism is the realization that we are borne alone, we live alone, and we die alone. We are trivial bacteria in the sea of reality. We are less than nothing. We don't matter.

We become immortal gods when we choose to love despite this wretched reality.

Anonymous said...

Have been thinking about Konrad’s comment above over the last few days.

If you think about Absolute Space (no Time there), the mind shrinks back, recoils; the universe (multiverses) just a transitory atom, without scale, geometrised, yet periodically recycled and each iteration unique; just as unique as each atom of Matter, or the atom that is a human being, never to be repeated again, ever, though the universes may come and go. Absolutely Unique! We have no idea what we destroy when we destroy a human being. From zero is abstracted One, and the rest of the numbers (beings) follow.

This Boundless Principle, beyond the reach and thought of any human expression - that which ‘was, is, and forever will be, whether there be an universe or not, gods or not’; unknown and unknowable, Absolute (to us) Darkness, abstract everything, absolute container of past present and future, all that is whether manifest or unmanifest: - is described helplessly only in negatives - as non-being, no-thing, incognisable, nirvana etc etc – out of which periodically manifests the ‘waters’ and ‘elements’ that will eventually become Matter at one pole; Spirit, the Logos that will become Life, Being, at the other - their union producing Universal Consciousness of which we partake as a drop in the Ocean. It is the finite gods who create in the Ageless Wisdom, not the ineffable Zero.

So, in this sense, not even the gods matter: - whither goest man, if all is to be reabsorbed once more in pralaya (‘Absolute Sleep’). Need there be a reason for manifestation? The Infinite is not going to get something new out of it .....

If there is a reason for us, it is simply to enjoy; but enjoy what?

Of course the man on the street will squawk at the imposition of the philosophers dreaming such thoughts, and grasp the rock solid reality of his portfolio all the harder. But we are human beings and we would like to matter; to live life as though it really mattered; and more so, because it actually does - at least in our reality if not Reality itself.


Anonymous said...

So what of the self who along its chosen path, finds itself absolutely alone, abandoned by the universe and the gods, fully aware of the ‘empty bucket syndrome’ of the personality life (vide supra), the illusionary and impoverished nature of the outside world, with absolutely nothing to offer the heart? I wish there were words to describe the soul in such a void; looking out, looking in, looking down, looking up, Silence – just existence - alone, courageous, conscious, knowledgeable - and the same longing coming as always from inside for meaning and Light. Only those who turn their back temporarily on the world walk through this trial. Once again I am not talking about the personality, the ‘I’ extant in the mind; I am talking about that self that resides in your heart, as close as you may get to it; something that is at best usually just a theoretical reality to most people, even though they feel and hear it calling every day. This is where the energy of Love becomes significant.

Because it is at the call of the heart, and the heart alone, that the Breath breaks in – mind is just a witness. Love sweeps in with this Breath and the Will and Intelligence (all energies) come with it, aspects of the One Life. For the first time in its long journey, the self faces the Being that gave it existence. It sees itself as a spark in the very Flame of that Being. ‘Our Father, which art in Heaven ....’. (making us brothers). Being that is back and behind of all existence; all forms, all energy. Then and only then, is the self never more to be alone. She has her reward and more .....

Love is not an energy of the personality; ‘like’ Is (attraction and repulsion; radiation and reception). Love is an energy that pours through the self and descends to the personality. That is what makes us significant and gives us meaning. We are still just an atom, but within us is a spark from the Divine, a Breath that keeps us alive and makes us eventually, conscious. There is nothing wretched about Reality thank goodness! In fact it is incredibly beautiful! And many have said so ...

You may read as many newspapers as you like and worry about world affairs. Yes they need straightening out when people become honest; human. But the palette is not this world: - the palette is the heart; and from the colours of the heart this world is painted. Problem is mind holds the brush instead of its elder brother the heart (your heart). They are sorely in need of a refresh!

If you got this far, hope you didn’t go spffft and drop your beer ...