Reflections on Loneliness: the epidemic

This is a topic I am very familiar with.  Starting as a child, loneliness was a constant companion for me.  As an adult, I’ve had loneliness be present – a reminder of what I experience when I shut down (isolate). When my partner participated in experiential learning opportunities (on two separate occasions) that had her away from home for an extended period, I really got to see, know and own my loneliness.

I see loneliness rear it’s head in others as well.  When a world leaders clash over ego – I see loneliness in the distance.  When a “lone wolf” takes the lives of the unsuspecting – I see disconnection.  Finally, when we continue to destroy the very planet we exist on – I see pain.

Loneliness is everywhere.  In our cities and farmlands.  In our homes and cars. Loneliness can wear many faces; isolation, collapse, disconnectedness, pain, or shame. I believe loneliness has become our societies great epidemic.

Here’s what the experts tell us:

  • Three-quarters of Americans experience loneliness in their lives.
  • One-in-four Americans suffer from persistent loneliness.
  • The health risks of feeling lonely – as well as isolation – surpass those risks associated with obesity.

And here is what I know:  the more accepting I become of who I am in the world – noticing especially when I’m being self-critical  –  the more I’m able to feel apart of something greater…something alive. It is that feeling of being alive, being connected, that is the antivenom for loneliness.   It has taken me years to work through this.

Medication may help some of us deal with loneliness’s companion, depression.  Being around others definitely has benefits.  But the best approach I’ve found, is simply to see me as something of a wonder.  Someone unique in a world full of uniqueness.  It is from this perspective that I understand that I am truly never alone.

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