With interesting times we’re all living at present, its any wonder that I’m hearing more people, I wouldn’t pick as ‘talk back types’, are now tuning in to a format previously thought to be for another generation.
Of course many of these people have in fact matured and become that ‘other’ generation, but I also sense there’s a growing thirst for information and affirmation from their community, on a range of topics that doesn’t just include politics.
The subject I see that doesn’t get enough community ‘chat’ is loneliness.
The misconception about loneliness is that it affects only those living on their own, devoid of family and friends.
Or perhaps the elderly that have lost family ties, which we seem to accept as a widespread inevitable.
And it is, and it’s also not. Loneliness is a state that affects all areas of society. For one reason or another have lost that healthy connection to society and feel personally and emotionally isolated.
I spoke with Professor John Cacioppo from the University of Chicago and the author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection last week, who has traced the need for connection to our evolutionary roots.
He believes ‘in order to survive in the past, humans needed to bond to rear their children. In order to flourish, they needed to extend their altruistic and cooperate.’
‘Just as physical pain is a prompt to change behaviour, such as moving a finger away from the fire, loneliness evolved as a prompt to action, signalling an ancestral need to repair the social bonds’.
But it seems we may not be acknowledging or realizing there is this internal prompt going on?
Maybe we are so fixated on how fabulous the world now is with all this modern technology connecting us all, that we’ve forgotten our comfortable ‘real, physical, tangle’ beginnings?
Or are we presuming that feeling a certain way that we haven’t identified as ‘lonely’ is just the natural par for course in a somewhat difficult life?
‘The problem of social isolation is likely to grow as conventional family structures die out’ Professor Cacioppo says. ‘People are living longer, having fewer children later in life and increasingly mobile around the world.’’
It’s odd to me that we can discuss the fact that people become alcoholics, but don’t delve enough into why?
We can identify that Australia has an obesity problem and determine we need health education but leave the question of why we’re over eating emotionally from that why?
The professor believes that lack of connection with others not only makes us unhappy but it is also bad for the wellbeing of the body and mind.
According to his findings, loneliness can involve feelings of rejection or isolation, which can increase blood pressure, stress levels and bad health, as well as increasing your chances of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
It seems to be a vicious circle, which we haven’t quite worked out yet.
But if we accepted, based on his theory, like when for instance we’re hungry, we realise we need to eat, then maybe when we feel the pangs of loneliness which many of us feel, we don’t act on that feeling related to healthy survival. We’re not identifying it as a warning?
It’s not an easy solution I understand, as many people that are lonely are possibly knowingly or otherwise lacking self-esteem.
But there should be community awareness that breaking the cycle should be on our radar. Or just seeing that loneliness is sadly, everywhere?
I explained to a friend recently, having experienced loneliness and depression, that depression is debilitating, but loneliness is soul destroying.
They’re separate, and have a different voice.
She got it. It made sense. So I hope soon we put it appropriately on our radar. It makes sense to do so, if it is, as I believe, out there.