Isn’t a part of your own experience that many people want different things and communicate them in various ways? That some good ways of living are not acceptable for others and vice versa. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with it at all? Just what we need is to properly recognize different needs in ourselves and different people, and respect them? In philosophy we call it ‘pluralism’: different yet equally good ways of living. For example, some people like to be with others, family or not, 24/7 and for still some others it would be a torture. Some accepted being meddled and others hate it, etc. But the main point for me here is whether being alone means loneliness? My answer is: it definitely is not. Loneliness can be felt when you are NOT alone and the opposite — if you are alone this does not automatically mean that you’re lonely.
Loneliness or Being Alone? – these are two different things
There are people who feel lonely even when they aren’t alone at all. Many teenagers, for very different reasons, have the sensation that the whole world has abandoned them, even when they have (at least it seems) a normally functioning family life and school-friends around. Many spouses feel something similar despite having full families. Others need a lot of alcohol to neutralize the loneliness they feel during a party with dozens of ‘friends’. Perhaps, the feeling of loneliness when you’re surrounded by (close) people around is one of the worst conditions you can feel. On the other hand, there are many examples of people surrounded by hardly anybody, yet they wouldn’t describe themselves as lonely. Being single, in its more radical form, has become very popular in contemporary West. Many singles — I’m not sure how many though — like this lifestyle and wouldn’t change it.
Loneliness or Being Alone — which is better?
It’s impossible to be sure about which of these attitudes is better as such. Everything depends upon what you really want and on what form will give you to them. First, it’s not want you want but rather what you really want. People declare many things, to be independent for example, but the declaration is one thing and the reality is the other. So, using the Socratic formula ‘know yourself’ it would be good to be sure what you really want. The other thing is what form of this or that lifestyle should be assumed. A monk-style of being along, sometimes in a complete isolation, doesn’t equal loneliness because a constant presence of God is assumed and supposedly felt each and every moment. A mission-style of being alone assumes that your life-plan is to realize some mission irrespectively of the followers you will or will not collect around it. Sometimes, this mission can be give birth to your baby and educate him/her well against all odds…
Loneliness or Being Alone — never a black and white scenario
Practically never does it happen that you can be totally lonely on the one hand, and, on the other hand, totally lonely. Frankly speaking, it’s practically impossible to be totally alone in contemporary world. Always some people around. This is why loneliness or being alone is never a black and white scenario. Even if you happen to find yourself in a desert, you will have GPS, mobile phone, satellite connections, etc. Being alone almost always means something that is NOT literally understood. The problem is you subjective, emotional bond with others. So, when you feel no profound bond – emotional, intellectual, social, familiar, whatever – you feel lonely irrespectively of the masses of people around you.
How to cope with loneliness?
One of the main fears here is not loneliness as such but rather that someday you will be lonely – either because someone you love will abandon you or because you psychologically associate loneliness with aging. Obviously, many people, including young people, feel abandoned or misunderstood and these are some, among many other, serious reasons to feel lonely. How can we cope with this? Not good and short answer to this, except that great numbers of people around you and even great number of people to be connected by social media make you almost each and every moment with somebody. Feel free to try to contact a life coach if you want to cope with loneliness successfully. Personally, I appreciate some philosophical approaches to loneliness; philosophers are protected again loneliness in a special way: they constantly deal with the thoughts of at least dozens of great figures as if to had constant companions 24/7. Well, a good option at least for some on some occasions…
By means of this simple game, try to calculate the level of your loneliness while being with other people. Try to identify the types of your activities during which you feel most lonely (5 points) and least lonely (0 points). For example, dining, watching TV, walking, working, practicing your hobby, having party. Try observe yourself during one whole week, then, sum up the points and propose conclusions.
I have a 25 year-long professional experience. It’s mostly as a university professor, but also includes coaching, consulting, and teaching. 35 years of karate as a hobby and the best way of learning self-discipline.