Loneliness is a very complex, multidimensional phenomenon. Simply put, there is no one cure for loneliness, simply because there are many different types of loneliness. The loneliness of a widow, who just lost her husband, is different from the loneliness of a boy who is sick in bed and can’t go outside to play with his friends. And just as there is no one type of loneliness, there is also no one solution as to how to cure loneliness. Different problems require different solutions.
One important dimension of loneliness is the frequency with which a person feels lonely. Some people rarely, if ever, feel lonely. Very often such people feel lonely because of some immediate situation, like a cold rainy day or going on a distant business trip away from family and friends. This type of loneliness is referred to as state loneliness because the loneliness appears based on the state or situation the person is in. In contrast is a more persistent type of loneliness. This type of loneliness persists regardless of the situation that person findings himself/herself in. Loneliness appears to be much more of a trait of that person. Accordingly this type of loneliness is referred to as trait loneliness.
So what does state and trait loneliness have to do with how to get rid of loneliness? Interestingly, state and trait lonely people cope with loneliness differently. State lonely people take much more of a proactive approach in dealing with their loneliness. They focus on what is causing their loneliness and try to solve the problem. They also try to use what is referred to as “active” coping strategies, including such things as exercising, listen to music, working on a hobby, etc. These things help to take their minds off of loneliness and make more positive use of their time.
In contrast are trait lonely people. Trait loneliness appears to be a more complex issue. From some preliminary results I have begun to collect over the internet, trait lonely people appear to fall into two categories. Firstly, there are trait lonely people who seem to have given up on trying to solve their loneliness problem. They withdraw from painful situations of loneliness and end up using “sad passive” coping strategies. These strategies do not attempt to solve the problem of loneliness but rather is an effort to try and deflect some of the pain of loneliness. Such strategies might be crying, over eating, sleeping more, drinking, watching TV, etc. Naturally since these coping strategies do not try to solve the problem or make positive use of their time, the loneliness persists over time. However, the situation with such kinds of trait loneliness may be more complex that simply not using the right kinds of coping. Research has also shown that trait loneliness to ! be associated with other negative components such as low self-esteem, depression, suicide, etc. Some research even suggests that such trait loneliness may have some link to a person’s past. There may be confounding problems in the past that might have resulted in a barrage of negative symptoms one of which is loneliness. To help alleviate this type of loneliness may require some degree of counseling to resolve some of these issues.
There also appears to be another category of trait lonely people. The main goal of these trait lonely people is ironically, to find that special someone for themselves. One of the founding fathers of loneliness research suggested that loneliness is “separation distress without an object.” What does this mean? From the time we are born we form an attachment with our caregiver (usually our parents). The caregiver becomes an attachment figure who provides us with a sense of security and comfort. Ever notice a child when he/she can’t find his/her mother? They cry, appear to be in serious distress and look for their caregiver everywhere. Is this not quite similar to lonely people? Some lonely people look for their attachment figure everywhere, and are in distress when they can’t find that special person to love. But why is that?
There are several possible reasons. One is that the person already had that special someone and they left (death, divorce, moved to another area, etc.) Another reason is that a person lacks the social skills to make and form friendships. Such persons might be shy or socially anxious. Yet another reason maybe the culture in which we live. Especially in Western culture, society prides itself on individuality and personal freedom. Successful relationships however require some degree of compromise. Comprise may require encroachment on one’s personal freedom which may not be desired. The end result maybe that you don’t find that special someone simply because that special someone is more of a figment of our imagination than an actual real person. A last final reason for people who are trait lonely and yet looking for that special someone they cannot find, maybe due to the fact that they maybe unwilling to let down their defenses. Usually when people are hurt in the past b! y people they love, they are more unwilling to be open to love the next time it comes around (“once bitten, twice shy”). However, to be in a relationship requires one to let down some of their defenses and be open to the possibility of being hurt again. Only then can true meaningful relationships form. But being open to love requires time, patience and perhaps “taking things slow.” If you cannot be hurt, then you cannot be loved.
Loneliness is described by many as a very painful thing. Helping to know what causes your loneliness will help you get rid of it. I hope that the above descriptions of some of the types of loneliness will help you on your path to get rid of it. To get more information about loneliness or to help me further my research about loneliness please visit my website http://web.aces.uiuc.edu/loneliness/
I am a graduate student at the University of Illinois doing some research into loneliness. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and the url for my site is http://web.aces.uiuc.edu/loneliness/ It provides information about loneliness, additional loneliness website links and a place to share your loneliness experiences with me.