Isolation is often thought of in physical terms, as being a process where people physically remove themselves from other people and live apart, either from society or from family and friends and other people.
Isolation is sometimes thought of as a good thing, often in the context of someone who lives apart from other people in a spiritual or religious context, such as a hermit or a monk. Isolation is quite often confused inadvertently, with the idea of people living with a measure of solitude or separateness from other people.
The damaging sense of isolation can also apply to many other people who feel the need to shut down from society generally, and see a sense of isolation for themselves as a form of protection, as a defence mechanism against the world.
In this sense isolation is much more than purely a physical separation, it is an emotional sense of removing yourself from he process of engaging with other people and the reality of the world around you.
The nature of isolation in an emotional sense often begins in childhood, as a defence mechanism for children or adolescents to cope with a dangerous or unsafe situation that they do not feel able either to engage in, or to understand.
In effect what happens, is that they experience a situation that is dangerous or unsafe, but are unable to interpret and evaluate it and make sense of that situation. They end up effectively, internalizing something that does not make sense to them but which they have experienced.
This type of shutting down or internalizing of an experience that does not make sense, is a very natural and in some ways protective defence mechanisms that most people have, and can be used in an emergency.
For people who are struggling with alcoholism or other addictions, emotional isolation is a very primary defence mechanism. People who are alcoholics will see it as a way of protecting themselves in a world that they do not understand and find difficult to cope with.
There will inevitably be a sense of safety associated with this emotional isolation, and the sense of safety can be very attractive. From a spiritual point of view it is important to note that this sense of safety is primarily an illusion, and whilst it can seem attractive, it is very damaging to ones spirit.
The important point here in many ways is that isolation when taken as a defence mechanism can serve an important purpose. There will also come a point where it outgrows that purpose and becomes a trap for an individual.
For an alcoholic or anyone with any type of addiction, the reality of it being a defence mechanism can very quickly turn into a fundamental sense of denial about their problem.
What is important is that if some sense of safety can be achieved emotionally, this will allow them to understand the nature of such isolation, and the realisation that whilst it once effected a degree of protection, it is now an emotional state that potentially damages them.
In a spiritual sense, the damage is done by preventing them from engaging with reality, and all the subsequent spiritual and emotional growth that goes with that.
For an alcoholic or anyone else with an addiction, such a block from reality will inevitably end in disastrous consequences, unless they are lucky enough for some reason to engage with reality and begin the process of integrating themselves back into their own lives and society as a whole.
Peter Main is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes extensively about all areas of self growth and self development. He has a particular focus on self help issues for people who are in recovery from or who have been affected by alcoholism and other addictions.Some people begin their journey of recovery and healing in a rehab, others in a twelve step fellowship such as Alcoholics Anonymous, others in a religious or spiritual setting. He has worked in this field for just under thirty years and has extensive experience in many areas of different therapeutic approaches, including counselling, inner child work, meditation, spirituality, adult children work etc.