The Curse of Loneliness

I am bad with numbers, but that’s no excuse for this post to not start with some factual researched statistics about loneliness that I have come across read and learning about this over the years. But I can say this, and anyone would believe this anyway that people today are lonelier than ever. As clich├ęd as it may sound, in a world where you can reach out to anyone with just some nimble movements of your fingers, we are finding it harder and harder to reach out to anyone.

As humans, we all need people around us. To talk, to share things with, to love, to be friends with, to touch, to laugh with, to cry with, and so many things. Having someone around us is so essential and inherent that even as infants, if our mothers don’t seem around us enough, we are irritable and can grow up to live with potential psychological issues.

Today, when we have the possibility of making friends with people anywhere in the entire world, when we can pick anyone to date with a swipe of a thumb, when we can talk to our family miles away without paying an extra penny, when we can converse face to face with our beloved anywhere in the world no matter how much distance (or time) separates us, we are still ending up alone in coffee shops, sipping our coffee, earphones in our ear and sometimes scribbling on the napkins. On other times, gulping down the food for two by ourselves at a restaurant. And then coming back home with no one to unwind to and narrate how we had a close shave walking down the street or how lovely it was when we met an interesting stranger at the church. And sometimes when our arms feel weary – almost in pain, for lack of someone – a family member, a friend, a lover -  to hold on to when we are feeling down in the dumps. And for many of us, even sadly, we lie in the bed in the arms of another person, still feeling as forlorn as anyone could be.

For the ones who don’t feel lonely, this situation will be seen from a different perspective than the ones who feel lonely. Loneliness, as many might assume, isn’t an objective situation. It is highly subjective. I might be sitting in a room full of people, and yet feel lonely. I might be living all alone, and yet not feel lonely. Well, this is something that many people would know already. But there is a lesser known catch 22 situation that lonely people land themselves into beyond this – the thing that I call the curse of loneliness, to be precise.

The curse is that, very paradoxically, a person who feels lonely avoids with all their might any active human contact they can have. This is the behaviour that keeps them etched into their loneliness and feeds it even more. It’s a never ending loop. You are lonely, you avoid people, as a result you end up even lonelier and again avoid people, and there is no way out of it.

Someone I talked to this afternoon told me I was overthinking it when I told them that when one feels left out, they isolate themselves even more. They probably wouldn’t understand the point I was making.

As a person who has gone through this, I know how another person who is lonely reacts most of the time. It is not ironical or even surprising when a person complains that he is lonely, and yet ends up cancelling plans, saying no to go meet up with someone, giving the excuse that they are busy on the weekend when all they are doing is eating a packet of chips and watching videos on their phone on their bed. They cringe at the sight of a ringing phone, in the dilemma whether to pick it or not and at the same time making up an excuse to give later to the caller as to why they missed the call. They most likely have a string of messages on their phone that are unanswered, with them procrastinating about writing back at the later time of the day when they are ‘free.’

In the world that’s grown to be so individualistic, it is difficult to both get someone else we care about out of loneliness and also to get oneself out of it, thinking about the intrusion we could be making into another’s life by forcing them to go out with us or to call someone up and speak our heart out to them. The era of social media has left us socially handicapped – giving us a false sense of having people around us.

We are all on our own.

Yet, when there’s no one to lend us a hand when we are there in the dumps, we could consider extending our own hand to ourselves; and if possible, sometimes to someone we encounter in the dumps as we make our way out through it.

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