The trouble with loneliness, especially with advancing age, is that nobody seems to understand. It’s as tough as living in a “bubble”, with everyone looking in and watching while one just gets on with life. People who are young or middle aged, who have a social life, perhaps a family and plenty of friends/associates, lack empathy and understanding for those who are not as fortunate. It is similar to how we all take our health for granted… until we lose it or something just doesn’t work any more. It is only when a dramatic change in life occurs – such as divorce or a partner dying or some other tragedy – that people are thrust into the world of loneliness.
However, those of us who have lived this life for years, already know, only too well, what it’s like and how tremendously difficult life can be.
If one lives alone, the only contact with other people may be either at work or (if not working) the occasional chance encounter whilst shopping or somewhere similar. Without family and friends, isolation sets in and one’s sense of self-worth becomes severely negated. Sensitivity towards this is, also, something “non lonely” people also don’t understand, because, in their own lives, they are valued and don’t have the insecurities of those of us who aren’t.
Over time, one can become over-sensitised to this way of feeling. I don’t doubt that many “difficult” ways of thinking are formed in childhood but they are certainly enhanced during the journey through life. A few rejections; a number of insults; and plenty of insensitivity all take their toll. One can easily become over-sensitive, resulting in losing friends and, no doubt, upsetting others.
It doesn’t take much for “self destructive tendencies” to take a firm hold as well, depriving the sufferer from the feeling of value that they are so desperately lacking.
In my own case, I have parted company with a number of friends, because I have frequently perceived that they value others more; only contacting me when they want something or when I can be of use to them. This is deeply upsetting and, in itself, perpetuates the feelings of insignificance and isolation.
I even find similar difficulties in business associations (both work and when buying goods and/or services); somehow, nobody seems to value me, only valuing my money and when they can obtain it without having to show any commitment!
The feelings of lacking value, coupled with loneliness, isolation and low self esteem, are self perpetuating: the more you feel undervalued, the more likely you are to distance yourself from people and situations that enforce those feelings.
The biggest issue with feelings of being undervalued is whether it is merely a perception, or whether it is an actual fact; a true and realistic state that gives rise to these destructive thoughts.
Loneliness, itself, gives one the feeling of being useless and not of any value to anyone. After all, if we were “valued”, we wouldn’t be lonely, would we? This is the mind’s simple explanation for what has happened to us and it is not necessarily accurate. In our attempt to understand the world around us, the people and situations we encounter, our minds seem to take the “least line of resistance”: ie, if there appears no logical explanation, accept the blame on oneself. It is very easy to adopt this mindset, because it answers an awkward question and appears to satisfy the mind. However, it is not necessarily correct.
I cite my own case as an example: all of my attempts to form a long-term, steady relationship have failed for reasons beyond my control. However, as the years have progressed and my need for some stability in my life has increased, I have kept away from trying to form a close bond with someone in case I am let down again and suffer more pain and loneliness. Furthermore, because I am not one of the “beautiful people” (those fortunate enough to have had physical beauty bestowed upon them), my perception is that, others would have valued me more.
This, unfortunately, is not altogether untrue; we do very much live in a society where youth and physical beauty are valued immensely, to the point where it is advertised in every aspect of our lives. As youth disappears down the road of life, so does physical beauty and this is very much frowned upon by the hedonistic and shallow ideologies that we are all encouraged to possess.
I firmly believe that the modern lives we live, with technology, healthcare and greater comfort, are making people desensitised to the feelings of others and we are all taking our health and wellbeing for granted, whilst failing to appreciate that others may not be quite so fortunate.
Valuing others, for their individuality or for their existence, is something immensely important; even more so as we age.
But let’s face facts here: are you youngsters ever going to grow old?