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wundayatta's avatar

What role has loneliness played in your life?

Asked by wundayatta (58625points) March 22nd, 2012

What kinds of loneliness have you experienced? Do you feel connected to others or not? How has this changed over the course of your life? Has your loneliness, if you have had any, been existential? If so, how is that different from other kinds of loneliness?

For me, loneliness has always been there, lurking in an existential way. It has driven me, driven me to find lovers in an attempt to achieve my holy grail—being one with someone else as in being in their head, mind with mind… no barriers.

Over the years I have come to grips with the hopelessness of that idea. It cannot happen. So I’ve tried to learn to feel like I am a person without knowing there are other people. I’ve been learning to be a person with these reflections that others provide for me. I’ve been learning to be grateful we don’t share minds.

But still, if I was ever given a chance, I would share a mind with someone I loved and who loves me. In a heartbeat!

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27 Answers

ro_in_motion's avatar

I have struggled mightily for true love but have yet to find someone that fully accepts me. By rights, I should give up the quest but the heart wants what the heart wants.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I was discussing this with my therapist just today, as a matter of fact. I am a lonely person. I am a recluse most of the time, and when I’m in a group, I feel insecure. Most of my social interaction these days is done on the Internet.

I have very good relationships with my children and my ex-wife. I see the 2 younger children on the weekends. I thrive on those times. We play games and talk and cook and eat. We do quite a bit together.

I believe I’ve been lonely most of my life. For me, it appears to be a simple defense mechanism to keep from getting hurt. If I stay out of social interactions with other people, they can’t hurt me.

I must say that it got worse after I was diagnosed with bipolar. I simply don’t want to leave my house most of the time. It’s disconcerting and frustrating.

yankeetooter's avatar

I have been lonely my whole life, and everytime I find that someone (S/O or good friend), I find out how wrong I was when they desert me…

gailcalled's avatar

When my husband of 22 years left our marriage, I felt oddly unpopular, almost as though I were back in junior high school.

However, I discovered that I did not need to have my dance card completely filled, that I could go to dinner, the movies, a concert or a theater performance alone and have a good time, or I could stay home and amuse myself and my cat, who always laughs at my jokes.

In the area where I live, it seems easy to chat with strangers if we are sitting side by side on the lawn at Tanglewood or in the audience (200 seat capacity) of our local performing arts center or at the film club’s Sunday indie movies.

I also find that I very often bump into friends or acquaintances and can latch on if I want. It is always lovely to go home to my house, my cat and my privacy at the end of the day, however.

I should add that I am happily past the point of wanting a lover or a boyfriend or even a boy toy anymore. What a relief.

gailcalled's avatar

P.S. I had decades filled with first one husband, then a busy single life for eight years, then a second husband.

Throw in my two kids, my second husband’s three sons, my first husband’s step-son and then new son, my second husband’s former wife and her boyfriend who was our dentist, and my first husband’s second and third wives. We were all one big happy family too much of the time. There were days when I dreamed of a desert island.

Everyone was invited (and usually came) to every ninth grade D squad hockey game, every play, every graduation, every birthday party and every holiday celebrated on the planet.

ro_in_motion's avatar

@gailcalled I am so impressed that you could keep all that together!

gailcalled's avatar

Looking back, I wonder how I did. And sometimes it does seem like a dream. For over twenty years the second Mr. Gailcalled and I had a huge summer house in the Adirondacks. No heat, no showers, and no road. But 17 beds, most of which were filled much of every summer.

I need to go lie down for a while.

Trillian's avatar

Hmmm. I guess I get lonely sometimes. But I can’t imagine living with anyone again. All I have to do is spend a few minutes in company with people and I remember why I live alone. My opinions are so far out of synch with almost everyone around me that opening my mouth is pointless. Things that interest me get me blank stares and headshakes.
I have a couple actual friends who get me, and can discuss with me the things I feel are important. That keeps me relatively sane.
But I have nothing to add to any given conversation that I overhear and cannot imagine spending any amount of time with most of the people with whom I see on a daily basis. Things that seem so important to them strike me as so trite and trivial that I don’t dare even engage.
And considering the unhappiness of my previous relationships, sometime loneliness vs loneliness AND constant strife is an easy pick for me.

rojo's avatar

Looking back, I would have to say that I have not been lonely very much. In fact, it seems that there have been very few times when I have even been alone for extended periods of time, let alone lonely.
So, very little is the answer.

Coloma's avatar

I have no existential loneliness. I am very comfortable with myself, my being, my fleeting existence and mortality and see it as a natural thing, nothing to be feared or resisted.
On a human level I have occasional moments of loneliness, but only in the intellectual sense, wanting more interesting friends than I presently have, but, I manage with the few that are fulfilling consorts.

I do not experience any real “loneliness” I am a fully integrated and self actualized person and truthfully? I like my own company best of all most of the time, next to my daughter who shares many of my interests, humor and personality.
At 50 something now I no longer feel any big pull to drum up new relationships, I am at peace, content and while open to new friendships I am not seeking. It’s all good. ;-)

ZEPHYRA's avatar

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have always felt as though I have been dropped off in the world by mistake, or, I was on my way elsewhere and somehow got lost here ever since. I get by simply because I have to, but I am so disconnected and misplaced.

augustlan's avatar

I don’t think I’ve ever really felt lonely, at least not for more than an afternoon. I have often struggled with a sense of ‘otherness’, sort of like what @Trillian described, but never really longed much for company. I really like being alone, I guess.

rooeytoo's avatar

@ZEPHYRA – what in interesting idea, I never heard anyone express those feelings in such an understandable way. Getting by because you have to is all that anyone needs to do really. And if you desire more, you can probably have it, it just takes a lot of work.

I was lonely for a period in my life. I had lost my parents and 2 young men who were like sons to me, my best friend had just married and I was in the midst of a divorce. Christmas came and I was completely alone with about 100 dogs in my kennel and of course no help on Christmas day. I went through that entire Christmas eve and day with absolutely no human contact. Before it happened, when I knew I was going to be alone, I thought perhaps I would die. I was terrified and mortified that life had dealt me such a cruel blow. But the fact is I made it through the day, it was no big deal, just one more 24 hour increment in my life. From that day on, I have never feared loneliness. And like so many pieces of my life, when I no longer fear them they lose their power over me and just sort of dwindle into nothingness.

DaphneT's avatar

Loneliness and how I’ve handled it has certainly shaped my personality. I prefer to be alone most of the time. I detest being alone in a crowd where everyone is supposed to know each other. I don’t mind being alone in a crowd of strangers. Over the years I’ve come to recognize that some loneliness I’ve caused for myself, some has been thrust upon me by the discourtesy of others. Some loneliness just happens.

I was a great fan of Spock and his ability to mind meld and really really really wanted to find someone who wanted to meld minds with me. I still do, even though I understand the process won’t be quite like that. Cie la vie.

Trillian's avatar

@ZEPHYRA, you’ve described what I’ve always felt has happened to me. Ever since I was a kid I imagined that the cartoon stork dropped me by mistake here on this planet but was on his way elsewhere when it happened. By the time the mix-up was discovered, it was too late and I was stuck here. But I really don’t belong here at all.

noraasnave's avatar

Among the many kinds of loneliness one can feel, these seem to me to be rare and unique: intellectual loneliness, gender loneliness, and spiritual loneliness.

Intellectual loneliness:
In the recent past, I have felt like I was the only person in my unit, peer group, social network that could:
– understand the dynamics of human interaction (between different genders, background, ethnicities, and ages) and truly understand where a person is ‘coming from’.
– understand that true respect must be given before it will be recieved.
– understand that good planning and communication overcome 90% of all unit problems.

Out of this loneliness, came a undeniable respect for my own intelligence and intelligence in others. Though, it could be used as a weapon, it is better used as a tool to make life better for as many people as possible.

Gender loneliness:
On a base with all male Marines for 9 months, I realized that I required female interaction on many ‘levels’, but the most essential level to my sanity was conversation. There is a magical, mysterious good that I felt, just talking to a woman, especially after being away from this beautiful gender for so many months!

Out of this loneliness, came a respect for the role that women play in my life, with far-reaching implications across society. I learned a bit more about listening, because women are generally so damn good at it.

Spiritual loneliness:
In the same environment I just mentioned in the proceeding paragraph. I was the only one that would use the little make shift chapel on base.

Out of this loneliness for human interaction, came a profound sense of divine interaction, as if, God was saying “I want you all to myself for a while.”

Brian1946's avatar

Loneliness has driven me to live in a room full of mirrors.

lonelydragon's avatar

I was lonesome as a child and teenager because, being the bookish type, I couldn’t really relate to other girls who were interested in “normal things” like fashion, fast cars, and makeup. I preferred the world of ideas to the pursuit of typical teenage amusements. As I grew older, I did manage to find people with the same shared interests as myself. I’ll never have a raft of friends, but that to me is less important than maintaining a few, loyal friends. Also, as an introvert, I have developed the ability to enjoy my own company and occupy myself when the need arises.

@ZEPHYRA I feel the same way. My own family members say that I dropped from the moon because I’m so unlike them. Today, I have a partner who accepts my quirks, but even he doesn’t fully understand them sometimes.

wundayatta's avatar

The worst time of my life was when I was 16—the age my daughter is about to enter. She had a lot of friends at her old school, but in high school—she has friends, but they don’t come over to visit or anything. Maybe a sleepover once or twice a year. She seems to be losing touch with her friends from her old school, although it’s hard to tell with Facebook.

I live with a fear that she might enter into that kind of loneliness I felt then, the first time I started thinking about suicide. I never really wanted to die, but I was very, very miserable. I hope I can keep that from her.

I was 20 when I finally fell in love with someone who also fell in love with me. I’d had other girlfriends, but our loves never really matched and left me feeling like I was missing something. This feeling of not being known and of not really knowing had dogged me throughout much of my life.

Marriage does help, though. At least a person has committed to stay with you. But you can be lonely withing marriage, too. Sometimes you want to get away and be on your own. Sometimes you hide in your room on in your computer. Why hide? Because I was lonely. Because I didn’t think I could connect with my wife. It hurt. Running away to other interests seemed to make up for the loneliness.

I’m always open to make a connection with someone, though. It might me intellectual or musical or spiritual. It might be a friendship. The only things that are ruled out are love relationships. I work on my marriage, sometimes with the help of a counselor, to rebuild our love and that’s always a work in progress. Sometimes it causes me despair. Sometimes I have great hope.

And it seems to me that life will always be like that. Always seeking to build a stronger connection. Never actually building the connection I am hoping for. But I signed up for this woman, in my marriage, and I feel like I have to keep trying, even though things are not perfect and may never get much closer to perfect.

Which still leaves me partially alone. The human condition. Or, perhaps this human’s condition. It’s not bad. It could be better. And of course, I know it could also be a hell of a lot worse.

stardust's avatar

Loneliness has featured prominently throughout my life. It doesn’t feel as unfortunate now as it once did and I hope to integrate it more as I grow and mature.
I’ve always felt a sense of loneliness. I feel as though @ZEPHYRA ‘s response articulates how I feel a lot of the time.

Aster's avatar

I’ve been lonely twice: when I was yanked from my high school and moved out of state I cried every night and agonized wanting to go back home. All was cool after school started and I met two friends (and a boy) to hang out with. The other time was when I was separated after eighteen years and lived with my daughter. That lasted a year. So I have not been lonely in twenty four years! I’m good company for myself and enjoy my books, daughter and her family and hobbies.

ro_in_motion's avatar

The reason I got an account here is that I have been incredibly alone the last 3 years. I don’t know when or if my circumstances will change so I’m not so entirely alone in the real world.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Yes, disjointed, disconnected, disassociated…..I guess that just about covers it.

Berserker's avatar

What role has it played, eh I denno that. I feel lonely often, but more than that, I often just feel helpless. Prolly cuz I feel there’s no one around. I mean like, no matter how many friends you have, or how many people are around you, you’re really just on your own all the time. People keep telling me to talk and express myself and ask for help and shit, but if I do, I just get patronized and pushed away. Then again, I prolly do the same to people I say those things to. What a stupid ass world lol.
But it has taught me to look after myself, and to not rely on people for shit only I can achieve for myself, anyways. I’m not very practical about a lot of things, but I’m streetwise. Slightly, Lol. Maybe I got the whole thing wrong, but that’s how I see it. And it helps a lot, for whatever that’s worth at this given time, I guess. Like, when I look back and shit. Then again maybe I’m just convincing myself, or trying to justify myself to myself. But it’s like, I’m not a murderer or a Nazi or anything, so I’d have to say that loneliness is a pretty good mentor, even if I feel it’s a harsh one many times, yeah? My car sucks and it smells like rotten eggs, but it fuckin works, man! :D

ProTip; I don’t even own no car yo.

flutherother's avatar

I feel a little lonely at times but never too much as I carry lots of people around with me in my head, mostly real people who are close to me plus a few I have never met. When you understand someone well the thoughts and feelings are there even when not face to face or speaking on the phone.

MilkyWay's avatar

What role it has played?
It has been my companion through most of my life.

Ela's avatar

Loneliness has always been a part my life. Usually as a result of people not accepting and/or understanding me. I started feeling it more heavily about 10 years ago. Since then it has been a constant weight, a constant presence. Up until then I had kept busy and therefore never felt the loneliness for any length of time. Today I feel it everyday. Some days I deal with it better than others.
I need to have someone special I can completely adore and be freely affectionate with. Only problem is that it can’t be just anyone. It takes someone very special to bring that out in me. I have almost met one person in my life who was able to allow me to express myself in the way I needed. Someone who accepted me completely. Almost.
You can toss whatever label on me you deem fit. A lot of people may call me insecure because I actually need someone. That may be so. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s just the way I am.
It has never driven me to find someone but it has made me feel a sense of hopelessness at times. It’s made me feel like I was wrong for the way I think some things should be, especially in a relationship.
It’s made feel that I was crazy and not normal. Which I am neither.
It is a part of me and allows me to see and feel thing a lot things people don’t.
Loneliness has made me take a long look at myself and brought me to conclusion that I’m okay just the way I am.

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