The experience of loneliness
When deprived of social relationships, loneliness becomes the biggest challenge. This is why people join clubs, special interest groups, and religious and political organizations in an effort to be socially connected. However, having many acquaintances may still make some people feel lonely. It is because without the emotional connection one may feel lonely in the crowd.
The Sound of Silence
Simon and Garfunkel have composed one of the top-20 most performed songs of the 20th century, ’The Sound of silence’. The lyrics of the song describes people in the crowd, they “talk” without “speaking”, they “hear… without listening”. The worst of all, they write “songs that voices never share”. Strangely, they even manage to “pray” quietly.
Clearly, the answer to loneliness is not just the quantity of relationships, but whether the connections satisfy emotional needs. Some people have few relationships but still enjoy the experience of being alone. If we find ourselves a good company whom we feel the connection, our needs for others are diminished. Those who have rich emotional lives are less dependent on others for satisfaction of emotional needs.
Two forms of loneliness
Social loneliness is produced by the absence of an adequate social network of friends. The answer to this kind of loneliness is to establish new person-to-person contacts in the community.
Emotional loneliness is the deprivation felt from the absence of intimacy in our lives. We all need at least one significant other with whom we can share intimate thoughts and feelings, whether in the form of a friend or a spouse. An emotionally lonely person may be well connected socially, but still feel alone in the crowd.
Our childhood experiences predispose us toward the type of relationship styles we developed as infants, and these styles are stable across a person’s lifetime. Infant attachment styles determine whom we associate with as adults, how we relate to our love partners, our friends, and eventually our own children. The infant’s relationship with the primary caregiver is critical to the success of adult relationships. The experience of feeling safe, secure and being valued forms the foundation from which we develop our sense of ‘self’. It also becomes a guiding pole from which we see those whom we intend to develop a close relationship with.