Today, there are over 7 billion people living in the world, and thanks to technology we can connect with them more quickly and easily than ever before. But yet, loneliness hasn’t left us, if anything it has grown stronger and even more demanding. Nowadays, we don’t only feel lonely when we’re alone, but loneliness also occurs when we are together. In the modern world, loneliness has morphed into something else, something more difficult and complicated to overcome.
Loneliness is the feeling of being completely on your own, without anyone to truly connect with. But this emotion is not only a result of physical isolation, but also mental isolation. The mental barriers we erect to protect our emotions from the outside world or to protect the world from our emotions, leave us disconnected. Caging ourselves in our own minds where no one can reach us, completely alone.
This article will take a look at the modern form of loneliness, the mental loneliness, and uncover the mental patterns which lead to it.
The Need for Connection
Whether we like it or not, we are social animals. Throughout millions of years, we evolved to function in groups, families, and tribes. We survive by caring for each other and relying on others.
As infants, we’re completely unable to fulfill our own needs, and therefore must depend on others in order to survive. We must rely on our caregivers to feed us, care for us, and satisfy our every need. For that reason, we are programmed to seek the company of others from the moment come out to the world until the day we leave it. Continuously seeking the company of others like us, and a connection with someone who we can bond with and trust.
The uncomfortable sensation we feel when there’s no one around who we can trust is called loneliness. It is the emotion which comes to tell us that we’ve been separated from those who care about us, and now we’re on our own. Telling us that deep within we feel unsafe.
Therefore, loneliness is not only about other people, but people who we feel that truly care about us – our people. So even when other people are around, if we can’t trust them, we still feel lonely.
Making loneliness to be the emotion which signifies not just being alone, but also the absence of trust in the people around us, and the lack of an honest and meaningful personal connection. A core connection which goes beyond roles, formalities, and titles.
Today, as we are surrounded by people just about everywhere we go, the main reason for feelings of loneliness is not the lack of company, but the lack of meaning. Our connections with others are usually formal, forced, and superficial.
As we display to others an image of who we believe they expect us to be, the person we truly are remains disconnected from the experience. Our internal need for a connection isn’t being met, and we find ourselves unable to trust anyone around us, simply because they don’t really know us.
Feeling like nobody can see us, nobody listens and nobody understands. Where we are now we are completely alone, and there’s no one here but us. Since the person we truly are is not good enough to be exposed, all we can do is keep to ourselves. Reinforce our mask and pretend that this isn’t happening. Pretend to still be the happy and social person that we’re expected to be, and to our best, so that others won’t know. And they won’t, because deep inside they are just the same.
But by keeping this from them, we also make it impossible for them to accept us. Because if they have never been exposed to our true selves they can never approve of us. Therefore we can never really trust them, and we would also never get the chance to find out that they are actually just the same as us.
Frankly, the majority of people in the modern society are ashamed of who they are. Feeling that they’re not good enough and that the person they are isn’t who they should’ve been. This judgment we have of ourselves causes us to put on a mask and pretend to be someone we’re not. By presenting others with an image which isn’t truly us, we deprive ourselves of having any chance for a meaningful connection. And it is this act of pretending which is the cause of loneliness in the modern world.
Pretending as the Cause of Loneliness – Playing a role
This act we put on to make others think that we are perfect – an idealized version of ourselves – is a sort of a mental barricade. It protects us and keeps us safe from judgment, but at the same time, it prevents others like us from connecting with us.
It is the judgment of ourselves and our own qualities which make others who are just like us feel judged, and it is their judgment of themselves which makes us feel judged. By disqualifying certain qualities in ourselves we end up making others around us feel bad for having the same qualities. And the worst thing is, that we usually do that just because our parents, which are a lot like us, were judging themselves.
Shaming, criticizing, and judging others is a downward spiral. We judge people for not being good enough, and in return, they do the same to us. As time goes by, no one feels safe being themselves anymore, and everyone feels bad. Eventually, all of us become stuck in our characters, pretending to be a person which is good, productive, and successful. Causing our interactions to become synthetic, forced, and fake, without any honesty, connection, or meaning.
These barricades which were meant to protect us from being judged are now acting against us, and to reduce our loneliness we must take them apart. We must find someone to whom we can show our true face. Allow someone to see the person behind the mask, the true and imperfect us. The one that fails, makes mistakes and feel bad. Hoping that taking our mask off, we will allow others around us to feel safe enough to also remove theirs.
We must escape this trap, and break this vicious cycle. We must allow others to be themselves, receive them for who they truly are, and let them receive us. And by letting others feel more comfortable for being imperfect, we would be able to feel more comfortable as well. Comfortable enough to stop pretending and finally truly connect.
So if you’re feeling lonely, it is time to allow yourself to be imperfect. Be human, not a machine.
Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.