By Lori Spensieri
Part 1 – All About Loneliness
What is loneliness? Well, how does one define something that is so personal and subjective? Are some people simply destined to feel lonely for their entire lives? I have felt lonely on and off for my entire life.
Check out my introspective book of poems that demonstate my perosnal experience with feeling lilke i do not fit in anywhere, my diagnosis of social anxiety and my intense need to belong.
It started in high school. At some point in my third year (grade 11), I became way too aware of what I imagined people thought of me. I suddenly worried that I was not interesting enough. I would be talking to someone and the following thought would come crashing down on me, “What if this person is talking to me but there is someone more interesting that they could be talking to?” I found myself wanting more and more to be alone.
- sadness because one has no friends or company.
“feelings of depression and loneliness”
- the fact of being without companions; solitariness.
“the loneliness of a sailor’s life”
- (of a place) the quality of being unfrequented and remote; isolation.
“the loneliness of the farm”
According to the show’s host Tracy (whom I am a huge fan) this the definition of loneliness;
‘The negative feeling of emptiness and the feeling arises when our social needs are not met by the quality and quantity of our social relationships. It effects us emotionally, physically and socially and it affects our bodies and our minds.’
Tracy then pointed out that in the UK there is a Minister of Loneliness. Why would there be a need for such a representative? This is not exactly a rhetorical question. There is a varying need for such a position depending on the level of importance that each society places on social interaction and connecting with other people.
In a society that prides such qualities as togetherness, teamwork and friendship, loneliness may occur more often. In Societies where such qualities as independence, professional success and separateness, tend to experience less loneliness.
See the article by clicking here, that defines the difference between Individualism and Teamwork.
Also, here is an article entitled, “Individualist or Collectivist? How Culture Influences Behaviour
One may ask next, what can you do about it if you feel lonely? I waited until after my episode was recorded and aired before I answered this question.
Loneliness Part 2 – Now that the show has aired.
As a person who struggles with loneliness almost daily, this experience was eye opening. Being interviewed on camera was exciting. It was fun to have a camera following me. I felt like a movie star for the day. Matthew, my six-year-old, seemed to like it too. The most important of this experience is that it was very validating. I am not alone. I am part of a group of individuals who clearly suffer from very similar ailments.
One of the most helpful strategies that I picked up from the show was the tips from Dr. Karyn Gordon. She suggested that one can start a conversation by initiating conversation by using the following three steps:
- Start a discussion about a topic from pop culture (something on TV, movies, sports, celebrities etc. )
- Relate this topic to oneself why adding something personal
- Make the person laugh.
The lesson that I learned from the show, that was not said aloud, was that one should not avoid social interaction. If social interaction with new people makes one nervous he or she should plan ahead. Once can prepare for daily social interactions by doing the following:
- Create a list of conversation topics
- Have knowledge of current events
- Be part of social media (in moderation)
- Attend events (even if just for a little while)
- Smile and be friendly, even if no one is talking to you
- Give complements
- Ask questions about the other person
Dr. Gordon also suggested the idea of finding your tribe. I actually
Here are two clips that show me, Lori, talking about my experiences with Loneliness.
Clip 1 – The Truth about Loneliness – Click here
This first clip talks about loneliness, a new epidemic facing society in startling numbers. Tracy discusses the definition, as well as, the terrible effects that loneliness can have on one’s body and mind.
Clip 2 – The Power of Small Talk – Click here
This clip shows my story in a little more detail. I tell about how my social anxiety and loneliness peaked while taking one of my sons to a very long hockey practice.
As humans we have a very strong need for interaction with other humans. We literally crave closeness and intimacy. True intimacy does not necessarily have to include anything sexual. It is more in reference to the idea of being emotionally close with someone. In an emotionally intimate relationship, each partner is comfortable to be honest with the other. Each partner can be himself or herself and talk about anything. Having someone to really talk to is very important. We all need that.
About 18 years ago I was diagnosed with moderate to severe social anxiety. It fluctuates and affects me differently based on many factors. These factors include; setting, presences of family/friends, my arousal levels (tiredness), the weather and other factors too. I have a therapist that I see regularly. She is very supportive ad
Loneliness vs. Solitude
Lastly, I wanted to mention the idea of the difference between being alone and the concept of solitude. Solitude can be something that is appreciated and enjoyed. One can do many things while in a state of solitude. Mindfulness and reflection can only be done in quiet solitude. When you can enjoy your time alone, you will truly enjoy the time you spend with other people.