Please read the foreword to this before continuing reading. Pretty please with Royce chocolates on top?
I wrote in my blog once, that loneliness isn’t physical, at least it rarely is.
I’m probably not alone (no pun intended) in feeling lonely when surrounded by people. Why do we feel lonely? Superficially, the cause of loneliness is the lack of company, thus strengthening the feeling of ‘being alone’. With that said, how do you feel lonely when you are surrounded by company?
Yet, fact of the matter is, we can feel lonely when we’re surrounded by people in the bustling cities that we live in, when we’re in the company of strangers and at times, even when we’re in the company of those closest to us. How does that work though?
To some extent, I’m sure you readers know what I’m talking about and instinctually we all know why we feel lonely even when we’re surrounded by people we know. Somehow, it’s completely understandable to feel lonely when we’re surrounded by strangers but not with people we know. That is because we have already established that strangers do not know us, do not understand us. Our identities are only as real as those who acknowledge it. This is going to get a little if not very abstract but bear with me.
We all exist physically, with our bodies, fat or skinny, old or young, tall or short, no? Our senses of touch, hearing, sight and smell constantly reflect our surroundings to us, providing our consciousness with proof that we exist. We wouldn’t need to do this if our human minds could comprehend existence outside of our conscious knowledge, but we cannot. Alright , so all these sound like some philosophical bullshit, I blame IB and TOK again, but let me make this easy to understand.
Once again, let us bring in my favourite imaginary person, Bob.
Let’s just say that the reality Bob lives in is a white box that 4m by 4m big. Now in this box, there is a rabbit, a pot of flowers and a rock. Bob knows that the rabbit exists because he has felt it, heard it, been thoroughly annoyed by its furry existence and is forced by his senses to recognize that his only animate company is a fluffy white rabbit. Bob knows that the pot of flowers is there because he sees it, he smells it and well, it’s like, THERE, so naturally Bob’s consciousness registers that there is a pot of flowers in the room. So far, Bob’s version of this reality he lives in tells him that there’s a fluffy white rabbit and a pot of flowers in the room along with him.
Of course you will ask me now, what happened to Mr Rock? Well sadly, Mr rock is at the far corner of the room, out of sight and thus out of mind. Bob cannot see the rock, neither the rabbit nor the pot of flowers will tell Bob that there is a rock in the room, so as far as Bob is concerned, in this reality, there is no rock. Poor Mr rock’s existence isn’t acknowledged. Does that mean that Mr Rock doesn’t exist? No, of course not! Mr Rock knows full well within his own consciousness that he exists, but because no one else in that white box knows he’s there, he’s effectively, alone. Why? Do you really need to ask why? BECAUSE NO ONE KNOWS HE EXISTS DAMMIT! HE IS ALONE IN HIS VERSION OF REALITY! Does that not call for the right to feel loneliness?
Now if we swap Mr Rock, the pot of flowers and the rabbit into people and the box into the world we live in, does that explain how we can feel lonely when we’re surrounded by people? We are bloody selfish entities, humans that is. We only comprehend the things we have some sort of relationship with, directly or indirectly. As far as our minds are concerned, if we don’t know it, it doesn’t exist to us. So it is very likely that on the other side of the world is a stranger you don’t know and precisely because you don’t know him, he doesn’t exist to you. But if someone tells you about this person, suddenly, HIS EXISTENCE IS ACKNOWLEDGED.
Alright, I’m totally straying now. Ok, so if feeling NOT LONELY is as easy as getting our physical existences acknowledged then why do we feel lonely even around people we know who knows that exist?
The theory behind this would be that we humans can never make things easy for ourselves. To us, our existence is our consciousness, not our body. (You know feeling when you’re out of it and suddenly when you look into the mirror and you don’t recognize your physical self? Yea that happens because our recognition of ourselves is what’s in our head and not the head itself.) What does this mean? This means to feel like our existence is acknowledged by people other than ourselves, we need our consciousness to be understood, not just for our bodies to feel like we exist because there are other physical bodies around us.
So after that extremely long rant, the summary is that: To feel not lonely, we need to be understood.
Sounds easy doesn’t it? We just need to be understood! Yea right, how well do you understand yourself? We need to update our understanding of ourselves every moment we’re alive because we change, things change. What about people who aren’t us and don’t live on our heads? So it’s entirely possible that someone who knew you as well as you know yourself yesterday doesn’t know you today, because you’ve changed. Then what? Then this current version of you suddenly feels like your existence is only validated by yourself and you will feel….yup you guessed it, LONELY!
You know what’s the most ironic thing? We handle loneliness better when we’re actually physically alone. Because we don’t register the existence of other beings around us, so it feels vindicated that we feel lonely because we’re ACTUALL ALONE. When feeling lonely is justified, we treat it just like any other physical condition, like being cold or hot or bored. We deal with it because that’s how it’s supposed to be. The adaptive abilities of mankind…
On the other hand, because we logically assume that we are NOT supposed to feel lonely when we are with company, our minds reject the feeling of loneliness, amplifying it and isolating it, sticks blinking neon lights on it to tell you “YOU SHOULDN’T BE FEELING LONELY!” and soon you’re frustrated that you feel that way and you’re annoyed with yourself and you kinda just spiral down the deep end because you innately refuse to deal with it, since that’s not how it’s SUPPOSED to be. But the people around will continue to refer to you and acknowledge the existence of an being that WAS you and not the you that is now, effectively meaning that your friends are repeated DENYING your present self, whilst constantly reaffirming the existence of “you” who is now a stranger to yourself. Ok, I know I’m confusing, but sit on it, stand on it, do whatever, think about it and you’ll know that this really makes sense ok? Or you can just take my word for it (I personally think this way is easier….)
This explains why we feel lonely even amongst people, be it strangers or the ones close to us. We crave for intellectual understanding of our minds, not bodies, which is why loneliness isn’t in physical.
To quote someone I know, “It’s all in your head.”