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Between Loneliness and Laughter

by Zaak Fresh(more info)

listed in mind matters, originally published in issue 92 - September 2003

Being alone does not mean you have to be lonely. The problem is that many consider the terms interchangeable. There is a difference.

While aloneness denotes simply being by oneself, loneliness implies a longing for companionship – a wish not to be alone.

Loneliness is non-discriminatory. It can attack anyone anywhere, for what may seem to be for no apparent reason. The feeling of being alone with no end in sight, while partially, if not totally, immobilized by those beliefs, is what makes the lonely person a prisoner.

Between Loneliness and Laughter

People are social by nature. It is important to have meaningful physical and emotional interactions with others. Depending upon whom one asks, loneliness is a feeling or a condition. It is hard to describe and intricate to defeat. What does loneliness mean to you?

Irrational, infeasible interpretations of our current life situation greatly contribute to the lessening of our self-confidence. The first step is to identify negative self-thoughts about one's life situation. Then look for contrary evidence to those irrational thoughts.

Some people are better at alleviating their emotional seclusion than others. They can hide inner feelings of a monadic existence, while the rest of the world seems to cruise carefree. For the emotionally strong, mental seclusion is a fleeting feeling. It comes and goes, visiting them once in a while at best. And when despair arrives, they handle it as temporary.

For others who are less fortunate, loneliness absorbs their entire being – like a constrictor snake suffocating its victims. The less willful see this as a curse – a shadow that follows them all the time. With each human contact they have an enhanced sense of their own isolation. People with low self-esteem often believe that others would not be interested in knowing them, and that their overall weakness is justified.

Older adults are often at risk of friendlessness because of disruptions to their social networks over time. Their children may have moved away. Grandchildren, who were once so playful and cuddly, got older and became more involved in school and activities with friends closer to their own age and energy. The older person's spouse and friends may become ill or die, leaving a grim retirement down the road. A dissolved workplace, physical disabilities, sensory loss or illness may prevent older citizens from participating in the activities with others that they used to enjoy. Some individuals are no longer able to stay in their own home or familiar surroundings. This results in the loss of connections with friends and neighbours.

Loneliness is a feeling of emptiness and hollowness inside an individual. It results from smothered, festering feelings of isolation that produce the belief of being separated and cut-off from the rest of the living, happy world.

There are varying degrees of isolation. One may experience it as a vague feeling that something is not quite right. This is nothing more than a minor emptiness. In highly affected sufferers, aggravated versions of loneliness are ideas of intense social deprivation and rooted agony. Feelings of this type can easily turn to harmful acts, or thoughts to actnegatively towards others.

Occasionally, everyone feels lonely. It is only when a person feels trapped in that solitude that it becomes a problem for themselves and others around them. It is maintained when people do nothing to change sadness towards a positive, creative direction. It is effortless to sit and hope for sadness to fly away. When waiting fails is when sorrow takes over. People experiencing it often engage in defensive behaviours that perpetuate intolerable feelings.

Others compensate for their feelings of loneliness by over activity. By working long hours, immersing themselves in insufficient activities to avoid the painful feelings. Others unintentionally sabotage their relationships by exhibiting overly possessive, clinging, dependent behaviour. Some attempt to anaesthetize themselves with food and/or alcohol and other drugs. All of these behaviours are self-defeating.

Loneliness is a painful emotional feeling of being disconnected, cut-off or isolated from the rest of our world. It is a feeling that something is missing from our lives. Almost everyone experiences loneliness at some time in his or her life. There are many factors that contribute to feeling lonely.

When we are separated from familiar people and places, we often feel disconnected, like we don't belong. Usually, as we meet people and become familiar with places, the feeling subsides fairly quickly.

People experiencing loneliness often feel depressed, anxious or angry. Some may experience physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomach pain and reduced energy. They are often overly self-critical and self-absorbed in their unhappiness.

Some people feel disconnected and disenfranchised because they don't know how to approach or contact others socially. Many fear being rejected so they don't attempt to make friends or develop relationships. How can people interpret feeling alone? And what will be their commitment to extricate themselves from the mire?


To stop feeling lonely, the person must recognize those depressed feelings, then accept them. For most, admitting such is very difficult, but that should not be seen as a sign of their personal weakness. Expressing one's feelings in a peaceful, respectful way can only be a good thing. Do it and feel the tension ease.

Challenge the reality of your pessimistic or negative thought. Be a bit selfish. Do some things you want to do for yourself. This is a good time to focus on you and learn more about yourself. Develop personal interests that you may not have had time for before.

Take an aggressive approach to your own loneliness problem. Sometimes loneliness can make you feel as though you don't want to do anything. This is the time when you should pull out all the stops. A change of activity can turn your mind. Even if you have only a slight interest in something that is non-violently helpful, act on it.

Learning to deal with loneliness is an art. It may be one of the biggest challenges any of us faces in life. Have positive expectations.

Once you identify what it is that makes you feel lonely, you are in a better position to deal with it. Take note of your loneliness when you sense it and try to discover what prompted the feeling.

When you can pinpoint the cause of your loneliness, it will not be hard to find ways to handle it. Often the simplest act can alleviate the problem.

Manage it. Much of the distress and fear of loneliness will diminish when you identify what causes the problem and then attempt to modify the causes and conditions that produce your lonely feelings. When you feel lonely for companionship, invite a friend to dinner.

Even the suggestion of dining out will brighten your spirits. The thrust is to become more active in many more aspects of life. Get your cushiony rump moving and do something. Does the author suggest being active? Wow. We would not want that.

Transform loneliness into something of value to you. Turn it to your advantage by learning to handle it on your own. Know yourself better. Seize the opportunity for personal growth, rather than succumb to frightful periods of suffering. The way you choose to look at something has a direct bearing upon how you will be affected by it.

The battle over loneliness is a battle you may not always win. You may feel crazy, desperate and afraid. However, you can learn to live with loneliness, to overcome it and survive. Be aware that the loneliness problem is really only open to a personal and private solution. There isn't anyone who can solve it for you. Other people can help, but they can't do the nitty-gritty work involved in breaking through the loneliness barrier. Another solution might be to write in a diary about days past. There are countless hotlines that invite those who are in trouble to call in to discuss problems with people who have endured similar histories.

Drawing, painting a picture, making up a song or doing anything else that lets us begin to express the feelings we have inside us are all initial steps one can take to get on the road to feeling better. We might be able to begin to see where these feelings are coming from and make constructive changes.

Parents, family or friends are useful outlets we so easily ignore. Telephone, write, e-mail or visit them. Talking to an understanding friend can often help change a person's emotional forecast.

If we don't have an understanding friend, talking with a pastor, teacher or counsellor might be a place to start.

A great way to spend time with people and feel good about your contribution to the world is by volunteering. If your anxiety disorder is keeping you from volunteering in a traditional way, use your imagination. Going into an online chat room and talking to someone else who is lonely is a start in the aggressive direction. If you are ready to volunteer outside your home, look for places that will be anxiety-friendly, such as churches, hospitals and nursing homes.

Getting involved in some sort of activity or club can take our minds off feeling lonely as we get involved in some sort of enjoyable activity; something one can tolerate doing for a precious few minutes.

If you're not sure what your interests are, just start participating until you find what you love. What would it take for a little attitude adjustment? It can provide some structure in our lives so that we have things to look forward to. It can remind us of how good we might have felt in the past doing similar things. Get involved in something because you know you've enjoyed it in the past or because you think it might be fun. That way you're more likely to find yourself enjoying what you're doing and being with people who genuinely enjoy the same things. You may also find out that some people like you for the way you already are. An added bonus is that you might also begin to realize that you could choose to engage in some of those activities or interests entirely on your own, without feeling afraid.

Everyone feels lonely from time to time. Using some of the suggestions above will help you to cope better with those feelings. A certain amount of loneliness in someone's life is to be expected. Don't try to escape it by running away from it. Don't wallow in panic.

Exercise and physical activity will increase your energy and help you to feel better about yourself. Work on developing relationships with others, through improved listening and communication skills. Seek opinions. Maintain a good attitude.

Present a positive self-image. Let others know from your body language that you welcome their communication with you.

If you find that you are having difficulty dealing with overwhelming feelings on your own, seek out the help of a mental health professional in your community. Please.


Booker B. Life's Fun & Fulfilling. Richmond Times Dispatch. p.C-1. 1992.
Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). 287:. 2002.
The National Association of Self Esteem Newsletter. p10. 2003.
National Institute of Mental Health. NIH Publication No. 02-3561. 2000.
Reasoner R. The True Meaning of Self Esteem. National Association of Self Esteem.Org
Reasoner R. Building Self Esteem. Consulting Psychology Press. 1982.
Williams JW. Is This Patient Clinically Depressed?
World Health Organization. Keep Fit For Life. p97. 2002.


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About Zaak Fresh

About the Author The author is a freelance writer who grew up and lives in New Jersey. He can be contacted at


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