Loneliness is not the state of being alone, but the unpleasant feeling that you are alone. It is the sadness that comes from feeling that you’re not satisfying your social needs. Loneliness is not solitude; solitude is the lack of contact with other people, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are lonely. To put it another way, you may be alone, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are lonely. Loneliness has to do with feeling the need to have your social needs satisfied; when those needs arise. It should be noted that social needs do not necessarily arise all the time.
Everyone has social needs. But some people have those needs more; extroverts have more social needs than introverts, and are therefore more easily prone to feeling lonely. Introverts can also feel lonely, but only in those times when there social needs arise; however, those times are relatively rare. A loner may feel lonely, but being a loner doesn’t necessarily make a person lonely. Loneliness can also be experienced by a person who has lots of friends. You may be interacting with your friends and still feel lonely. This is because loneliness has nothing to do with being alone.
Of course, the root cause of loneliness is the inability to have one’s social needs satisfied. However, this root cause can sure manifests itself when the following happen
Being in the midst of people who don’t understand you
Being in the midst of people who neither understand you nor share your interest can feel lonely, simply because you are not spending time with people who can satisfy your social needs. We all have social needs, and these needs are influenced by several factors, such as interests, values, the need for intimacy, and belief systems.
A person who shares your interest will find it comfortable and fulfilling associating with you. The same can be said about those who share your values and beliefs. Having similar values and beliefs including sharing similar views about religion, politics, education, travels, life’s purpose, music, and so on, makes it easier and more enjoyable to relate with other people. Meeting somebody who shares your interests, values, and beliefs will satisfy your social needs.
Having no set goals
A person who does not have set goals to achieve, and who has developed the habit of desiring and expecting social interaction most of the time is bound to fall into the state of loneliness, and worse, experience loneliness more often than not. Prospective achievers have a sense of urgency towards achieving their goals, and are therefore incapable of feeling bored or lonely. They do not sit back wondering why their friends have not come to pay them a visit, simply because they are too busy trying to fulfil their set targets each day.
People who are ‘addicted’ to socializing all the time will certainly experience loneliness if left on their own for a relatively short time. And since they cannot stand solitude, they will leave their homes and offices just to spend time with other people. But having goals to accomplish can take one’s mind away from one’s social needs, by replacing these excess social needs with the need to make a difference.
Having no one to share your experiences with
I did mention that lack of intimacy can be a cause of loneliness. Having no one to share your experiences with can feel really lonely, since by nature we desire the freedom to be ourselves, to be loved the way we are, regardless of our imperfections. We want to be able to be authentic without being judged, ridiculed, or diminished. As a result of our emotional insecurity and our distrust of others, our need for intimacy can go unfulfilled. This may then trigger the feelings of loneliness.
We all want to be able to talk about our bad experiences, fears, worries, and even successes, without being castigated. We also want other people to be there for us when we need them, and to show that they genuinely value and respect us; that’s the need for intimacy.
Losing an important intimate relationship
Losing a very close family member or a close friend can make you lonely, despite being in the company of other people. It is also a consequence of separating from someone you very much loved and valued; a divorce or breakup can make you feel lonely because your significant other, while annoying, used to satisfy some intimate social needs that now remain unsatisfied.