Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Trauma of Being Alone

“No man is an island, Entire of itself…” (John Donne, 1624)
            Sometimes we forget how dangerous loneliness is to our soul. If we are designed to be connected to one another, then any situation that leaves us without that sort of connection will be traumatizing. In fact, the research supports the idea that loneliness is traumatizing. Studies have looked at orphaned infants who had all of their basic needs met but who were not provided with love and affection. These studies have found that these infants grow up poorly, with much lower intelligence, higher rates of criminal activity, poorer emotional adjustment, among other problems. Humans are engrained to need companionship and love as a basic need that helps them develop and flourish.
            In adults, we see similar problems when people have both their community and their marriage destroyed. When that occurs, the person becomes depressed, angry, and anxious, all signs of trauma. Now trauma usually refers to situations where our life is put in danger, which is not the case when we are alone. Instead, loneliness is traumatizing because our soul is put in danger. We define ourselves according to our relationships with others. The child who is loved will feel that they are lovable. The adult who has friends will feel they are likable. And the adult who has a loving marriage will believe that their soul is a treasure.
            In other words, other people are mirrors by which we know who we are. Without a mirror by which we can see ourselves, we cannot truly know who we are and, in a way, our self is at risk of dying. Sometimes we need to be aware that we may miserable not because of our life situation, problems at our work, or because of a chemical imbalance. We may be feeling miserable because we do not have a community that truly knows us. If that describes you, then you may actually be suffering from the trauma of being alone. Perhaps what you need to do, before you get your life in order, is to search out a friend. The place I would suggest you could begin is at church, which exists to be a community which can help our souls come alive again.

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