The truth about loneliness
Updated: Jan 7
In recent weeks, social distancing measures have made us even more aware of how much we rely on human interaction and connection -- in ways we probably hadn't even realized. But, even before this time of isolation and fear, loneliness was a serious issue in our society.
In fact, one of the reasons I decided to become a love and relationship coach, trained in the transformative Calling in “The One” coaching process, was because I’d read about the research that had found that loneliness had actually become one of America’s biggest health problems. A recent post on lifeandhealth.org cites the New York Times in reporting that “loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduced lifespan similar to someone smoking fifteen cigarettes a day and are associated with having a greater risk of reduced lifespan than someone with obesity. Loneliness is also linked with a greater risk of heart disease, dementia, anxiety and depression.”
Shocking, right? The same bad health effects as if you smoked fifteen cigarettes a day!
As a cultural historian, I’m interested in the roots of how this epidemic of loneliness grew, pre-pandemic: our American prizing of individuality, for one. In recent years, our focus on social media and the pseudo-connections there.
My background in psychology makes me fascinated by the neuroscience angle. In the book The General Theory of Love, authors Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon describe the ways in which brain development and health depend upon human connection, and the ways in which we as individuals try and fail to make up for this deficit – drugs, violence, addictions. The authors then assert, “The real battle our country fights is not against drugs per se but limbic pain – isolation, sorrow, bitterness, anxiety, loneliness, and despair.”
“As a social species,” says Dr. Stephanie Cacioppo, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience, University of Chicago, and Director, Brain Dynamics Laboratory, “we are accountable to help our lonely children, parents, neighbors, and even strangers in the same way we would treat ourselves. Treating loneliness is our collective responsibility.” Really, nothing less than the state of our society and the world is at stake.
Again, this was all pre-pandemic, but, in deciding what I could contribute as a drop in the bucket of collective healing, my lifelong fascination with love stories – including writing them – led me naturally to want to work with people to create their own love stories.
I thought about how many single or divorced people I know who’ve simply given up on love. Sometimes, after the heartbreak and pain of divorce, or perhaps a few first dates that don’t go so well, we might begin to tell ourselves that it’s easier to be alone. There even seems to be a notion at large – especially for women, and perhaps even more especially for heterosexual women who've been divorced – that saying “I don’t need anybody” is a kind of badge of honor, proving how strong they are.
Now, to be honest, I very much dislike the opposite notion, which is sometimes articulated in ways that suggest that women who don’t have a partner are incomplete or somehow “less than” those who do.
But, the fact is, as human beings we need connection. It’s a proven scientific fact – as are the consequences of not having it.
In normal times, we can certainly get many of our needs for connection met by friends, neighbors, and all types of communities.
But there’s something – no, a thousand things – special about a love relationship – a partnership. (Not to mention, the psychologist Harville Hendrix suggests that only within a love relationship can our own essential and most profound healing take place...)
So, here’s the thing. As your Calling in “The One” coach, my goal isn’t to find you someone just so you don’t have to go to parties alone anymore, or any other superficial reason. And it certainly isn’t to suggest that, if you don’t have a partner, you’re somehow “less than.”
Instead, we're looking to get your very real, very human needs met – in all kinds of ways. The Calling in “The One” process is about creating better relationships of all kinds.
Most importantly, it’s about healing the broken places within you that keep you holding love at bay. It’s about overturning, overruling and finally healing the cynical parts of you, the bad experiences, the places where you’ve lacked discernment or boundaries – and making it truly possible for you to have real, authentic, fulfilling, embodied love with a wonderful partner, perhaps for the rest of your life.
Finally, for all my clients, my ultimate goal is that, as fulfilled, happy human being with your own healing firmly in hand, you can in turn contribute more to the world; live a longer, happier life; and help others, to boot.
So, you see: investing in getting your own needs met and easing your own loneliness is definitely not selfish. It is, in fact, essential -- perhaps now more than ever.
And if you find yourself saying, “Oh, sure, Ellen, this is all very well and good, but, even before social distancing, I tried and tried and I just couldn’t meet anybody” – well, I can help you with that, too, because, in the coaching process, we will shift your mindset to possibility, vision, and taking the actions you need to take to create your new life and love, whatever external circumstances may be.
Are you ready to get started? To take charge of your own future and take a stand to heal your own loneliness, despite these troubled times? Book a free 30-minute discovery session to talk about private coaching today!