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The Power Of Loneliness: Life’s Cruelest Irony

Without the loneliness you would be less of a person… because your soul grows much stronger when in isolation.

The loneliest of times are the times your soul needs you the most…

Loneliness. It‘s that moment when you feel totally and completely isolated and disconnected. It’s when you feel abandoned, when no one hears you, or listens to you – but then you realize there is no one to hear you. You are all alone.

Even when you’re surrounded by the world, walking down a busy street, standing among thousands in a crowd, working among hundreds of colleagues in the office, having millions of friends on Facebook – there’s only you, feeling detached from everything else.

Even when you have everything you want, or could wish for – you feel its nothing. And all of that nothingness has no meaning, it has no worth. You are alone and feel deeply lonely – all at the same time.

 

Come on, don’t be so dramatic… snap out of it!

Don’t you feel it?

Don’t you feel the complete acceptance, unconditional love, and extraordinary power shining from your soul and spirit?

That same spirit that has been with you throughout the ages, through thick and thin – through this life and all of them before.

And you’ve survived… because…

 

“Because of the independence of spirit that allows you to survive any situation, regardless of how hostile.” – Bryce Courtenay in The Power Of One

 

Experts say that, as a social animal, you depend on others for survival

Historically, communities provided connection and protection, helping humans to endure and thrive: “We have survived as a species not because we are fast or strong, or have weapons at our fingertips, but because of social protection,” said John Cacioppo, the director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago.

But you don’t live in a small community anymore, or are part of a primitive tribe. It’s the 21st century, in which case you probably have millions of friends in your social media channels, and strangely, in this age where humans are more connected than ever – that quality and depth of interaction you so crave is missing.

And the loneliness tucks in your belly again.

 

Ironically, you’re not alone 🙂

A recent study revealed loneliness affects 25% to 60% of Americans and puts millions at risk of poor health in cases of prolonged loneliness, affecting quality of life, happiness and life satisfaction.

According to John Cacioppo’s study, ‘Alone in a Crowd: The Structure and Spread of Loneliness in a Large Social Network,’ lonely people tend to share their loneliness with others. The study used data from the population-based Framingham Heart Study to trace the topography of loneliness in people’s social networks and how loneliness spreads through these networks.

Results indicated that loneliness is found in clusters within social networks, it’s contagious, and is stronger than other perceived social connections. This suggests that people who are lonely, tend to be linked to others who are lonely, which threatens the cohesiveness of the network. In an effort to protect the structural integrity of the social network, these people are rejected, and they become even more lonely.

 

But herein lies the power of loneliness…

Scientists belief loneliness is a biological trigger. It does not have a bipolar opposite like happiness, but is rather like hunger, a thirst, or pain. You are hardwired to feel this emotional pain to spur you on to go out and seek connection with others.

Because, believes John Cacioppo, your survival has always been depended on social protection and connection. And the power of loneliness propel humans to either create communities – or go out and explore other communities to find that connection, and later come back to their home-village to share stories on what they’ve found.

In other words, loneliness it what spurs you forward to go out and make your mark (as explorers did like David Livingstone) – or find those communities you can have a certain type of deep-level connection with.

 

Cause of loneliness

As a child you depend on your parents (adults). When you become an adult and a parent you think you are supposed to be independent and be the individual upon whom others can depend. And then the question of ‘Who you are’ as a person, as a specie  became the most fundamental question.

And as you go out and start to compare yourself, you found yourself falling short in some way. You started to doubt yourself. You feel you are not good enough with loads of baggage you pulled with you from childhood.


When you feel lonely, you get more defensive, and you focus more on self-preservation. Over time, this can increase the likelihood of negative social interactions, and you pull away even more and more, back into your shell of safety.

 

Lessons from Peekay and The Power of One

 

Much of Bryce Courtenay’s fictional novel ‘The Power of One’ was based on his own life, played out in the novel by the extraordinary character he created: Peekay.

The novel traced the adventures of Peekay, an English-speaking South African boy, from age five to age seventeen, from the year 1939 to 1951. After his mother suffered from a nervous breakdown, the five-year-old Peekay was brought up by his Zulu nanny Mary and his Grandpa on a farm in the province of KwaZulu Natal.

He was later sent to an Afrikaans boarding school, where he was brutally tortured by the Judge, a senior boy called Jaapie Botha, and his ‘stormtroopers’ who punished Peekay with their constant verbal and physical abuse about Peekay’s bedwetting habits and circumcised penis.

Peekay struggled throughout the novel to discover and maintain within himself what he referred to as ‘the power of one’ – that is, the independence of spirit that allows one to survive any situation, regardless of how hostile.

This ‘power of one’ idea onto which Peekay clinged throughout the novel – is accepting and appreciating the input and connection of others, but ultimately taking responsibility for your own education (growth).

Peekay soon learned the necessity of camouflage in order to survive the systems of life – and started to live by his own command: ‘adapt, blend, develop a camouflage’.

In his first boarding school, Peekay learned that to stand out was dangerous and disappearing into the masses was the best camouflage. However, at the Prince of Wales school in the second half of the novel, Peekay discovered that his desperate need to always win, to always be the best, was also a camouflage.

Peekay learned ‘That survival is a matter of actively making the system work for you, rather than attempting to survive it – in spite of its restrictions.’

Peekay said, “I had become an expert at camouflage. My precocity allowed me, chameleonlike, to be to each what they required me to be.”

Towards the end of the novel Peekay started to question the role which he allowed other people to play in the creation of his destiny. And finally he removed all camouflages and created his own destiny, harnessing ‘the power of one’ – the independent spirit within.

Peekay’s mentor in the novel Doc (who stood for logic, order, and scientific precision) pointed out to Peekay that it is mystery, not logic, what gives hope and keeps humans believing in a force greater than their own insignificance.

 

How to defy loneliness

 

Make the system (times when feeling lonely) work for you, rather than trying to survive it

Take this time – each time when feeling lonely – to do some introspection and take stock of your life. Try to identify the real source of your loneliness, the moment in time when it started. Unpack it, go deep to its core meaning. Now find ways to change the perception that caused the loneliness in the first place.

Then replace it with rituals each time when this feeling returns. For instance, take this time to spoil yourself, learn to love yourself and be there for yourself. Turn yourself into the person you want to connect with. Maybe it’s someone intelligent. So become more intelligent yourself: be more disciplined, read, write, try to learn new things, and turn loneliness into more opportunities with knowledge.

 

It’s mystery, not logic, that creates hope (hope for connection)

Use creativity – the magic art of turning loneliness into soulfulness – and create art from it. Just like Peekay stopped his camouflage act, and finally created his own destiny by harnessing ‘the power of one’ – his independent spirit – so should you.

Find the real true you by means of mystery, mythology, archetypes and story. How that relates to your soulfulness, and create from it that artful, beautiful person that you are. Then take yourself into this world and make connections with people who celebrate who you really are, no matter how bizarre.

 

If you can’t find connection – it’s because you haven’t placed connection there…

By now you know very well connection gives purpose and meaning to your life – that is what life’s all about, and that’s what you were looking for each time when feeling lonely.

What you have not placed into your world, you cannot receive from the world.

So, find the type of people you think will give you that deep stimulated connection. Place them there in your world with visualization.

Remember what you are unable or unwilling to give to another, you will not receive from the other. You might imagine this person is going to supply you with the forgiveness, compassion, tolerance, mercy, peace, acceptance, and love you seek, which is the greatest misconception of all time.

They can only give to you what you have given them.

Just because things doesn’t happen spontaneously or organically doesn’t mean it’s not meant to happen and you just leave it there. Just like anything else in life, making connections needs discipline, dedication and work.

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