Why do we feel lonely? In the past sixty days, you or one of your close friends have probably asked yourself one of the following questions. Why do I feel lonely? Why do I feel lonely even though I have friends? Why do I feel lonely in my relationships? Why do I feel lonely all the time? What is wrong with me?
We are born with an innate need for relationships. With few exceptions, man is a social being who is healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally when they are a part of thriving communities.
So, why do we feel lonely? We will look at what loneliness is, three leading causes, and three powerful and effective remedies to answer this question.
Why do we feel lonely?
What do we mean by loneliness, and why should we care about it?
The Oxford Dictionary defines loneliness as experiencing “sadness because one has no friends or company.”
When we are lonely we typically feel empty, alone, or unwanted. When social connections aren’t made or are lacking, we experience loneliness.
Why does loneliness matter? Loneliness has a direct impact on our physical, mental and emotional health. It can literally add or subtract years from your life.
New research indicates that loneliness is rising among the 24-39 and 18-23-year-old age brackets.
The statistics and data above are from the major surveys on loneliness and isolation in America between 2016-2020 and can be found on Socialpronow.
Why do we feel lonely: 3 leading causes that might surprise you.
If I asked you the primary cause of why do we feel lonely, you would probably point to the pandemic as the primary cause. The pandemic reduced our opportunity for contact and heightened our sense of isolation.
Although isolation is a significant factor, I do not believe it is the sole cause of loneliness.
We know that it is possible to be surrounded by a multitude of people and still feel lonely. You may have experienced this at work, a sporting event, or even a party where you are the guest of honor.
We know that it is possible to be physically separated from others and not experience loneliness. You may have taken a day to be alone with your thoughts and returned refreshed and reenergized.
So we can experience loneliness whether we are separated from or surrounded by others.
So, why do we feel lonely?
I believe three additional factors are impacting the rise of loneliness in our culture.
The three leading causes of loneliness in our culture are unrealistic expectations of others and ourselves, self-defense mechanisms arising from previous harm or trauma, and an unhealthy dependence on technology to provide or enhance social contact.
UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. What are the unrealistic expectations of others and ourselves that lead to a rise in loneliness?
A belief that relationships are to be perfect. If you expect or demand perfection from yourself or others, you will not be disappointed. There are no perfect people and no perfect relationships.
A belief that relationships are to free of conflict. All relationships have peaks and valleys. We have abandoned relationships that needed a minor repair. And we have foolishly invested great energy to maintain soul-crushing relationships.
A belief that human relationships will complete us. Some individuals are waiting for a Jerry Maguire-like individual to show and declare that they complete them. Many people thought that sex and or marriage would complete them, only to discover that it is possible to be married and lonely. We were made for so much more than this.
PREVIOUS HARM OR TRAUMA. We will all experience hurt and heartache, but our response to these experiences may be different.
One person will strike back in anger and retaliate when hurt. Another may choose to forgive and work toward reconciliation. And still, others will withdraw from a relationship with the offending party and develop self-defense mechanisms to guard their hearts.
The effects of trauma, shame, and a fear of being hurt again can hinder individuals from intimacy in relationships. And while their self-defense mechanisms may prevent them from future harm, it will also cut them off from meaningful connections.
RELIANCE ON TECHNOLOGY. As a society, we have embraced the advantages of technology in making connections. We routinely speak or video chat live with someone in another town or country.
When the pandemic came, we leaned heavily into technology because of our inability to meet in person.
We have become so focused on using technology to communicate that we have forgotten how to communicate.
For some, social interaction has become an endless series of meetings and soundbites that lack warmth, courtesy, and meaningful connection.
Why Do We Feel Lonely: 3 Powerful and Practical Solutions
How do we address our unrealistic expectations of others and ourselves, self-defense mechanisms arising from previous harm or trauma, and an unhealthy dependence on technology to provide or enhance social contact?
We address unrealistic expectations in relationships by knowing ourselves, and who knows us better than our Creator?
God created us with a need for relationships. But as humans, we are all flawed: we have missed the mark, and our relationships are evidence of that fact.
The only perfect love we will experience is from God. And the reality is that the only one who can complete us is our Creator.
The good news is that He is pursuing us for a personal relationship.
We move from previous harm or trauma by telling our story and allowing God to address our shame and powerlessness. It is in a loving relationship with God and community that we experience safety, honor, and grace without shame.
As we experience His forgiveness we can extend it to others. As we understand our value to Him we begin to treat others and ourselves with dignity. We can move away from harmful relationships and set up appropriate boundaries when necessary.
We use technology to enhance social interaction, not replace it. Technology is here to stay, and much of what it brings is beneficial.
But we need to understand its limitations and our tendencies.
There are times when a social media post or zoom meeting is insufficient to meet the emotional needs of others or ourselves. We need to be sensitive to this and adjust accordingly.
We may need to track the frequency and type of interactions we are having with others.
For example, I might track my contact with a friend on a calendar and note whether it was an in-person meeting, a telephone call, an email, text, or video meeting. I might determine what form of contact was now appropriate based on that information.
We experience loneliness when we feel empty, alone, and unwanted. We may experience it for a variety of reasons, but there are solutions and strategies that we can employ to alleviate it.
CALL TO ACTION
Why do you feel lonely? What steps can you take this week to improve your relationships or help someone else?