Today I want to write about a hot topic: loneliness. Indeed, as hot as it could get in nowadays society. A topic that most probably unites many people among us and is at the same a taboo topic. Who talks about loneliness? Who dares to express vulnerability and pain originating from the way the social fabric functions nowadays? Very few people I guess.
As a feminist I am concerned about this issue, not only because it is alive in my life nowadays in a particularly strong way, but mainly because I believe loneliness arises from the capitalistic and patriarchal values uplifted in western world. Values that embrace individualism, competition, consumerism, money, destruction of the common good in benefit of corporate companies, human rights violations and impunity, and so on and so forth. All together these values contribute to create a society where people live apart and disconnected from each other (and often from themselves).
But what is loneliness? And how do you experience it in your life? And, most importantly, how can we build loving communities?
In my experience loneliness may be related to very different situations and moments in life. For instance in this period I am starting a ‘new life’ in a new country and I am searching for a job. I feel often very lonely in the process of organising and building this new life, settling down and creating my ‘spot in the sun’ in this new place. This is a kind of loneliness that I imagine many people in this same situation may also experience. It is linked to the possibility of exclusion, to fear and the reality of having to deal with things by myself. And although a social network is an extremely important asset in this case, ultimately each and every one of us is the sole responsible for our own wellbeing and decisions. Meaning that no one can substitute no one in this intricate pathway of choices, decisions and struggles that are part of creating a new life somewhere.
In other moments loneliness may take the shape of a deep emptiness that seems cannot be fill in by anything. This expression of loneliness is a result of the lack of connection and, most importantly, intimate connection. And being surrounded by people does not necessarily mean to be connected to this people. Because meaningful connection is a result of intimacy and deep sharing, without fear of being judged and excluded. How easy is that nowadays to find this kind of intimate relationship? How often are you communicating in a deep way, a moment when you feel you are listened to and that you listen to the other, a moment when it is possible to share about what is meaningful and important in your life?
I am very concerned about the hollowness that often characterises social meetings in contemporary society. All sorts of meetings, including social media ‘meetings’, which are full of happy photos and beauty, that don’t represent accurately society. Yes, life is beautiful, yes, everyone has beautiful sides and features, yet we all have also a side that is not so beautiful, that is scared and fearful, and that includes negative aspects and thoughts. And it is perhaps because it is so hard to show all this in a public and also private sphere that it is also so hard to speak loneliness. Because if society, and ourselves first of all, cannot accept vulnerability and ugliness then it is not possible to open up conversations about loneliness, about its meaning and the pain it inflicts in our bodies and in our lives. And this is one other reason why this blog post makes a lot of sense to me, because it represents the possibility of new conversations about loneliness, conversations where shame can be washed away and this way create the space to embrace each other and connect intimately.
To speak loneliness is then a very first step to release it and to find out ways to accept and/or overcome it. Indeed last week I started this very interesting process of telling people how lonely I feel, and I discovered that I was not the only one! This helped me for instance to realise that I am not a weird person who is going through life feeling lonely more often than desired. And being not alone in loneliness is already a step to survive to it, because the discovery of loneliness in the other is the validation of the feeling that gives to it a character of ‘normality’.
On the other hand talking about this really contributed to create this intimacy and empathy that boosts relief from loneliness. All together, active listening, non judgement, acceptance, intimacy and empathy are five key values and skills that create the fundaments for a trustful relationship where loneliness may find relief and people may feel loved. Loved in their strengths and weaknesses. Because, indeed, love and belonging are the missing pieces when human soul and body are taken over by loneliness. And sometimes is even the lack of ability to search for this love, to ask for help and support that create the space for loneliness to arise. For this reason it is essential to learn to speak out whenever we are not feeling well, breaking out the chains of shame and fear, because we are all human and what unites us all is much wider and stronger than what keeps us apart.
And last, but not the least I would say, the creative power of loneliness may also be a question that is worth to think about. For instance to express and therefore release this feeling through any creative channel. Any sort of self-expression, like writing, cooking, painting, gardening, and so on. Self-expression is always a very good way to reconnect to the self and at the same time to feel all the creative power that as human beings we hold inside. Indeed this is also love, to find again self-love by rediscovering our inner strengths and power.