By Joshua Bagby
Sometimes you have to look at various habits and traditions in life to decide if they still work. One for me is the tradition that when you feel lonely, you are on your own. We come to think of loneliness by definition as something we must all deal with by ourselves, yet I question that premise.
I have always believed that loneliness is one of the most underrated social crises of our era. We don’t appreciate its social significance. I believe that feeling friendless, excluded, and inconsequential is horrific, leading to a myriad of social ills that in the end impacts many of us. I think that people resort to various addictions and anti-social behaviors because they don’t feel included anywhere. They act like social outcasts because they feel like social outcasts.
From what I can see, society sells solutions to loneliness. Overcoming or treating loneliness often means buying something. Businesses and services come in to fill the need and make a profit. While there’s nothing wrong with making a legitimate profit on providing a solution, it also means that, in this case, loneliness is good for business.
I would like to see a new paradigm where friends help friends.
THE FLAVORS OF LONELINESS
Loneliness comes in different flavors. The most touted and well-known is romantic loneliness. It is not having a lover, not having someone to hug and kiss and flirt with. In our couples-centric society, it’s being single when you don’t want to be a single and feeling wretchedly lonely when you don’t want to be alone.
Another is being ignored when you face a situation or a condition that others do not wish to engage in. A common example is when someone close to a person suddenly dies — a mate, a child, a close friend, a parent. People may fear talking to and supporting the bereaved, largely because the situation brings up their own fears of death.
Similarly, there is the horrible situation of losing a job and having the sinking, sickening feeling of being worthless. Or it could be a sudden illness or accident that takes a person out of the game of life, often made uglier by the disappearance of friends and family who don’t want to help — situations where it is often said that “you find out who your real friends are.”
Another common loneliness situation, especially in middle age and beyond, is being married or in a relationship that is peachy at some level and deeply lacking at other levels. This sometimes includes relationships where people bond together for child-raising, financial security, or career. Nevertheless, they have lost the loving feeling — the flirtation, the sexual excitement, the sensual play. While they may portray themselves to the outside world as happily married, inwardly they feel great rifts of loneliness and disappointment.
There’s also something that I call spiritual loneliness, which essentially means not having friends available for sharing conversations about what’s really going on deep inside my heart and soul. This do-not-contact list often includes mates! Often we get wedged into situations where we don’t share our innermost truths because we don’t want to rock a relationship boat or we figure it’s not safe for us to share potentially hurtful, shocking, or controversial thoughts and feelings.
Much of society puts forth the expectation that you have to handle these loneliness situations all by yourself, often under the radar of friends and family.
MOVING TOWARD A SOLUTION
Americans are often very prideful of their independence, the spirit of getting things done on their own, but wouldn’t it be better if we felt more like a tribe where people could pitch in and join us both in creating our joys and in dealing with our sorrows? To me this is the epitome of soul embracing.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a support network to assist, encourage, and empower us to satisfy our needs? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were people who would listen, supply hugs, make suggestions, introduce us to their friends? You could tell them you are lonely in a certain area of your life and they would empathize and say, “Let’s help! Let’s do something. How can we support you?”
Of course some people already do have this. They find help from their family, church, friends, or support groups. Sometimes this includes paid professional help such as therapists and coaches. But not everyone has that. Sometimes apparent solutions are cost-prohibitive. We are often set up to be a nation of loners pressured to tough it out by ourselves.
Frankly, I don’t yet know how it’s going to manifest, but through this website I want to create a loosely organized network/support system both in the virtual world and face-to-face. I want to help people find solutions to their loneliness issues, which, as I have already indicated, take many different forms.
If your heart yearns for some kind of a special, intimate connection, maybe you can find soul embraces here. We’ll create them together.