Loneliness is a terrible feeling. Yet most people know it. Loneliness is an emotion that can manifest itself physically making the person who experiences it overwhelmed by sadness and desparation.
Loneliness has nothing to do with actually being alone. I have often been alone without experiencing a trace of loneliness. You can experience loneliness when you are in the company of others because it occurs when you are not able to talk to the people around you about how you feel and what you are thinking about or worrying about.
All people need good friends and strong, healthy relationships in their lives. The need for other people to listen and offer validation to your thoughts and feelings. And the need to be able to do the same for those people. This need is even described in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is very probable that if you don’t have this need fulfilled you will experience loneliness.
I have often talked to people whom I think of as intelligent (both emotionally and otherwise), funny, interesting, caring, attentive and many other things and had them express feelings of loneliness to me. I am always surprised because I can’t imagine that this person would feel lonely. But then again I am not so surprised because it is a feeling that prevails in our society. And I think it is an increasing tendency today. There are many examples that it is an increasing tendency but some of the examples are; the increasing number of young people who are experiencing emotional distress due to feelings of loneliness etc., increasing numbers of people who live alone, increasing numbers of attempted suicides amongst young people, increasing numbers of kids who are bullied in school etc. The list is long.
I am not saying that all this is caused by loneliness. To be sure I cannot know all the factors or even what role loneliness plays in these numbers. I can only know how common the feeling is, because I have talked to people who have felt it, and because I know what the feeling has done to me when I have felt it.
Unfortunately, loneliness is almost inevitable if you are a single parent who unschools. It is great to spend all day with your children. But you need the company of other adults whom you feel deeply connected with too. And it is hard to come upon if you are always parenting.
The few times a year that A goes to visit her biological father are not enough for me to seek out new and interesting and lasting and healthy relationships. More often those times are spent doing practical things, working or writing. Put simply; I spend those times alone. Because you also need solitude when you are a single parent.
Our society is not built in a way that makes it possible for single parents, or indeed any parents, to seek out new friendships or other strong relationships while at the same time parenting your children. The most it amounts to is chit-chatting for a few minutes with random people at the playground or the library or whereever else you happen to be visiting. And chit-chatting or small talking does not prevent feelings of loneliness.
Being an introvert myself I don’t even enjoy small talking. I can do it if the situation prescribes it, for example if I hitch a ride with someone I wont just sit there silently but rather chit-chat in order for the situation to run more smoothly. But it isn’t something I enjoy, except if I think that the person who picked me up is actually interesting. I hitched home yesterday from my parents’ place since A has gone to see her biological father. I was picked up by four different people and I had one remotely interesting conversation which ended before it had begun because the person had to drop me off since he wasn’t going any further.
The things is, western societies are not built in a way that aims at preventing loneliness. How can they be if the sole purpose of the state and the great capitalist institutions is to make good consumers and to control citizens? How can people/children learn to talk with and listen to each other when it isn’t taught in schools? How will children learn to build healthy relationships when noone is there to teach them?
As a single, unschooling parent I am struggling with strong feelings of loneliness from time to time since I have no like-minded community to turn to where I live. I am working hard so that A will be better at forming healthy relationships and seeking out community in the future and be better suited for this than I have been myself. The best way I can do this is by being there for her, validating her feelings and thoughts, creating a respectful environment for her to grow up in and being as authentic as I can be as a person.
To be that I need to validate myself as well. But that is an entirely different subject.
What are your thoughts on loneliness?