Feeling Alone in the World: A Major Issue of Our Time
Feeling alone in the world is a very common experience in these times. We’re surrounded by technologies that enable social connection, yet many feel very isolated.
Why is it that so many are feeling alone in the world? There are many factors that contribute to this. One of the more recent and obvious contributors is the pandemic. In many ways, perhaps the worst of the pandemic is behind us, yet its social impact is immense. Certainly during the pandemic. research appearing in the Harvard Business Review strongly indicated that social connections had diminished. What’s more, there are strong indications that this reduced social interaction persists right into the present. However, that’s far from the only thing.
Social media are another factor. Touted as a source of connection with others, they do bring a certain form of social interaction. However, evidence suggests that they actually make us less socially connected.
Work and the North American corporate lifestyle also leave us more isolated. Work and commutes demand a great deal of our time and leave us with a very limited amount of time to connect with other people. In fact, overall, the truth is—as a society we don’t give priority to social connection.
The Essence of Feeling Alone in the World
However, there’s an even more fundamental issue. There is a big factor that limits our intimacy with others. Simply put, it’s that we’re not very intimate with ourselves. We simply don’t know what’s going on inside us, and that can keep us from having the capacity to relate to the inner life of others.
It’s possible to use interaction with other people as a distraction from our own sense of not being at home with ourselves. We can laugh and joke with others in superficial ways that don’t involve any intimacy or real connection. Certainly, this might distract us from our isolation and sense of inner lack, but it isn’t really healing our inner loneliness. It’s only when we’re willing to go deep within ourselves, find what we feel and share it, that we can start to replace our loneliness with genuine intimacy. It’s also then that we start to transform what is locked in anxiety and depression.
To encounter your own deep, genuine feelings gives you something valuable and meaningful to share with others. Of course, it may well also lead to an encounter with your own deeper self that may do a lot to alleviate the sense of inner emptiness.
This may all run counter to a certain way of looking at ourselves that our society fosters. Our society worships at the altar of individualism. Individualism exalts the ideas of independence and self-reliance, and can often de-emphasize the importance of intimacy and connection.
Individualism and Individuation are Not the Same Thing
We come from a culture that greatly values and exalts individualism. “The individual” is often viewed as something discrete and autonomous, that exists in its own right, independent of relationship and connection. It’s interesting that C.G. Jung is often seen as a champion of this view of the individual, but Jung actually had a rather different view of who we are.
“You cannot individuate on Everest”, Jung reminds us. The process of identifying what is unique in ourselves has an inherently social or relational dimension. The principle of relationship, eros, is one of the fundamental elements of the individuation process for Jung. He tells us that, “where love [eros] reigns, there is no will to power.” For Jung, relationship and connection is an inherent part of the individuation process. We need to relate in a truly conscious way to become our true individual selves, and conscious relationship is an essential part of that process.
To give oneself over in relationship to others, even consciously, may not fit very well with an absolutely “self reliant” individualism. Certainly, the impetus to genuinely connect in relationship comes from a place in our psyche deeper than the ego. It’s a fundamental human need, though. It’s essential for us to find a way to connect and be related.
Finding a Way to Authentic Connection
The path to authentic connection is a journey toward the other that is profoundly connected to the journey toward ourselves. It’s essential that we explore the path of relationship, if we’re to have the sense that we’re becoming who we most fundamentally really are. If we are feeling alone in the world, it may be a call from the deep self to move more in the direction of connection and relationship.
Jungian analysis can be of great help in moving our lives toward relationship. A connection with a supportive ally as we simultaneously explore the depths of the unconscious side of who we are, and the potential within us for connection. A supportive /a-midlife-transition relationship can help us to move beyond lack of relatedness and fear, and more and more toward our capacity to stand as our unique selves in relationship to others, and to the whole of life.
With best wishes for your personal journey,
© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario