Have Lots Of Friends But Still Feel Lonely? Here’s The Reason Why
When was the last time you felt lonely? Was it a week ago? Yesterday? Perhaps a few hours ago?
And why exactly do you think you felt lonely?
One of the common beliefs is that being lonely is the same as being alone. This means your periods of solitude should obviously be counted as your periods of loneliness.
This, however, is not entirely true.
If you choose not to socialise a lot with friends or you prefer spending a great deal of time alone, it does not actually mean you are lonely. Isolation or solitude can be a factor but that does not tell the whole story of how lonely a person is.
If you are alone and upset, you are not necessarily lonely. Do not give the state of solitude a bad rap.
There are in fact people who maintain enough social connections. They occasionally or regularly hang out and attend parties, but still feel lonely and isolated deep inside.
Because what is missing in those relationships is the vital element of closeness.
It is the element that determines the quality of the relationship.
It is the element that makes a relationship meaningful.
It is the pivotal element that determines whether you feel truly connected to the person(s) you are with.
This is where the following definition of loneliness from the Encyclopedia of Human Relationship comes into play:
“Loneliness is the distress that results from discrepancies between ideal and perceived social relationships.”
You may have lots of friends, but how close are you with them? Do you feel genuinely connected to them when they are around you? Does it give you a feeling of satisfaction when you are spending time with them?
If not, you will be distressed. You will feel a sense of sadness and disappointment.
Eventually, you will feel lonely. You will feel disconnected.
In this interview with The Guardian, Professor John Cacioppo, director of the University of Chicago’s Centre for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, said:
“The brain is the organ for creating, monitoring, nurturing and retaining social connections. So it does not matter whether you actually have these connections. What is important is whether you feel that you have them.
There is a big difference between objective isolation and perceived isolation, and perceived isolation is loneliness.”
Having a lot of friends and not having any close tie with them is not the solution. That is the situation when people feel lonely in a crowd. Evidently, a relationship that only exists on the surface level lacks the closeness element.
On the other hand, having a few friends is just fine if there is this intimate, meaningful relationship where both parties understand each other well. It gives the feeling that “I have people in my life who really understand me and I understand them too at the same level.”
As Professor John says:
“In fact, often times, fewer is better.”
The next time you feel lonely, do not jump to the conclusion that you need more friends.
Instead, examine your existing relationships. Work to improve them. Make them better and stronger by becoming closer to them.
As relationship coach Kira Asatryan writes:
“The feeling of closeness arises between two people when they both feel that the other understands them well and cares about them deeply.
This feeling of being understood and valued — this feeling of closeness — is what you are really craving when you are lonely.”