What is the difference between being alone and feeling loneliness? Being alone is clearly different from my perspective because I know what it feels like to feel lonely in a room full of people. By the same token, when I felt most alone, I felt no genuine connection to other humans. Perhaps feeling alone and a feeling of loneliness aren’t that different from that perspective. I suppose we would have to really look at what our perceptions and interpretations of these are for ourselves to really know the answer.
I think that loneliness stems from a level of discomfort with the self, as well as a belief that being alone is a negative experience. You see, our brains perceive the events in our lives, our feelings, our experiences, our sensations through a filter of past experiences. If we once felt loneliness and a sense of disconnect, then similar types of scenarios will also be interpreted as that as well. This filter of perception is often quite myopic because as individuals, we can only know what we know from experience.
Our experiences filter everything—except when they aren’t allowed to? Decades of sensation and perception research in the cognitive field of psychology boils down to individual perceptions. It is clear that we perceive pain based on our past experiences with sensing pain, for example. No two people experience pain the same way, although there can be similar descriptors used because we have learned these words and these words become our labels.
If a person is aware of the brain’s necessity to categorize, label and judge everything based only on our limited experiences, we can probably work on developing a more accurate perception of our present experiences. The question really becomes a matter of our willingness to be open to doing this. We are often not open to new experiences because we have no frame of reference for them in our sensing and perceiving system.
This keeps us limited in our lives and also keeps us limited in our ability to learn, grow and develop as humans. It is ironic really that the cerebral cortex is the most highly evolved part of the brain, but it is also the part of the brain that can limit our ability to further evolve because of how it works! Our perceptions and how we think about our world and others also has the potential to enhance our growth as we use it to learn more about ourselves.
I would want to question the feeling of loneliness, isolation, aloneness and feelings similar to these not based on who is present in the room, but what thoughts and ideas are occurring in the brain. In other words, when you have some alone time, is that perceived by you as a negative experience? Do you then label this experience as a feeling of loneliness?
It has been quite a while since I have felt this loneliness or this sense of feeling completely alone in the world. Just the other day, I was trying to recall the last time I felt it as I was having a conversation with someone. I think the last time I truly felt it was early in the illness—during the losing everything time period when I was convinced no one on this planet could possibly understand how I was feeling. Sadly, there were people all around me during this time that loved and cared about how I was doing, but my perception was that I was alone. At some point in the nursing home experience, I realized that even struggling through on my own wasn’t such a negative thing.
Actually, it was during that time that my perceptions of so many things made a shift, which is ultimately what allowed me to truly know that I had more control over my fate than I had ever believed before. Incidentally, I did not have my dogs during this shift. Some argue that I do not feel alone now because of them, but I think it more has to do with how I feel about myself and my stillness.
I have never felt alone again. I have not felt loneliness since then. I feel a great sense of connectedness to other people in my world, which even includes random people throughout my day. My social support and social network is very positive and I am grateful for the ability to have some wonderful social stimulation and interaction frequently if I choose. I am pretty grateful that I enjoy my own company and enjoy being in the company of others. How I view myself and my world certainly has a lot to do with this difference.