Chapter 14:

What is Loneliness?

      Loneliness is not the same as physical isolation.

      Instead, it is a feeling of deprivation and dissatisfaction produced by a discrepancy between the kind of social relations one has and the kind one desires.

What is Loneliness (continued)?

      Two different types of loneliness have been identified:

    social isolation created by lack of a social network, and

    emotional isolation based on the back of a single intense relationship.

How Does It Feel to Be Lonely?

      A variety of emotions and desires can be bound up with the experience of being lonely.

      In a research study, respondents reported four major categories of feelings they have when lonely:
(1) desperation, (2) impatient boredom, (3) self-deprecation, and (4) depression.

Measuring Loneliness.

      The NYU Loneliness Scale measures the personality trait of loneliness.

    High scorers on this scale report a long history of frequent and intense feelings of loneliness.

      In contrast, the UCLA Loneliness Scale measures the state of loneliness, which varies across time and different situations.

Who are the Lonely?

      In general, loneliness decreases with age, as adolescents and young adults report the greatest amount of loneliness.

      Married people are less lonely than those who have experienced the loss of a relationship through separation, divorce, or death of a partner.

Who are the Lonely (continued)?

      When responding to the UCLA Loneliness Scale (which does not use the word "lonely"), men tend to report greater loneliness than do women.

      When providing self-ratings of loneliness, however, women tend to report greater loneliness than do men.

Who are the Lonely? (continued)

      Since lonely men are evaluated more negatively than lonely women,
men may be reluctant to explicitly acknowledge their lonely feelings.

      Among married couples, wives report greater loneliness than husbands.

      Among those who are not married, men report greater loneliness than women.

Who are the Lonely? (continued)

      In regard to other background characteristics, people whose parents were divorced report feeling greater loneliness than those from intact families.

      Loneliness does not, however, appear to be associated with having suffered the death of a parent during one's childhood.

Some Possible Causes of Loneliness.
Inadequacies in Our Relationships:

      The reasons participants in one survey gave for being lonely involved five major categories (see next slide): being unattached, alienation, being alone, forced isolation, and dislocation.

      These reasons cover a broad range, with some being situational in nature and others possibly reflecting personal characteristics of the lonely person.

Some Possible Causes of Loneliness.
The reasons for being lonely:

      being unattached: having no spouse; having no sexual partner; breaking up with spouse or lover;

      alienation: feeling different; being misunderstood; not being needed; having no close friends;

      being alone: coming home to an empty house; being alone;

      forced isolation: being housebound; being hospitalized; having no transportation; and

      dislocation: being far from home; starting in a new job or school; moving too often; traveling often.

Some Possible Causes of Loneliness.
Changes in What We Want from a Relationship:

      As people change (in their mood, their age, or their external situation),
what they want from their relationships may also change.

      If their relationships do not change accordingly, they may experience loneliness.

Some Possible Causes of Loneliness.
Self-Esteem and Causal Attributions:

      Loneliness is associated with having low self-esteem.

      Lonely people also expect to be uncomfortable in risky social situations.

      These expectations may serve to maintain loneliness by motivating lonely people to avoid certain social contacts.

Some Possible Causes of Loneliness.
Self-Esteem and Causal Attributions

      The explanations that people provide to themselves for their loneliness may also increase its duration.

      In one study, university freshmen who made internal, stable attributions for their loneliness in the fall semester were more likely to still be lonely in the spring than were those who employed different kinds of attributions.

Some Possible Causes of Loneliness.
Interpersonal Behaviors:

      Lonely people appear caught in a downward social spiral.

      Relative to nonlonely people, they (1) hold more negative attitudes toward others, (2) are more passive and unresponsive in their social interactions, and (3) sometimes elicit more negative reactions from others.

      Each of these components reinforces the others and makes it more difficult for the lonely person to establish the rewarding social relationships necessary to eliminate loneliness.

Some Possible Causes of Loneliness.
Interpersonal Behaviors (continued):

      Another problem in living that is similar to loneliness is social anxiety.

      Social anxiety involves feelings of discomfort in the presence of others.

      Shyness includes feelings of discomfort in social situations along with social inhibition and avoidance.

      Social anxiety and shyness are often associated with each other, and each is frequently associated with loneliness.

Some Possible Causes of Loneliness.
Interpersonal Behaviors (continued):

      The interpersonal behavior of socially anxious and shy individuals closely resembles that of lonely people.

      Socially anxious concerns can be a learned response to an unpleasant social encounter.

      They may also reflect the belief, accurate or not, that the individual is not capable of obtaining the social success that he or she desires.

Some Possible Causes of Loneliness.
Interpersonal Behaviors (continued):

      Depression is also associated with loneliness, and with shyness and social anxiety as well.

      Like those who are lonely, depressed individuals (1) experience difficulties in their social interactions, (2) are uncomfortable with risky social situations, and (3) tend to blame themselves for negative events.

Some Possible Causes of Loneliness.
Interpersonal Behaviors (continued):

      Depression and loneliness are not, however, identical psychological conditions.

      Depression is a more global state of dissatisfaction, while loneliness is more specifically interpersonal in nature.

      Depressed individuals, at least those of college age, may be particularly sensitive to success or failure in romantic relationships, while loneliness is affected by a broad range of social interactions.

Coping with Loneliness

     What Do People Do When They Are Lonely?

    According to their responses to survey questions, people appear to engage in a wide variety of behaviors when they are lonely.

    Some of these behaviors involve active, constructive coping and others are potentially self-destructive.

Coping with Loneliness

What Do People Do When They Are Lonely?

    Sad Passivity: cry, sleep, sit and think, do nothing, overeat, take tranquilizers, watch TV, get drunk or stoned.

    Active Solitude: study or work, write, listen to music, exercise or walk, work on a hobby, go to a movies, read, play music.

    Social Contact: call a friend, visit someone.

    Distractions: spend money, go shopping.

Coping with Loneliness
What Helps People Feel Less Lonely?

      In addition to the active, constructive coping behaviors reported in surveys, some suggestions for coping with loneliness can be derived from the research described in this chapter.

      Ways to reduce loneliness would include:

(1) doing a rational cost analysis of risky social situations to decide whether the potential gain warrants taking the risk,

(2) looking for situational causes of loneliness, rather than blaming one's own enduring personal characteristics,

(3) maintaining a positive attitude toward others, and

(4) concentrating on enriching one's friendships rather than searching for a romantic partner.

Coping with Loneliness.
Loneliness IS a Growth Experience:

      Loneliness does not always have to be reduced or avoided.

      Sometimes it can be transformed into a constructive experience.

      One such transformation involves turning loneliness into solitude by using alone time to engage in pleasurable behaviors.

Coping with Loneliness.
Loneliness IS a Growth Experience

      It is also possible that learning to be alone with oneself can contribute to self-knowledge, which may strengthen a person's capacity for establishing intimate relationships with others.

      It is suggested that healthy personal growth consists of establishing a balance between satisfying relationships with others and a secure base of satisfaction within ourselves.

Chapter 14: