Cliff Wright – Lonelieness and isolation are a choice

Editors note: In one of our discussion groups, the question came up: What do you suggest for people who have a lot of loneliness and isolation? Don’t go out much? How do you know an ideal amount of social interaction for someone to have?

Corinna: Afraid of crime is one reason I’ve heard for loneliness and isolation, though the fear of crime probably affects life quality more than the actual risk.  Another reason I’ve heard for a lot of loneliness and isolation is that people might not like to be around people – being an introvert. I guess the different is that when a person feels a lack of friends, they are being too much of an introvert. Some people have pointed out to me that they feel other people’s emotions too much, some kind of permeability. I know I myself have a lot thinner skin to block out other peoples’ feelings  when I am more stressed or exhausted.

Participants at a writing clinic by Cliff Graham. Loneliness and isolation are a big problem for writers so community engagement is crucial.

Participants at a writing clinic by Cliff Graham. Loneliness and isolation are a big problem for writers so community engagement is crucial.

Lael Ewy: You could ask people why they prefer to be alone, or what benefits it gives them.

Clif Wright: If you are an American and still physically mobile you are no longer ” isolated “, technically or technologically. Indeed, in this day and age loneliness and isolation are either a conscious or unconscious choice. It could be conscious in that one chooses to do little to connect and participate…unconscious in that they do not recognize, realize or seek to discover the incredible connectivity available to us now with the emergence of the internet. Everyday and in every way we are becoming more and more connected… some get it, some don’t, some will, some won’t.

As for the ideal, some very credible studies re: health and longevity give a couple of very simple but spot on measures. I.e. we can measure how many people you hug or even internet based touches a day and how many you speak to a day as a determinate of how well and long one lives. The numbers are ideally 12 hugs a day. Neither has ever been easier or cheaper than it is now with a phone, computer (etc.) and the web.  The new, real-time, truth is that loneliness and isolation are now more a choice than the actual circumstance. Relationship is intentional!

There’s a distinction to be drawn here. One type of  isolated is akin to being alone in an igloo in Antarctica with no satellite or web connection. But not reaching out and then complaining about loneliness and isolation are more akin to living in New York City, surrounded by at least 10 million people each and every day, and then living as if you were alone. Both are real, but one is more perceptive than actually being whats really so.

So back to your question, “What do you suggest”….The military solution to a self-inflicted poor choice:

1) Stand up…. then place your right hand on your left ear, left on your right, breathe deeply and yank with all your might, when you here the loud plop, your head will have been extracted your ” cavity.”

If you feel loneliness and isolation even in huge crowds, make a goal to talk to just three people.

If you feel loneliness and isolation even in huge crowds like this closure of the KCI airport, make a goal to talk to just three people before the line is done.

2) Then stop, look around, behold the many wonders, people and possibilities before ones self, then choose someone to smile at, talk to serve, dance with, play or argue with and then find something someone to love… its simple math ….get off your ass and go participate… participation = health. Just go out a bit more and more each day, or pick up the phone or computer if you are unable to go out physically to end the loneliness and isolation.

3) The best example of this is the answer to the question of why women live longer than men, one powerful reason…. women tend to deal with life’s changes and challenges by congregating and communicating ( shout outs and hugs ); men by isolating insulating (stepping back, shutting up and shutting down ) . In New York City there are no isolated people only those who think and believe they are. Which is pretty much the truth for all contemporary Americans, to include those in Antarctica.

Although this may sound like harsh advice, let me share what was for me a momentous occurrence. About 30, 35 yrs ago I worked with an organization that always sought the technical advantages to forward its work globally. They were one of the first to use the then new conferencing tech. My first experience involved an intense and exciting 3 hr. meeting with about 100 people in 25 country’s. When I hung up the phone, and laid back on my bed, I felt bigger, physically, exponentially so, and I could in that moment literally “feel” that my world had expanded as well. And in that moment I realized to that I had become…. truly…. a global citizen. I have spent many lonely hours since then, but not one unaware of two of the most powerful things I know

…. I am not alone, loneliness and isolation are a choice, my choice and who I am in the mix, in the world, matters, I count.

What helps you overcome loneliness and isolation?


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