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Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection Essay (Critical Writing)


Introduction

Man has always been viewed as a social creature and his interaction with others plays a very pivotal role in his personal growth and development. According to Cacioppo and William (2009), man’s need to feel a connection with others is so intense that he will go to great extents, including having make-believe friends just to feel connected.

It can therefore be stated that man cannot wholesomely exist in solitude and his encounter with others, be it by chance or otherwise is very important for his well being. It is due to this fact that loneliness which at times threatens to infringe mans well being has to be given due consideration. In this paper, I shall aim to expound on the meaning of loneliness, its causes and probably effects be they adverse or otherwise. The various ways in which it can be dealt with shall also be looked at.

What is loneliness?

Loneliness can be deemed as the feeling of being isolated from other people. This is often accompanied by the feeling of emptiness. It should be noted that this isolation need not be physical in nature but can also be emotional.

Contrary to popular belief, solitude does not necessarily equate to being lonely and hence it would be perfectly non-contradictory for a hermit to describe him/herself as not being lonely. This perhaps stems from the fact that while solitude simply implies being physically on ones own, loneliness has a physical and emotional side and hence is more of a state of mind and needs not deal with numbers Cacioppo and William (2009).

Summary of the book

In this book, Cacioppo and William (2009) aim at unveiling the startling effects that loneliness has on human beings. The authors portray loneliness as a sense of isolation and social rejection that invariably affects our ability to think, our will-power and also our immune systems. In their discussion, Cacioppo and William (2009) argue that loneliness can affect our physical as well as emotional health.

It is a fascinating book that integrates both social and scientific ideologies to explore loneliness. As such, it provides useful insights on loneliness, and provides the reader with practical examples that help them understand various aspects (definition, causes and solutions) of loneliness. To this end, the book’s intended audience (though not clearly defined) is universal; meaning that everyone can gain something from this literary work. In addition, the organization of the book is outstanding.

Evidence of this lies in the articulation of ideas and relevance of the content to the title. “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection” is a well thought of title that highlights the main theme of the book to the reader. Throughout the book, the authors portray our need for social interaction as key to our happiness and well being. As such, the title of the book reflects perfectly on the main ideas that the authors are trying to forward.

On the same note, the book has been published in an era whereby loneliness has taken toll in man’s life. As an example, the authors remind the readers of a presidential aspirant whose slogan was; “Lonesome No More.” He planned to create a naming system that would connect people to their loved ones. Today, evidence of man’s need to connect can be seen from the prevalence of social networks, clubs and discussion groups that have been created with a sole purpose of enhancing social interaction.

These attempts to reach out show how loneliness has affected many people thereby forcing them to find solace and companionship with strangers and virtual friends. These facts are further described in the book. The authors give examples of people who have resulted in creating social bonds with pets and TV characters in a bid to lessen their sense of loneliness.

Conclusively, Cacioppo and William (2009) have used scientific studies, historical tales and humor to paint out the main purpose of this book which is; to analyze the psychological, physiological and societal issues that are as a result of social isolation (loneliness). In this book, the authors imply that that loneliness is in fact inevitable to human beings and as such should be viewed as a river we will all have to cross at some time.

According to Cacioppo and William (2009), there exist a myriad of causes of loneliness ranging from seemingly trivial ones to major ones. Loneliness can be caused by the demise of a friend, a visitation by tragedy, the feeling that one does not belong to some social circle amongst other reasons. They go on to concede that whatever the reason for loneliness, it eventually visits each one of us at some point in time.

Having pointed out what loneliness entails, Cacioppo and William (2009) explicitly links loneliness to heart diseases and further goes on to declare that it causes emotional problems which range from self-esteem issues to anxiety problems.

Due to the fact that most of the effects of loneliness are detrimental to the human well being, it has been necessitated that ways to deal with loneliness or even all together curb it be come up with. Cacioppo and William (2009) propose therapy and random acts of kindness as the most effective way to help cope with loneliness. This is because therapy will help the person better understand themselves and also find out ways in which they can connect with others.

Tactical analysis

Divided into three sections, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection delineates and defines loneliness as a chronic syndrome, makes a distinction between loneliness and other emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression and concludes by giving positive corrective strategies that may help an individual cope and recover from loneliness.

Part one: The lonely heart

In this section, the authors define loneliness and outline the genetic components that differentiate loneliness from other emotional states such as depression and anxiety. In this section, the authors use three factors to identify the root of loneliness.

“(1) a person’s individual, genetically based level of vulnerability to social disconnection; (2) a person’s ability to regulate the emotions associated with feeling isolated; and (3) a person’s mental representations and expectations of others (Cacioppo & William, 2009, p. 13).”

According to the authors, these factors work together to influence the stress levels exhibited by an individual as well as immune responses and antisocial behaviors. In addition, the authors use scientific evidence such as MRI brain scans and introduce the UCLA loneliness scale to measure individuals’ social contentment.

The purpose of this section is therefore to reveal the factors that cause loneliness and how these factors can be used to solve the problem. The authors articulate that understanding these factors help individuals cope with their fears. In so doing, individuals can dampen these fears, which lead to their ability to triumph over their self-defeating behaviors.

Part two: From selfish genes to social beings

In this section, the authors reveal the human brain as a complex organ and human as ruthlessly competitive and self-interested beings. All this aims at reminding the reader that first and foremost, humans are social animals. In this section, the authors explore different avenues (mimicry and hormonal influences) through which humans influence each other’s behaviors.

Cacioppo and William (2009) use the concepts of infant and child development to explore how the brain and the body have evolved so as to help humans manipulate their social networks, study social signals and understand the importance of social connection within their niches (societies).

Part three: Finding meaning in connection

This section aims at providing solutions to loneliness from an individual and societal perspective. Having discussed how social interactions, altruism and interdependency have influenced human evolution, the authors emphasize on connection as a tool through which creativity and robust health among humans can be enhanced. Throughout this section, they focus on social trust as key to realizing a successful and harmonious society.

In their conclusion, the authors state that despite our weaknesses (violence, egocentrism and competitiveness) as a race, we have the ability to focus on common interests that go beyond our self-interests and those of our clans. Cacioppo and William (2009) recommend that finding those aspects that bring us together is pivotal to the survival of our social fibers as well as the key to eternal happiness.

The reason as to why the authors have divided this book into sections is to elaborate the key aspects of loneliness. The first section seeks to define loneliness and where it comes from. The second section enlightens the readers on the effects of loneliness to our psychological and physiological framework. The third section gives probable solutions and strategies that can be employed to deal with loneliness.

In addition, the authors have creatively integrated historical tales, scientific illustrations and references to related literature in a bid to enlighten the readers to different aspects of loneliness. Through these tools, the authors effectively prove that loneliness is part of human existence and social connection is indeed the solution to this cancerous social disorder.

Contribution to the study of loneliness

The book provides a premise through which loneliness can be understood. Like Cacioppo and William, Elliot (2007) gives meaningful interaction with other members of the society as the greatest solution to tackling loneliness.

She reaffirms that not only is this method relatively cheap (compared to therapeutic treatment and subscribing to counseling services) but it also leads to the establishment of mutually beneficial relationships which assist one in future times of trouble and hence doing away with the possibility of a relapse. On an even bleaker note, Lithgow & Kirkwood (1996) observed that sexual offenders tended to have a long history of loneliness and depression a problem closely associated with loneliness.

This being the case, it would be a grave mistake and somewhat careless on our part to leave the issue of loneliness unresolved as it can so clearly be seen that the various effects of loneliness do spill over to other members of the society. In light of these references, Cacioppo and William (2009) have been able to identify and tackle universally acclaimed issues related to loneliness. As such, their work provides a comprehensive framework from which people studying loneliness can base their arguments on.

This book has gone on to reiterate the fact that loneliness is indeed a reality in life and as such, we should brace ourselves for its occurrence (Cacioppo and William, 2009, p. 14). The motivation of this book has been to document various problems that stem from loneliness. To this end, the various problems that can emanate from loneliness if left unchecked have been outlined.

That being the case, some preventive measures which can be employed have been shed light on. Cacioppo and William (2009, p. 223) further indicate that there is a close relationship between loneliness, health and emotional complications.

These are true assumptions in today’s social environments where industrialization, technology and cultural erosion have limited our ability to interact effectively. However, it would seem as though the authors concentrated more of their research on primates that in human beings. In addition, some parts of the book make it a self-help book. As such, it is a good read for people trying to understand loneliness on a lay level. It does not explore loneliness from a neuropsychological level.

Conclusion

Loneliness affects all human beings at various points and as such is a subject worthy of some consideration. From the above discussion, the popular misconception that solitude and loneliness is one and the same thing has been reviewed and it has been established that loneliness stems more from a state of mind. The effects of loneliness have been seen to be mostly adverse in nature. A sample of ways to deal with loneliness has been outlined, to help individuals lead an emotionally healthier and productive life.

References

Cacioppo, J. T., & William, P. W. (2009). Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. ISBN: 978-0-393-33528-6

Elliot, E. (2007). The Path of Loneliness: Finding Your Way Through the Wilderness to God. CA: Revell.

Lithgow, G. J., & Kirkwood, T. B. L. (1996). Mechanisms and evolution of aging, . NY: Academic Press Limited.

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IvyPanda. (2019, March 3). Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/loneliness-human-nature-and-the-need-for-social-connection/

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"Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection." IvyPanda, 3 Mar. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/loneliness-human-nature-and-the-need-for-social-connection/.

1. IvyPanda. "Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection." March 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/loneliness-human-nature-and-the-need-for-social-connection/.


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IvyPanda. "Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection." March 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/loneliness-human-nature-and-the-need-for-social-connection/.

References

IvyPanda. 2019. "Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection." March 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/loneliness-human-nature-and-the-need-for-social-connection/.

References

IvyPanda. (2019) 'Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection'. 3 March.

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