Rejection is a pain – 10 ways to reduce it happening in intimate relationships.

 

To start this article, I want to begin with a simple premise: Physical pain and the pain from being rejected are the same. The human brain and the brain of other social animals reacts the same whether someone is dying from a chronic illness, being shocked, or being dumped by an intimate partner or being denied entry into a group. However, we for some reason like to separate the two, and place rejection within the realm of emotions (which as humans we falsely think are controllable) and physical injury in the domain of the uncontrollable (after all it was not their fault the sidewalk was there when they fell off their bike while trying to do a hand stand). What I mean by these statements is we tend to empathize with physical injury and forgive the reasons, but we tend to consider the suffering from reject as a sign of weakness and not being of hardy stalk. However, our world view of rejection is wrong, and by correcting this view, we can heal from the pain of rejection better, heal faster, and regain a sense of stability. To do this I think it is useful to use a common form of rejection and that is intimate partner rejection and I want to compare that to a more long-term physical disease such as cancer. I like this analogy because both rejection of an intimate partner and the development of cancer can occur very quickly or they both can sit dormant for years until an escalating moment. The second, is once cancer and the possibility of the loss of an intimate partner is made apparent both disease states tend to accelerate in their progression. Third, once the cancer is removed or the person leaves there is no guarantee of recovery or that one will not experience the disease ever again. Finally, I think this is a good analogy because we need to be honest both cancer and rejection from a close intimate partner can both lead to death. Indeed, the number one cause of homicide in the United States is intimate partner homicide, and over the past three decades cheating – the ultimate form of rejection – has become the number one reason for intimate partner homicide. Additionally, suicidal behavior is often followed by rejection, especially of a close intimate partner. With these four similarities in mind let us move on and explore how we can heal successfully.

I want to start our comparison by first stating a simple disease step model, I think by using this simple model it will be easier to come to understand how rejection occurs and the pain process:

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 6.44.43 PM

There are a few qualities of this comparison that I like to make. First is that it is a progression, while it may seem like it at times, when two people are truly intimately connected they do not just wake up one morning and say “I am leaving”. There is always a progression that continually erodes the relationship much like a cancer erodes and destroys a healthy body. A good example of this is research that interviewed divorced individuals and indicated that when the individual really starts to analyze their relationship, the relationship started to erode about two years before the individuals start to realize there is a problem.

The second thing that I hope the reader recognizes is that while this is a very general model, the processes are almost identical – BUT – the major difference is how the individual tends to respond, especially as both diseases progress. This is largely due to our belief systems that (1) a person should have control over their relationship, and (2) if there is a problem one should be able to fix it, if the couple ‘really’ loves each other. I think it is worth taking some time exploring these two faulty belief systems. The first is the illusion of control, the fact is, you and your partner, can do everything perfect. You can follow all the relationship advise, treat each other with complete respect, cherish one another completely, and guess what? – You can still end up being a divorce statistic. Please do not take this as a criticism of humans and our ability to have long lasting relationships. Remember the analogy between physical disease and rejection. A person can eat right, exercise, refrain from toxins and they can still end up having cancer or dying young of heart disease. This same principle applies to human relationships. With that being said, we should not end up be complete skeptics of our health or our relationships. The person who eats right and exercises will have a much better quality of life even if they still end up with a disease. The same goes with relationships, while all relationships may end, the more we invest healthily into them the higher the quality of experiences we have. The second illusion that if two people really love each other they should be able to fix it, I think comes from our overall illusion that we can also control our own fate.

Especially in highly individualistic societies, like the one here in the United States, individuals tend to believe that everything good and bad that a person does OR that a person experiences is solely due to the actions and beliefs of that individual. In other words, we maintain bad beliefs such as “she broke up with you because you are a bad person”, or “If he can’t love you because of who you are, no one else is going to either”. Now we should qualify this, because for much of western society’s history we did this with physical diseases, so once we believed that people got cancer because the gods were punishing them for being a sinner, or a person has a mental illness because they had a weak mind that allowed them to be possessed by some demon. It was not until western medicine and science started to debunk these myths that we started to see physical diseases as we do today – Although there are still some people who believe that diseases are a punishment from god, but that a whole other article.  It is in this same tradition of science that I write this article, in that we know enough scientifically about human relationships, that placing the entire fault for rejection on a single person or a single occurrence or process is ridiculous. So, if it is not because one person changes, that ruins a relationship, then what is it? As you think about this question you probably thinking that it is an unsolvable question, but it is actually fairly simple, change is the culprit to eventual rejection. But before I explain this there is one more faulty belief system that we must first address. That faulty belief is that we as individuals do not change greatly over time, and that our personality, beliefs, and who we are at the core does not change. The fact is you will be a different person five years from now than you are today. Indeed, you probably been a different person several times today already. Let me provide a simple example, what if someone secretly recorded you alone in your bedroom, out with friends at night, playing with your kids, and let us say giving a big work presentation. I am willing to bet if I blurred your face and changed your voice in each scenario and played it back to you, you would report seeing and hearing four (amazing) but different individuals. The truth is we are who we are based on (a) the demands of the situation, (b) our skills and ability to respond to the situation, and (c) our ability to comprehend the situation. Additionally, each situation demands something different from us, and therefore we must respond to a situation differently. However, because it would make us crazy to think we have so many different selves, which would lead us to feeling very unstable, our mind and brain have developed the illusion that we are consistent and stable overtime. In fact, we have gotten so good at this that we can change memories going clear back into childhood to make them congruent with who we are today without even realizing it is happening. The problem is, if I am stable and that is core to who I am, then my relationships remain stable and the same, because they are also core to my own identity. Therefore, any time a person has relationship difficulties, they sadly try to reset the relationship to “how we use to be when we first fell in love”. As you can guess, this almost always ends up failing. Indeed, most successful couples when they reach a point of recognizing their relationship has eroded, recognize first how much they and their partner has changed, and instead of rekindling the old flame, they go through process of courting and falling in love with this new person and leave that old relationship behind. It is as Mignon McLaughlin stated, “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person” – but should add with the same person as they are today.

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 6.46.05 PM.png

So the question that remains is given that any relationship no matter of the healthy behaviors the couple engages in, how does one have a long lasting relationship and decrease the chances of eventual rejection and loss.

 

#1 – Engage in healthy relationship behaviors, say “I love you” daily, touch, communicate, be honest with feelings for each other, doing things together, etc. For this there are plenty of relationship books that can help couples learn exercises of a health relationship.

 

#2 – Self-awareness. The ability to recognize one’s own physical and mental state as it relates to one’s situation is what we call self-awareness. We often go through our day with a narrow window of self-awareness because that all we really need to get through the common roles we have in life. However, it is advised to at least once a week for at least 30 minutes a person becomes completely self-aware of their physical, social, and psychological world. After which, engaging in self-reflection about how one is doing, how one is changing, and how one is feeling about their current situation is an important and provides a person with a guide. This can be done through several mediums such as journaling, yoga, meditation, prayer (if your religious), or any form activity that allows you to be aware of where you are completely as a person.

 

#3 – Recognize and embrace change. Accept that change is going to happen and that means you will need to continually work at your relationship. Never assume that your relationship is like a rock and is unbendable or unbreakable.

 

#4 – Continually try new things. Stagnation is like stopping exercise or eating right when it comes to relationship health. Yes there are times in all our lives when we do the day-to-day grind. However, actively seeking ways to engage one’s interest, discover new things, and engage one’s world differently can provide great learning opportunities and relationship bonding moments.

 

#5 – This probably should be number 1 – but remember if you decide to live in a radioactive bucket – do not be surprised if you get cancer. In same vein, if you live your life with toxic people, do not be surprised if you always are experiencing rejection and loss. Sometimes the people we desire  – are reason for our disease – just like I know if I continue eating chocolate cake I will gain weight and run risk of heart disease.

 

#6 – Be human! Often, we think that the perfect relationship is a relationship without conflict and problems. We forget that relationships are made by imperfect people, and therefore are inherently not perfect. Be honest with feelings, do not hide your faults, and encourage your partner to do the same.

 

#7 – Do not ignore other social relationships. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the excitement of an intimate relationship we let other important relationships in our lives weaken or even completely abandoned. Remember that we are a social creators, and we all have a differing needs for both social connections and emotional connections. When we do not maintain the needed level for both, we can find ourselves in deep despair, loneliness, and possibly depression. While it is wonderful to fall in love, remember that you both need to fall in love with each other’s complete world.

 

#8 – Maintain connection through common beliefs. Interestingly the idea of opposite attracts is not true when it comes to long successful relationships. Indeed, individuals who are in long-term relationships – and are still in love – have the same or similar belief systems and attitudes. Identify these early on in a relationship and nurture them together.

 

#9 – Intimate relationship that include sexuality, should be a vibrant sexuality. I often gross out my younger students when lecturing on long-term relationships, because I ask “how many have grandparents who were married for most of their lives and still really love each other?”. I then explain to these students that when it comes to sexuality, your grandparents were – and still probably are – freaks in the bedroom. Indeed, we find that individuals in long-term loving relationships tend to try new things, get adventurous with each other, and never let their sexually intimate life become stagnate. Now there are always those exceptions where one or both partners, usually due to health problems, lose interest in sex and we know that sex interests vary across the life span. We still find that individual who are going through a period of low sexuality or loss of their sexual life, tend to compensate in different ways such as increasing and diversifying other pleasurable couple activities.

 

#10 – Understand your own ‘life space’ and the life space of your partner. A famous social psychologist, Kirt Lewin, introduced the idea of life space, as a way to try and visually represent human behavior. If you can imagine a large bubble, that contains all of a person possibilities, then you understand visually what one’s life space is. But first what is meant by all of a person’s possibilities? Lewin recognized that every situation that we find our self in there is a range of possible reactions to that situation. All of one’s possible reactions is one’s life space. So, let me give an example, a school teacher who is making 40,000 a year, is at a car show where she is presented with the opportunity to purchase a $200,000 luxury car. Is this part of the teacher’s life space or range of possibilities? Given her income, cost of insurance, other financial obligations, the probability of buying the luxury car given the teacher’s current life space is very very small. Now the teacher recognizing that the car is not within her current life space can do things to add to it, life get a higher paying job, pay off lots of bills etc etc. But unfortunately, we do not live in a world of what we could do, we often live in the here and now, and understanding our current life space helps us understand our limits and abilities when it comes to actually engaging in a intimate relationship. Once we are aware of it, then and only then can we recognize how it will impact our current relationship, but also what we need to work at, so that the range of possibilities within a relationship can increase through the expansion of our own life space. The other reason for bring up the concept of life space is we often need to recognize the boundaries of our partner’s life space. If you are approaching a relationship with the intent on changing someone, you might as well start saving for the divorce now. For a person to change they must recognize the limitations of their own life space and have the tools and ability to expand their space. Now this does not mean if someone does not meet all your standards that you should not consider being in a relationship with them, but it does mean that you will need to sacrifice something to have that relationship – and sometimes sacrifice is okay.

Sources

Ang, C.S., Mansor, A.T., & Tan, K.A. (2014). Pange of loneliness breed material lifestyle but don’t power up life satisfaction of young people: The moderating effect of gender. Social Indicators Research, 117, 353-365

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., Berntson, G.G., Ernst, J.M., Gibbs, A.C., Stickgold, R., & Hobson, J.A. (2002). Do lonely days invade the nights? Potential social modulation of sleep efficiency. Psychological Science, 13(4), 384-387

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., & Preacher, K.J. (2010). Loneliness impairs daytime functioning but not sleep duration. Health Psychology, 29(2), 124-129

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., & Thisted, R.A. (2009). Loneliness predicts reduced physical activity: Cross-sectional & longitudinal analyses. Health Psychology, 28(3), 354-363

Cyranowski, J.M., Zill, N., Bode, R., Butt, Z., Kelly, M.A.R., Pilkonis, P.A., Salesman, J.M., & Cella, D. (2013). Assessing social support, companionship, and distress: National Institute of Health (NIH) toolbox adult social relationship scales. Health Psychology 32(3), 293-301

Demir, M., Jaafar, J., Bilyk, N., Ariff, H.R.M. (2012). Social skills, friendship, and happiness: A cross-cultural investigation. The Journal of Social Psychology 152(3), 379-385

Gunn III, J.F., Lester, D., Haines, J., & Williams, C.L. (2012). Thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness in suicide notes. Crisis 33(3) 178-181

Lieberman, M.D. (2013). Social: How our brains are wired to connect. New York, NY: Broadway Books

Olson, K.L., & Wong, E.H. (2001). Loneliness and Marriage, 28(2), 105-111

Segrin, C., & Domschke, T. (2011). Social support, loneliness, recuperative processes, and their direct and indirext effects on health. Health Communications, 26, 221-232

Segrin, C. & Passalacqua, S.A. (2010). Functions of  loneliness, social support, health behaviors, and stress association with poor health. Health Communications, 25, 312-322

Shankar, A., McMunn, A., Banks, J., & Steptoe, A. (2011). Loneliness, social isolation, and behavioral and biological health indicators in older adults. Health Psychology 30(4) 377-385

Zimmer-Gembeck, M.J., Trevaskis, S., Nesdale, D., & Downey, G.A. (2014). Relational victimization, loneliness and depressive symptoms: Indirect associations via self and peer reports of rejection sensitivity. Journal of Youth Adolescents. 43, 568-582

Advertisements

Why am I so Lonely?

By: Curtis Peterson ©

The Case Study of Alice

A reader (who we will call Alice) messaged me and asked “Dear Curtis, I have many friends and family that are around all the time, but why despite all this, do I feel so lonely?”. I like to say that this is a rare question but over the past years since I have started studying loneliness it is, unfortunately, the most common question I am asked. The first person to write about the form of loneliness Alice was experiencing was Robert Weiss in 1975 and he coined the term “emotional isolation” more popularly known as “emotional loneliness.”  Since this time, we have found that emotional loneliness is the most common and most profound type of loneliness affecting our health and well-being, even more than obesity, not exercising, and not eating right. In fact, chronic emotional loneliness predicts when one is going to die 3x better and more accurately than one’s physical health. To understand emotional loneliness, we must start with a common premise: human beings are social creatures and need other people. Indeed, research has shown that when we deny ourselves social interaction, the body starts to shut down as if it is dying of thirst or hunger. With this premise let us begin to explore what emotional loneliness is and what you can do about it.

What is emotional loneliness?

Emotional loneliness is defined as a deep feeling of loss of emotional connection with others, despite one’s level of current social connection. It is the person who “feels lonely in the crowd,” or feels like they don’t fit in, and no one is close to them or understands them. Before moving on, I should state, that emotional loneliness is something that most everyone will experience at least once in their lifetime, it is not a dysfunctional emotion nor is it maladaptive one. In fact, it is very adaptive, because it motivates us to reduce it, which helps individuals to seek out emotional connections with others. However, there is a subset of the population, where emotional loneliness can cause a bout of severe depression. Additionally, one of the symptoms of depression is the feeling of emotional loneliness. The difference between loneliness when someone is depressed and normative loneliness, is individuals with normative loneliness, although they may feel down, seek out emotional emotional connection. For people who are depressed, the feelings of loneliness become a reinforcing cycle of one’s self-defeating beliefs and ideas of who they are which aid in the continued cycle of depression. If you are reading this article and experiencing loneliness, I ask that you pay close attention to this difference, and if you feel that you have depression and not normative loneliness, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help.

In Alice’s case, after visiting with a mental health professional decided she was not depressed but just felt lonely. She concluded this with her mental health professional because she lacked any of the other symptoms associated with depression. So, what was making Alice feel so lonely if it was not an emotional crisis or depressive state? After chatting with Alice for a while I asked her “Tell me who you are as a person?” and well of course she gave the standard “mom, employee, wife, blah, blah” for which I asked again “no who are you as a person, who is ‘Alice’?”. To which she replied, “I am not sure what you’re asking, and if I did, I am not sure what the answer would be.” At that moment, I knew we had discovered the source of Alice’s emotional loneliness!

Why do people experience emotional loneliness: attachment, industry, and identity?

When I started studing loneliness, I developed a basic theory that one’s identity, specifically, a weak or damaged identity, drives a person’s experience of loneliness. Since that time, I have shown that loneliness is negatively associated with one’s sense of identity, that the positive outcomes of a strong identity are the opposite of adverse outcomes of loneliness, and that when you make a person’s identity salient and meaningful within a situation this reduces their evaluation of being lonely. So, it is worth exploring what an identity is and how it develops.

To understand identity, we must start with a discussion of a term William James (father of American Psychology) coined in 1896 called the “self-concept.” James defined the self-concept as “the totality of everything a person can call theirs.” James argued – and research since James has confirmed – there are two elements of the self-concept:

  1. The social self (later termed social identity) which is how someone defines them self in their social world and,
  2. the personal self which is everything that makes an individual who they are separate from other people. His term for the personal-self was the ‘spiritual self,’ which he wanted to use to emphasize everything that makes an individual unique.

To understand why emotional loneliness is caused by lack of identity we must see how it develops through the lifespan. For this, we will use some different theories of development starting with a very popular theory know as “attachment theory.”

Attachment theory originally attempted to explain how an infant becomes attached to their caregiver, and based on the responsiveness of the caregiver to the infant’s needs determined how the infant would socially interact with others. The purest of attachment theory would state that this infancy attachment process determines how an individual will relate with others throughout their lifespan. A more probable explanation is that early attachment determines a pattern of relatedness that if not broken through life experiences can determine how one will relate with others. In other words, if you had a bad, uncaring parent, this does not necessarily mean you bound only to have poor quality relationships!! What we do know is that individual’s who currently have an insecure attachment style (i.e. avoiding social relationships or self-destructive or avoidant when in a relationship) is negatively associated with the development of a healthy identity and positively related to experiences of chronic emotional loneliness.

What does this mean? Sadly, this means that individuals who are unable to develop social and intimate relationship are already at a disadvantage when it comes to loneliness. However, in Alice’s case, she had very loving parents and relatives and was raised in an emotionally close family. But, in recent years she has had a series of weak and unsupportive relationships, and she measured high on the subscale of “fearful-avoidant” on a measure of attachment style. But what does this have to do with identity?

The problem with having poor attachment style is that we often lack or do not trust feedback about who we are as an individual. Individuals with a poor attachment style are less likely to believe people when they say “you are a good parent” or “I am so happy you work for our organization.” By not being able to trust the feedback from others the individual’s identity becomes more and more diluted and less meaningful, and the individual start to feel more and more unimportant despite what others say about them. This weakening of a self-concept makes us feel less connected with others, and as a social being, we must know – and believe – that we have value to others. This loss of emotional value creates a sense of loneliness even when we are around others. There are two other developmental concepts originally presented by Erik Erickson, called industry and identity that we should discuss to finish the developmental story towards emotional loneliness. Erickson theorized that during different ages, we go through what he called a social-emotional crisis. If we successfully make it through a given crisis, it helps us develop into healthy and able individual. The crisis that Erickson believed we faced in late childhood was the crisis of industry versus inferiority. To understand this crisis read the two descriptions of Ed and Billy.

Ed: Ed recently started playing guitar, despite being new at it, his parents see his potential and encourages him to continue playing. A few times, Ed played his guitar for his class, his classmates cheered, and his friends thought he was cool.

Billy: Like Ed, Billy wanted to play guitar, however, when he signed up for lessons, his parents told him it would probably be a waste and that they better get their monies worth. His parents would only allow Billy to practice when they were at work, so they didn’t have to listen to “that noise.” When he told his friends what he was doing, they laughed at him and said he should just give that up before he embarrasses himself.

Now, the examples of Ed and Billy I will admit are extreme examples, but I would be willing to guess that most of us have experienced life somewhere between Ed and Billy. Second I would like to say that this is also not a plug to continue diluting children’s potential by giving everyone a trophy. But rather I would like to discuss – if both Ed and Billy had the same potential – what is each boy learning based on their social experiences ? In Ed’s case, Erickson would argue that he is developing industry. Industry is where one learns that what he or she does has meaning to others and has some social value. In Billy’s case, Erickson would argue what Billy is learning is sense of inferiority in that he has no social value, and that this lack of social value must be something about Billy and not about those individuals who are discouraging him. Now Erickson’s model is a socioemotional model, in that what the person is experiencing, is not necessarily a rationale experience, Billy may be very naturally talented, but because of his experience with others he feels has no talent and therefore no worth – at least when it comes to guitar playing. This disconnect between what we do and feedback from others is the starting recipe for the development of emotional loneliness through reduced sense of a meaningful identity.

Not only does Billy feel inferior, but he also is not getting enough feedback from those who are important to him to develop a well defined identity. As Billy enters adolescences, this is going to inform him about his developing identity. Erickson argued that during the ‘teenage years’ individuals experience the crisis of identity versus role confusion. Let us follow this developmental trajectory. An individual has good healthy attachments with others, and experience industry during middle childhood. This experience provides him or her with the confidence to explore and solidify his or her identity through the adolescent years leading to a clear identity which provides future direction as the individual enters adulthood. However, if a young adolescent, has weak attachments with others – and has received feedback that what he or she does have little value – this makes the individual more likely to be a crowd follower or a ‘loner’ during adolescence. These experiences may lead to an undefined identity, and probably taking on the identity of others leading to confusion between how one thinks he or she ought to be and the behaviors they take on from following others. This experience is not a good start to the beginning of adulthood and those young crowds the individual followed start to dissolve. You may be asking, ‘well what about Alice, you said that she had a healthy and supportive family?’. To that, I would say yes I agree, she had the optimal developmental experiences that should have resulted in a strong identity and little experiences of emotional loneliness. However, this is why I like telling the story of Alice because she emphasizes something that we often underestimate and that is our current situation and recent social experiences have a big impact on us. That is to say that our current situation matters and has an immense impact on what we experience. Indeed, research on counseling techniques indicates that working with a person’s current experiences of their symptoms is far more successful than trying to find and understand the deep rooted developmental experiences that promote current symptoms.

For Alice, the last few years she has had small but continues insults to her identity. These hits include a failed marriage which damaged her identity as a wife, and her grown children do not call very often, insulting her identity as a mother. On top of this after 15 years as an administrative assistant, her employer cut her position, eliminating an important social identity. Though she has been experiencing these insults for several months now, she started to notice that when she visited her family or went out with friends, she felt like an outsider, and thought that no one understood who she was. This experience eventually evolved in developing a complete emotional disconnect between her and those around her. Then came the wrong kind of advice, you know the advice I am talking about I am sure “that company didn’t deserve you anyways”, “you were meant to do better things”, “it is your kids not you”, “he wasn’t right for you anyways” – you know that advice that sounds right when we give it, but we feel awful when receiving it. The following provides how these messages are interpreted by the lonely person to understand why this is a bad way to support someone.

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-3-24-14-pm

Now we, I believe, are well-intending when we provide support to our friends and family, but it is important to note that we should be tuned into the other people in a way we can tell if they are emotionally withdrawing before giving said advice. Unfortunately, in an attempt to resolve our own emotional distress and dissonance, we often give advice with no intent on relieving the receiver distress, but making our self feel more emotionally secure and worthy. This creates even more emotional distance between the emotionally lonely person and the well intending person, creating the possibility of chronic loneliness and which at it’s worst can lead to severe depression and poor physical health. So what should we do if someone we know is experiencing emotional loneliness, or if we are experiencing emotional loneliness?

Reducing emotional loneliness.

The emotionally lonely individual. In Alice’s case, I encouraged her to focus more on strengthening her important identities. This included reaching out to her children and visiting them, expressing what her intimate relationship needs are to potential future partners, and share her knowledge of administrative processes by volunteering in administrative capacities for local non-profit charities. Before moving on with Alice’s outcome I want the reader to note the qualities of these activities:

  1. Active involvement. Note that each of the things Alice and I agreed on doing required her to engage her world actively. I bit of warning if an individual is very resistant to actively engage their world this is a warning sign that they may be suffering from depression.
  2. Skill utilization. Each of the active requires Alice to engage in activities that are associated with a given identity.
  3. Socially meaningful. Each activity must not only provide Alice with a sense of meaning, but it must also contain a value for those around Alice.
  4. Personally meaningful. Each activity is something significant and meaningful to the individual and is not a task for a task’s sake. You may also notice it not a canned set of instructions on what to do when someone is experiencing emotional loneliness; they are all tasks directly related to who Alice sees herself as.

So, what was the outcome of Alice? Last time I talked with Alice, about three months after she initially contacted me, she is doing much better. She enjoys being with her friends and family again and feels like she has a place when she does visit them. Although she still does not have a steady intimate relationship, she said that being able to express her needs and wants allows the person to make decisions to continue seeing her not because she is a “bad girlfriend” but because they were not willing to accept her. She also is now a regular feature at a local non-profit providing office administrative classes, for a job development program. Alice said while her kids still do not call her as much, she enjoys how they light up and get excited when she visits. Probably more important Alice stated that when she does visit her kids they started asking her for ‘motherly advice.’

What do I do when I know someone who is emotionally lonely? First I would like to say, that the emotionally lonely person is a very good manipulator of a social situation to hide their emotions of loneliness and disconnection. So if your friend or family does express their loneliness, more than likely, they have been experiencing loneliness for a very long time. This means starting with “it will be okay” is a bad starter – or – as one person told me, they felt it was something about them that made the person lonely and immediately started asking what they had to do wrong to make them feel that way. I hope by this point the reader understands that emotional loneliness develops over time as the person experiences various insults to a meaningful identity(s) they hold about them self. Here is a list of potential to-dos:

  • The best first liner is “when did you start feeling this way?” and in their answer try to find the insults they experienced that impact their identity.
  • Encourage them to engage in activities they once found enjoyable.
  • Try to provide opportunities for them to experience a positive view of their identity and who they are as a person.
  • Encourage them to help with social activities utilizing skills you know they have.
  • Encourage them to engage in helping behaviors like volunteering their time to meaningful charitable activities.

Again, before I make some concluding remarks, it is imperative to state, that if your friend or family member is resistant or avoidant of doing these things, they may be suffering from depression and at that point, it would be worth encouraging them to seek professional help. In conclusion, I hope that you have read some useful information, and that in the world where who one is becoming more and more diluted – and that making meaningful social connections is becoming increasingly hard, -that we remember that what makes us human is our need to have a significant social role in this world of ours. I encourage all my readers to make sure you engage in something socially meaningful every day, beyond likes on Facebook.

If you need more information about loneliness or are experiencing loneliness and need help please email me at psycguypeterson@gmail.com

Responding to Criticism on my notion of loneliness

By: Curtis Peterson ©

img_4243

Recently I have been criticized for my views on loneliness, even though these views are deeply seated in current research on the topic of loneliness. I would like to respond to some of the criticisms I have received. For this blog, I want to take on one of the most salient criticisms I have received

Criticism 1: Loneliness is not a product of an individual’s social world, but rather a disposition of a person and psychological disorders.

This criticism mostly comes from individuals who work in the mental health field, and work with individuals who report being extremely lonely. In this view, many of the individuals who are upset with my notion that loneliness is deeply seated within one’s social experiences, claim that loneliness is part of one’s psychological disorder and therefore should be treated on the individual level.

However, there are fundemental problems with this argument. The first comes from science dating back to the 1940s and is supported by current research, and that is loneliness is not a symptom of psychological disorders, but are a consequence of the social allienation most individuals with psychological disorders experience.

There is only one exception to this rule, and that is for individuals who experience depression. But, loneliness, when someone is in a bout of depression, is qualitatively different than the normative loneliness that everyone experiences. Loneliness during depression drives us away from seeking social and emotional connections, while normative loneliness drives us to seek out a social and emotional connection to alleviate the negative emotional state associated with the experience of loneliness. For me, there is another very important reason to separate loneliness from depression, and that comes from recent research conducted with individuals who have made serious suicide attempts and individuals who display suicidal thoughts. According to this research, individuals who are diagnosed with depression seem to only have suicidal ideation and attempts when they also score high on scales of normative loneliness – such as the UCLA Loneliness Scale. This is important because it provides a window into what drives individuals who are experiencing depression and when they are at risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts.

The second fundamental problem with loneliness only being a feature of psychological disorders that are self-driven is that everyone can experience loneliness regardless of their mental state. In fact, loneliness is a fact of being human. One reason that some individuals may argue that it is not is we all have varying degrees of the need to have social and emotional connections with other individuals. Indeed, most of the individuals that disagree with me have very low needs for social and emotional relationships. Loneliness and social connection as a drive system are very much like our system for hunger and thirst. Some individuals need for more food intake – and make sure they get three meals a day -and some individuals only have the desire to eat maybe once during the day. Loneliness is the same way, some individuals need a constant stream of socialization and emotional connection, whereas others need very little. Unfortunately the high-level person – especially in American culture – are considered needy, dependent, and weak – whereas individuals who have very little need are seen as strong and independent. While I would argue that being at either extreme can lead to dysfunction – just like too much food can lead to obesity, and too little food can lead to anorexia – the assumption that low social need people are stronger than high need individuals is just empirically false. There is no evidence in the empirical literature to suggest that individuals differ on how “strong” and “independent” they are based on their need for social and emotional connections.

My main goal for refuting the claim that loneliness is a feature of one’s disposition is in our modern world individuals are becoming more and more disconnected from each other. Evidence indicates that loneliness and the negative physical and psychological consequences of continued chronic loneliness are on the increase especially among at risk populations such as teens, elderly, and individuals who are members of stigmatized groups. Therefore, loneliness as an increasing epidemic in our society needs to be addressed on the social and cultural level, and we should let go of old unsupported notions that loneliness is a feature of one’s disposition. I make this plea that we should look at loneliness as a disease of society because the only long-term solution and “cure” for loneliness are for one to meet their social and emotional connections with others, through engaging in their social life.

 

The Historical Research Development on Loneliness

By: Curtis Peterson ©

bigstock-Girl-Sits-In-A-Depression-On-T-52227706-300x207


This blog describes the historical development of the study of loneliness


 

Early conceptions of loneliness associated the experience of loneliness with more dispositional and personality qualities rather than as a part of normal social motivational processes. Additionally, according to early conceptualizations of loneliness, the experience of loneliness often leads to dysfunctional behaviors. Early focus on consequences of loneliness included study of the lonely housewife and cheating behaviors (Sells, 1948) or the lonely soldier drinking excessively and engaging in sexually promiscuous behaviors (Frosdick, 1918). Indeed, as will be indicated later in this chapter, individuals who experience severe levels of loneliness can lead to dysfunctional ways in alleviating that loneliness. The issue of these early conceptualizations of loneliness and consequences is that they were antidotal and were not measured by any objective means. As far as studies that directly address loneliness, according to the PsycINFO database, the earliest research was by Watson (1930) who looked at what makes educated individuals happy. In this exploration Watson found that loneliness was negatively associated with happiness, suggesting that loneliness was a dysfunctional process. Later in 1948, research by Thompson found that individuals who scored high on different psychosis scales on the ‘Minnesota Multphasic Personality Inventory’ (MMPI) also scored high on a subscale of loneliness. This lead Thompson to make similar conclusions as Watson in 1930 that loneliness was (a) a dysfunctional process and (b) that loneliness must somehow be more related to one’s disposition rather than the situational or social experiences of a person. The other aspect of Thompson’s research that will influence contemporary research is the notion that loneliness is closely related to depression, and is a key symptom. Indeed, current research has found a strong association between the experience of loneliness in one-time period (ex. middle childhood) and the development of depression in later time period (ex. adolescence) (Zimmer-Gembeck, Trevaskis, Nesdale, & Downey, 2014). Additionally, depressive symptoms tend to include analogous experiences of loneliness (Zimmer-Gembeck, Trevaskis, Nesdale, & Downey, 2014).

In contrast to Thompson (1948) where loneliness is seen as a feature of psychosis, Brooks (1933) asked rural psychiatrist’s whether social isolation (as defined as monotony and lonesomeness) was the cause of psychosis. While the results were mixed, Brooks concluded that social isolation is symptomatic of psychosis but does not cause psychosis. Rather, he concluded that poor socializing skills and coping skills that evolved from psychotic personality more likely lead to isolation and the experience of lonesomeness. This conclusion is used to explain the association between early experiences of loneliness and later experiences of depression (Jones, et al. 2011; Anderson, Miller, Riger, Dill, & Sedikides,1994; Cacioppo, Hawkley, & Thisted, 2010; Zimmer-Gembeck, Trevaskis, Nesdale, & Downey, 2014). For example, Jones, et al. (2011) found an association between loneliness in middle school children and adolescence’s experience of depression. These authors concluded that the experience of loneliness in middle childhood thwarted these children’s ability to develop socializing skills necessary to be a part of forming social relationships in adolescence leading to depression. The problem with Brooks (1933) and Jones, et al. (2011) conclusion is that they rely on descriptive and correlational methods, so it is purely theoretical on how early experiences of loneliness indeed predicts later development of depression.

The next stage in the development of the understanding of loneliness came from Sullivan in 1953 who was one of the first to define loneliness as a developmental – personality process. That is to say that loneliness is driven by the person’s disposition and attachment that occurs in early childhood. This idea of attachment and loneliness is still supported in today’s literature (Baumeister, & Leary, 1995), however, the notion of the lonely personality is not strongly supported (Hawkley, & Cacioppo, 2010). Rather loneliness is seen more as a need drive, similar to the need for food, where some individuals need a lot and some people need just a little to sustain their functioning (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008). Probably the greatest legacy of Sullivan’s (1953) work is that it also provided a consistent definition of loneliness as “the need for intimate exchange with fellow being … with respect to satisfaction and security” (p. 261), the loss for which according to Sullivan causes “the driving of this system may integrate interpersonal situations despite severe anxiety.” (p. 262). In other words, the experience of loneliness creates a negative anxiety state which motivates an individual to relieve that negative state through interpersonal contact, despite the anxiety that accompanies the loneliness state. While this definition will be expounded on, specifically by Weiss (1973/1985), this definition remains the basic way psychologists have defined loneliness since.

The next evolution of the study of loneliness came in the 1970s with Weiss (1973/1985) book “Loneliness: The experience of Emotional and Social Isolation”. In this work Weiss argues that there are two types of loneliness. The first Weiss defined as emotional loneliness which is a negative affective state in which a person lacks close emotional ties with someone else. The second is social loneliness, or in Weiss’s terms social isolation, as a state of lacking sufficient social connections. Weiss used the term social isolation to emphasize the point that individuals who experience social isolation evaluate not having a sufficient number of social connections and social support in their life. Social isolation differs from emotional loneliness, in that emotional loneliness is the feeling of loss of close emotional relationship(s), whereas social isolation is a lack of sufficient social relationships, where close emotional or utility social support type relationships. Research since Weiss has supported the notion that there are two different types of loneliness, mainly from psychometric evidence (Vassar, & Crosby, 2008). The term social isolation continues to be used in contemporary research as defining social loneliness whereas the term loneliness often refers to emotional loneliness (Cacioppo, Cacioppo, & Capitanio, 2014). In addition to differentiating the two types of loneliness, Weiss (1973/1985) also introduced the idea that loneliness was not a dysfunctional process, but rather an ordinary motivational socializing processes. That is to say, according to Weiss, we are all driven to maintain a certain level of social and emotional connection and when our subjective experience goes below that individual threshold, we experience the negative state of loneliness. This, according to Weiss, drives us to either seek out emotional or social relationships. However, as will be presented in the contemporary research sections, individuals do not always go about seeking social connection in functional ways when experiencing loneliness (Hawkley, & Cacioppo, 2010).

In the 1980s and 1990s researchers became more and more interested in the reasons why individuals experience loneliness, beyond the subjective threshold, most likely driven by standardized measures such as the UCLA Loneliness Scale (Russel, Peplau, &Ferguson, 1978, Russel, 1996), which remains the most cited loneliness measurement scale used today (Ang, Mansor, & Tan, 2014). Since originally introduced, the UCLA Loneliness Scale has seen three revisions and development of two short forms of the measurement tool (Durak, & Senol-Durak, 2010). Additionally, the measure is the most translated scale on loneliness and has been translated and validated for populations from Zimbabwe (Wilson, Cutts, Lees, Mapungwana, & Maunganidze, 1992) to one of the most recent translations for the Turkish culture by Durak and Senol-Durak in 2010. The UCLA Loneliness Scale can be found in Appendix A.

With the advent of psychometric measures, some notable research that would influence the field up to current times were developed. From a cognitive perspective Conoley and Gerber (1985) investigated how loneliness affects reframing process of viewing the self and others. One of the more significant works that came out of the early 1990s was WcWhirter (1990), who provided one of the first reviews of the literature on loneliness, and the implications of counseling and research. Significant to WcWirter’s review was the presentation of data that indicated loneliness is a unique experience separate from any other dysfunctional state whether social (loss of loved one) or internal (depression or distressing experience) experiences. Indeed, WcWirter’s assertions have continued to be supported by current research (Hawkley, & Cacioppo, 2010). Other research worth noting of the early 1990s is the work of Lunt (1991), who continued the attributional work done by Conoley and Garber in 1985 and provided as causal model of loneliness based on attributional models. Using network and cluster analysis techniques, Lunt (1991) developed a thirteen variable model that clustered into five different groups. These clusters include: cluster one (physical unattractive and unpleasant personality), cluster two (others’ own groups-relationships, others’ lack of trying, and others’ fears), cluster three (impersonal situations and lack of opportunity), cluster four (lack of knowledge, lack of trying, shyness, and fear of rejection), and cluster five (pessimism and unlucky). While it is important to understand that these clusters developed not under causal experimental design, but by using psychometrics measures and self-report, they tend to support other self-report studies, but caution should be taken as this is not an experimental causal model but a psychometric – theoretical causal model. The significant outcome of Lunt’s (1991) study that is still an underlying assumption of the experience of loneliness today is the subjective cognitive evaluation. That is to say, loneliness suffered by an individual comes from a subjectively calculated estimate of experiencing of either loss of social connections or loss of close emotional connections with others. It is this evaluation that drives an individual attribution of to state of being, in Lunt’s work usually evaluated within one of the five clusters.

The 1990s study of loneliness saw a lot of attention and can be summarized in two late 1990 articles by Rockach and Brock (1997) on loneliness and life changes and Cacioppo and Gardner (1999) article entitled “Emotion”. By the late 1990s with the advent of more accessible use of computers and statistical software, more studies on loneliness using more advanced statistical methodology such as factorial analysis continued to garner support for a five factor model of loneliness that Lunt (1991) proposed. By the late 1990s, a five factor model which included (1) emotional distress, (2) social inadequacy and alienation, (3) growth and discovery, (4) interpersonal isolation, and (5) self-alienation seemed to be well support with-in the literature (Rockach & Brock, 1997). Work that supported this evidence and expanded on different dimensions of loneliness was that of Rockach and Brock in 1997.

Rockach and Brock (1997) investigated the five-factor model using a general population sample (versus traditional convenient sample of college students) that included 633 participants ranging in age from 13 to 87. In addition to using a general population sample, Rockach and Brock tested to see if there was variation among these five factors on five other variables that included (1) gender, (2) relationship status, (3) chronic or episodic loneliness, (4) current or past experience of loneliness, and (5) age at which loneliness is or was experienced. According to their findings, men’s experience of loneliness had greater loading on interpersonal isolation and perceived social alienation. Whereas women did not differ from the general population. The gender difference tends to be consistent with current findings with men experiencing loneliness more frequently, especially as they age (Victor & Bowling, 2012). For relationships, they found that individuals who were married experience loneliness the most intensely, and loaded heavily on growth and discovery, interpersonal isolation, and self-alienation. While consistent with current research (Segrin, Powell, Givertz, & Brackin, 2003) and research before Rockach and Brock (1997), divorced individuals experienced loneliness most frequently.

The third variable tested by Rockach and Brock (1997) was episodic versus chronic loneliness. According to these researchers by this time there was growing evidence that the experience of loneliness can lie on a continuum between individuals who tend to experience loneliness on a chronic basis to those who experience loneliness on an episodic level. At this time, chronic loneliness was seen as part of one’s personality, whereas episodic loneliness was event driven and was experienced by most of the population regardless of personality. The personality view of loneliness has since changed, as loneliness has been seen more as a natural driving force. Current researchers are finding evidence of more of a drive model analogous to food, where some people feel the need to consume more food than do other individuals, there are some individuals who have the need to find continued reductions in loneliness whereas others need minimal social and emotional contact to be satisfied (Lieberman, 2013).

Of interest in Rockach and Brock’s (1997) research was their focus on whether someone was currently experiencing loneliness, or if they were recalling past experiences of loneliness. Consistent with previous population rate research both in the 1990s (Lunt, 1991) and current (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008), which suggests at any given time, about 25% of the population is experiencing loneliness, Rockach and Brock’s sample consisted of 30% slightly but not significantly above the population rate. According to their findings, the weight in which individuals who are currently experiencing loneliness significantly differ from individuals who were recalling episodes of loneliness in their past. Current lonely individuals weighted higher on social alienation, growth and discovery, and self-depreciation. With self-depreciation, the most salient aspects were social inadequacy and self-alienation, whereas individuals recalling episodes of loneliness weighted more heavily on emotional distress.

The most significant parts of the 1990s that contributed to the knowledge base on loneliness was the systematic investigations of the features of loneliness, represented in this review by the work of Lunt (1991) and Rockach and Brock (1997). The last article that will be reviewed before moving on to more contemporary issues are that of Cacioppo and Gardner (1999) on emotions. It should be noted that John Cacioppo has become one of the leading research experts in the field of loneliness and currently the director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago where he has a robust research lab dedicated to the investigation of loneliness. One of the earlier works of Cacioppo, which included his colleague Wendi Gardner, was in 1999 in an article on emotions that emphasized three topics that would influence the study of emotions and loneliness (1) methodological issues, (2) relationship between emotions and cognition, and (3) the affective system which underlie emotions.

Methodological issues that were raised by Cacioppo and Gardner (1999) was for on advocating for the increased integration between the use of standardized measurements and neurological investigation tools such as fMRI imaging techniques. As will be seen in the last couple sections of this historical review, the last ten years has seen a robust increase and interest in the neurological processes associated with loneliness. By this time these authors’ argued that there had been developed several ways to measure emotions (i.e. self-report, indirect measures, and non-verbal measures) and that the field should continue the use and development of these tools. However, despite their advocacy for more lab-based studies, they also stated the field needs to address the ecological validity of the studies of emotions. In the context of loneliness, this call for more ecological validity will be seen in many of the contemporary studies that will be reviewed that investigates how loneliness is experienced within one’s community (Smith, 2012). Additionally, Cacioppo and Gardner (1999) argued that increased attention needed to be placed on socioemotional developmental aspects of loneliness. Again as will be indicated in the next section on contemporary issues, emphasis has been placed on socio-developmental processes of loneliness through childhood (Jones, Schinka, Van Dulman, Bossarte, & Swahn, 2011) to adulthood (Fokkema, Gierveld, & Dykstra, 2012).

The second area that Cacioppo and Gardner (1999) addressed was the relationship between cognition and emotions. They noted that that relationship between an individual’s emotion and an individual’s cognition (rationality) have been seen since the Greek philosopher times as an adversarial one with emotions being seen as blinding a person’s rational senses and abilities. However, as noted by Cacioppo and Gardner “[a]lthough the obstacles of a civilized world still occasionally call forth blind rage, emotions are increasingly recognized for the constructive role they play in higher forms of human experience” (p. 194). In other words, Cacioppo and Gardner argue that emotions have a key role in signaling that something must change and providing motivation to enact change, in a rational manner. Indeed, loneliness today is seen not as a self-defeating emotional process, but rather a negative emotional state that motivates the individual to seek out social connection in order to alleviate. While this may not be the case for some individuals who experience loneliness who try to alleviate it through dysfunctional means such as alcohol consumption, promiscuous sexual activity, or further social withdrawal leading to more loneliness and potential development of depressive symptoms, the majority of individuals’ loneliness leads to seeking out social and emotional connection with others (Hawkley, & Cacioppo, 2010).

In Cacioppo and Gardner’s (1999) paper they state “evolutionary forces do not value knowledge or truth per se but species survival” (p.198) and they go on to state when explaining the differentiation between hostile and threatening stimuli that “the human brain and body have been shaped by natural selection to perform this affective categorization and respond accordingly” (p.198). In the previous paragraph it was noted that emotional signals can aid in cognitive appraisal and increase the ability to make immediate and rational decisions. However, as can be seen by the statements just made, it is important not to overlook the evolutionary processes that underlie the affective system. This is the third point that Cacioppo and Gardner made in trying to understand and investigate emotions. There are two issues to the affective system that must be discussed in understanding the affective response of the individual, first is the learning process, in which affective experienced are shaped the classical conditioning and operant conditioning processes. The second is the understanding that emotions seem to have a two channel system one aimed at identifying and responding to threats and the other identifying and responding to safety and appetitive needs. When it comes to loneliness the threat channel may explain why individuals become more hypervigilant and weary of other’s intentions when feeling lonely (Lodder, Scholte, Clemens, Engels, Goosens, & Verhagen, 2015), whereas the safety and appetitive channel attempts to find a way to fulfill an individual social and social-emotional needs (Chang, et al., 2014). From a learning aspect, this maybe how individuals form poor habits when it comes to alleviating loneliness. For example, a person may realize that when they drink and become intoxicated they feel less threat and more social which alleviates their lonely state. Therefore, they learn that their loneliness can temporarily lowered through drinking. Cacioppo and Gardner’s (1999) article provided a framework for understanding the methodological, cognitive, affective variables that should be taken into account when studying emotions to the present day. Indeed, as will be review in the contemporary research section, researchers try to connect individuals experience of loneliness between neurological mechanism (methodology), cognitive system, and affective systems in order to understand how these systems respond to the environment and stimuli to try and understand the emotional state of loneliness.

The last evolution in the history of the study of loneliness fully developed within that last sixteen years with work from Cacioppo and Patrick (2008) in their book “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection”, Hawkley, and Cacioppo (2010) in their article “Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms” and Cacioppo, Cacioppo, and Capitanio (2014) in their article “Towards a Neurology of Loneliness” all of which describe the neurological basis of loneliness and the associated outcomes of prolonged loneliness. Additionally, they provide a framework for understanding loneliness as a part of an evolutionary advantage through social living, providing loneliness as a key negative emotional drive to engage a person in action when they experience insufficient amounts of social connection. These issues will be further explored in the contemporary section on loneliness in this chapter.

Before moving to more contemporary research two issues must be explored, the first is the difference between loneliness as defined by Weiss (1973/1985) and loneliness that is experienced when one has depression. The second is the difference between the experience of loneliness and the experience of social rejection. Loneliness and depression seem to be intimately intertwined as loneliness is a feature of depression (Zimmer-Gembeck, Trevaskis, Nesdale, & Downey, 2014). However, being lonely does not necessarily means one is depressed (Cicognani, Klimstra, & Goossens, 2014).

Loneliness as a property of depression is not new, however as can be seen in this review, depression and loneliness have a long standing relationship. What seems to differ between normative loneliness (i.e. loneliness that experienced whenever there is a discrepancy in social connection) and depressive loneliness, seems to be the motivational state. That is, individuals who experience loneliness while depressed tend to withdraw from opportunities to regain social connection whereas individuals who are experiencing normative loneliness have a motivation to alleviate the negative emotions it produces through seeking out social opportunities (de Minzi, 2006). Why loneliness has a different effect when a person is depressed versus not depressed is still under investigation. Research by Segrin, Powell, Givertz, and Brackin (2003) did research on didactic couples who one or both were experiencing depression suggests that loneliness becomes part of the negative affective-cognitive rumination cycle, and therefore instead of seeking out social connection the negative emotions associated with loneliness reinforces the person’s belief, attitudes, and behaviors, including their lack of abilities to create meaningful social connections.

From Segrin, Powell, Givertz, and Brackin (2003) research one can glean processes that are present when experiencing loneliness in that it includes a negative affective state (e.g. feeling anxious), a cognitive state (e.g. appraisal of social situation), and behavioral/motivational state (e.g. seeking out social connection). From Segrin, Powell, Givertz, and Brackin (2003) research it seems that depression interrupts the motivational and behavioral process (ex. withdraw from social situations) by creating a different evaluation of the person affective state (ex. anxious because lack of relationships) and cognitive appraisal (ex. I must be anxious because I am not good at relationships).

A second distinction that needs to be made before moving on is the distinction between social rejection and loneliness. Mainly, how do these two experiences differ from one another or do they? The best evidence for the differences between social rejection and loneliness come from neurological studies using fMRI to measure different activation during tasks where individuals are lonely versus not lonely and other studies that measure brain activity when someone experiences some type of social rejection. Research of this type has indicated that different brain regions become active when experiencing rejection versus being in a lonely state. For example, research by Eisenberger, Lieberman, and Williams (2003) and Eisenberger (2012) had individuals experience simulated social rejection while in an fMRI machine. This activity known as “cyber ball” requires a person to pass a ball on a video screen to one of two other players. In the social rejection scenario, the two other players stop passing the ball to the participant. When measuring activation in the brain, the researchers found that more the person experience social distress (i.e. rejection) the more of the area of the brain known as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) activated. Interestingly the dACC is also activated when a person experiences physical pain. However, similar research done on lonely individuals develops a different pattern. Instead, area associated with motivation (ventral striatum, caudate nucleus, and temporal gyrus) and emotions (amygdala, thalamus, and hypothalamus) become active under different lonely stimuli conditions (Cacioppo, Norris, Decety, Monteleone, & Nubaum, 2008; Cacioppo, Cacioppo, & Capitanio, 2014).

These studies potentially highlight the difference between rejection – as pain – and loneliness – as motivational emotion, there should be some caution in interpreting such studies. First they compare different regions of the brain under different types of procedures and activities. Second and most importantly, in the rejection condition individuals experience the state of rejection while having their brain scanned. Whereas as in the loneliness condition this is a pre-disposed state in which comparisons between individuals who scored low on a loneliness scale are compared to individuals who score high on a loneliness scale. Therefore, while these studies provide starting evidence that there is a distinction between rejection and loneliness, there is much more work that needs to be done in this area. Additionally, independent replications of Eisenberger, Lieberman, and Williams (2003) and Eisenberger (2012) work have failed (Cacioppo, et al. 2013). This indicates that while there may be a differentiation between social rejection and loneliness based on neural pathways, much more work needs to be done to identify exactly what the differences are and how they manifest themselves in the neural system.

Theoretical Framework of Loneliness

By: Curtis Peterson ©

 

Suicide and the sacred


I have been asked a lot lately why I think a person’s social identity would reduce a person’s experience of loneliness. So I have decided instead of retyping the same thing over and over I would just provide a link to the theoretical framework of identity and loneliness that I have developed over the past few years.


Theoretical Foundation

In this section the theoretical basis for the hypothesis that saliency of social identity may reduce an individual’s current subjective experience of loneliness will be explored. Figure 1 represented the combination of four formalized theories that together explain the theoretical relationship between social identification and loneliness (figure 1. Proposed model of loneliness reduction through social identification).

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 11.07.15 AM

Based on the theories that will be presented after Figure 1, the theoretical model is based on the assumption that emotions occur through the cognitive appraisal of a person’s current situation, this is represented in the first three boxes of figure 1, starting from left to right. Under situation, one will note that saliency of one’s social identity is important in this model, as it will be argued that saliency of one’s identity is important in the evaluation of one’s situation and determines one’s evaluation of loneliness. Additionally, two other factors have a role in the appraisal process, (1) past emotional memories, and (2) social categorization and social identification. Both of these factors are used by the individual to determine whether the current situation is one that is potentially harmful to the individual (part emotional memories) and the importance of the saliency of the person’s social identity (social categorization and social identification). Based on these initial appraisal of the situation, emotional memories, and identity, the person will evaluate the situation as either they belong or they are lonely in the given situation.

An example of how this process may work in the real world is a student who identifies with be a college student at a given college – let us call this ABC University. In a given evaluative situation, for example, being home during the summer away from school mates and the ABC University environment. The individual may evaluate this situation as lacking in strong social connection and identity, and therefore, may evaluate their situation as lonely and experience the desire to return from summer break early, the alleviate the state of loneliness. Once the student returns to ABC University and the situation makes their identity as ABC University student salient again, and the shared bond (categorization) and similar connection (emotional belonging), the individual experiences an increase in belonging and a reduced feeling of loneliness.

The need to belong.

To understand the interplay between loneliness and social settings it important to start with a meta-theory of the need to belong (Fiske, 2013; Lieberman, 2013; Cacioppo, & Patrick, 2008). Lieberman (2013) who studies the neurological basis of social behavior and Cacioppo and Patrick (2008) who studies the neurological basis of loneliness both agree that the human brain has largely evolved to meet the social demands of humans. Lieberman (2013) extends this to the notion of evolution, stating that if evolution had a purpose and a consciousness it made a bet on the social aspects of the human brain rather than the individual survival skills of the human brain to assure it continued survival. Indeed, both Lieberman (2013); and Cacioppo and Patrick (2008), provide significant evidence that the higher evolved areas of the brain are used in the processing of social information rather than non-social information. Lieberman (2013) even provides compelling evidence that when individuals stop engaging in non-social actions the brain immediately reverts to the activation of the social areas of the brain without conscious knowledge or effort. Based on this neurological evidence, it has lead these researchers to theorize that one of the most basic needs of human beings is to create and maintain social connections.

While Lieberman (2013) and Cacioppo and Patrick (2008) developed a neurological basis for social belonging, Fiske (2013) develop a social cognitive needs model which places the need for belonging as an overarching motivation to four other cognitive and affective cognitive reasons for creating and maintaining social connections. In one’s motivation to belong Fiske (2013) theorizes that there are two relatively cognitive needs and motives, and two relatively affective needs and motives. The cognitive needs include the need for understanding and the need for control. The need to understanding is the need to have shared experiences that makes both the social and non-social world predictable. The second cognitive need is the need and motivation for control as defined as being able to have some control between behavior and the outcome of behavior. Again this can arise through shared meaning, storytelling, and knowing the experiences of others. Indeed, one can argue that while there are self-enhancements that drive this proposal and dissertation, the other social meaning is to provide a shared meaning of social identification and loneliness, and to provide a potential control between one’s behavior resulting from experience of loneliness and the potential positive outcomes through engaging in the social identification process. However, if the results of this proposal are not supported it also has shared understanding and control as well. Fiske (2013) also argued that there are two relatively affective needs and motives that are driven by the belonging process. The first is the need for self-enhancement, this is the basic need to be able to see one’s self as basically worthy and improvable. It can be argued that this can only occur within a social context either through direct social feedbacks or by comparing one’s self to some social norm. The second affective need is the need for trust which is defined by Fiske (2013) as seeing others as basically benign. Lieberman (2013) argued that the reason the human brain evolved in a large part to meet their social world is because it was an evolutionary advantage for human being to live in groups and work as a coherent unit. This social system also requires seeing individuals within that social system as relatively benign and safe. Therefore, Fiske (2013) felt this was an important aspect of one of the sub-categories of the need to belong, as she argues the more benign others are within a group, the more open and creative; and less closed and apprehensive.

Cacioppo and Patrick (2008) theorize that loneliness is a mechanism by which a person comes to understand that their need to belong or social connection is not being fulfilled. This will be discussed in the next section titled “Thwarted belonging leading to loneliness”. However, to summarize this section, the need to belong is considered a basic human need and can be explained by neurological evidence (Lieberman, 2013), and social cognitive evidence (Fiske, 2013). In the overall model presented in figure one the need for belonging would be evaluated in the appraisal of the situation for which the individual is attending. This appraisal can result in a thwarting of any five of Fiske’s cognitive needs leading to the negative emotional state of loneliness.

Thwarted belonging leading to loneliness.

As will be presented on the literature review on loneliness, the study of the topic has a long and rich history. What seems to be clear from this collection of data is that loneliness is a negative emotional state that motivates an individual to fulfill their needing for social connection and belonging (Ayalon, Shiovitz-Ezra, & Roziner, 2016). There are two types of loneliness that individuals experience best explained by Weiss (1973/1985) who theorized that individuals can experience two types of loneliness one emotional and the other social. Emotional loneliness is defined as a person’s subjective evaluation that they do not have sufficient emotionally close relationships. It can be argued under Fiske (2013) model that individuals need close emotional relationships to enhance their self-enhancement through honest feedback and encouragement. One could also argue emotional relationships are necessary to have a sufficient amount of trust, in a complex social world in which not everyone can be trusted.

The second form of loneliness described by Weiss (1973/1985) is social loneliness, also known in the literature as social isolation. Social loneliness is the appraisal that one does not have sufficient social connections. Not having sufficient social connections can thwart Fiske’s (2013) need for understanding and control, by not having sufficient information through social connection to make one’s world predictable and to have some sense of control. While the majority of Cacioppo’s work on loneliness has specifically dealt with social loneliness in relation to neurological process and health and mental health outcomes, he concedes that when social-emotional needs are not met this thwarts an individual’s confidence and abilities to create and develop meaningful social connections leading to the experience of chronic loneliness (Cacioppo, Christakis, & Fowler, 2009). The clear separation for emotional loneliness and social loneliness comes from evidence that individuals may still experience loneliness despite having several social connections, and when this has been investigated the main conclusion is that for these individuals while they may have a large social network, they lack any real meaningful emotionally close relationships (Grageset, Eide, Kirkevold, & Ramhoff, 2012). While as will be indicated later in this proposal loneliness can lead to some rather anti-social and self-defeating behaviors such as isolation (Cacioppo, Hawkley, & Thisted, 2010), drinking (Chen, & Feeley, 2015), hypervigilance and inability to trust (Lodder, Scholte, Clemens, Engels, Goosens, & Verhagen, 2015), focusing on non-social objects (Epley, Akalis, Waytz, & Cacioppo, 2008), and becoming more non-conforming, loneliness is largely seen as a negative emotional motivational model rather than a self-defeating model. Indeed, for the majority of individuals the experience of loneliness leads to increase social and emotional connections with others, satisfying and individuals need for belonging. As can be indicated in Figure 1, emotional and social loneliness are seen as outcomes of the evaluative process after a person has determined that they are not meeting their belonging needs. Loneliness is represented in the manner to emphasize that this emotional experience then leads to proceeding behaviors such as socialization or regaining emotional connections. Before moving on to the proposed mechanisms that may reduce loneliness (social identity) it is worth pausing for a moment and taking a look at the theoretical models of emotions, as loneliness is considered as an emotional state.

Emotional basis of loneliness.

Loneliness can be considered as fitting within two groups of emotions, the first is personal emotions where one has an individual experience of loneliness which aspects of this experience of loneliness are best explained by theories of emotions presented by Cacioppo and Gardner (1999). The second is loneliness can be experienced as a social and group emotion and be driven through social and group processes which is best explained by the group based emotion theory of Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016). A full evaluation of Cacioppo and Gardner’s (1999) theory is provided in the section on loneliness while a full evaluation of Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016) is provided in the section on social identity. The purpose here is to provide the theoretical underpinnings of each of these theories as they relate to the experience of emotions.

To begin the exploration of emotions it should begin with some basic ideas of emotions presented by Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016) who provide evidence that the majority of research on emotions indicates that it is a situationally bound experienced based on an appraisal process of what elements of a situation are being attended to and how they are appraised based on the individual’s identity and experience with the situation. The idea and notion of emotions being situationally bound and go through an appraisal processes emphasizes a short fall in both the research on emotions and the personal experiences of emotions, in that, according to Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016), emotions are well understood as they are experienced. This may explain why at times individuals may try to alleviate emotions through more destructive means rather than in a manner consistent with what the emotion means to the individual. Lastly, Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016), point out that in research, that compares group emotions versus personal emotions, has largely concluded that they are not experienced qualitatively different. Meaning that emotional states as experienced by the individual versus group emotions experienced by a group, do not differ in any significant way. This according to Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren, and Gross (2016) indicates that social identity and social evaluation should be taken into consideration in the evaluation of emotional states. Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016) theory and ideas of emotions are explored more deeply starting on page 106 and represented on Figure 2 on page 109. For this section on building a theoretical framework Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016) ideas can be represented in the situation, attention, and appraisal aspects of Figure 1, in that their theory supports the appraisal process of emotions based on the current situation.

The second theory of emotions used for the development of this theoretical framework come from Cacioppo and Gardner (1999). Like Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016), Cacioppo and Gardner (1999) theorized that emotions, while not always rationally based have cognitive evaluative processes by which a person may determine the meaning and purpose of a given emotional state. Cacioppo and Gardner (1999) theorized that emotions have both a safety and appetitive pathway or what they called channels. The safety channel are emotions that signal either the need to gain safety or that the organism is in a safe situation. In figure 1, this is represented through the appraisal of past emotional memories, which provides information on whether the situation is safe. The appetitive channel (also called hedonic needs by Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross, 2016) are needs that satisfy the basic needs of the organism but also the pleasure needs of the organism. In the context of loneliness and the belonging model of Fiske (2013), safety needs (fulfilled through trust, understanding, and control) when thwarted can lead to the negative emotional state of loneliness signaling to the organism that these basic needs are not being fulfilled. Appetitive needs under Fiske (2013) may include self-enhancement needs when not being satisfied may lead to the experience of loneliness. In addition to this emphasis on cognitive process, Cacioppo and Gardner (1999), also placed emphasis on socio-emotional development as an important understanding of not only how one will experience an emotion but understand and cope with it as well. The emphasis of socio-emotional development is represented as past emotional memories in Figure 1 to emphasize that individual’s experience with emotions and their already developed personal theories about emotions has significant implications of how one will evaluate the current situation and therefore the proceeding emotional state. One question that this proposal is trying to determine, is if emotional states – such as loneliness – are situationally bound, then there must at least theoretically, be a way to change situational variables that can lead to a changing evaluation of the situation and therefore the experience of the given emotion. This proposal theorizes that a potential situational variable is the saliency of one’s social identity. The next section will provide a theoretical overview of social identity theory.

Social identity theory and social categorization theory.

This research builds on the research conducted on Social Identity Theory (SIT) and Social Categorization Theory (SCT) research findings, which was originally formulated by Tajfel and Turner in 1982. According to SIT individuals seek groups which have similar attributes that they have. This leads to group affiliation and the development of a social identity based on the qualities of that group (Turner, 1982). Once individuals start to develop a social identity in order to protect that identity he or she will categorize individuals into either in-groups or out-groups as described by SCT (Abrams, 2014). Like one’s personal identity, individuals like to think of themselves as good people, in general, therefore they will implement protective mechanisms to enhance their social identity and have their social identity protected (Carter, 2013). Accordingly, most research on SIT has focused on how individuals protect their social identity through engaging in prejudice and discrimination towards out-groups (Kumar, Seay, & Karabenick, 2011). However, recent research has focused on the positive aspects of social identity, for example Haslam (2014) provided evidence that a sense of social identity among medical doctor residency students can enhance their educational experience through developing a sense of identity as a doctor. Haslam (2014) also argues that social identity is becoming such a key variable in individual’s social and personal experiences that both mental health and physical health practitioners should not deny the importance one’s social identity has and should work to enhance their social identity for the welfare of their clients and patients.

Specific to this research, the original assumption of SIT is that individuals seek out a social identity in order to enhance their self-esteem (Turner, 1982). However, research on this self-esteem hypothesis has been inconsistent and generally does not support this view (Abrams, 2014). This has lead Abrams (2014) to believe that there are probably multiple mechanisms which motivates an individual to engage in social identification. The argument of this proposal is the experience of loneliness maybe on motivating factor for one to engage in social identification. More importantly, is that social identity maybe a protective factor in reducing not only the evaluative phase of loneliness but also the experience of loneliness. This is represented in Figure 1, part of the evaluation process, and allows the individual to interpret the situation as one in which they belong both emotionally and socially. If this assumption is correct, it will indicate that social identity does indeed have a key role in an individual’s experience of loneliness. As will be shown in later sections in this chapter social identities provide the opportunity for social belonging and the development of emotional bonds based on similar attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs. This emotional bond and the feeling of social belonging may provide relief of the emotional pains of loneliness. Additionally, the saliency of which can be placed in any situation in which maybe lonely evoking for individuals, subsequently reducing the chance that individual will experience loneliness. Emphasis on the saliency of one’s social identity is important, because research on social identity finds that unless one’s identity is made salient within the situation, it has little influence affective and behavioral outcomes (Carter, 2013). With this theoretical model in mind, focus will now turn to research that is relevant to understanding loneliness and social identity both from a historical standpoint and a contemporary view.

Full Reference List

Abrams, D. (2014). Social identity and intergroup relations. In Mikulincer, M., & Chaver, P.R. (Eds) APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 2). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Allport, G.W. (1937). Personality: A Psychological Interpretation. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.

Allport, G.W. (1955). Becoming: Basic Considerations for a Psychology of Personality (Based on the Terry Lectures delivered at Yale University). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press

Allport, G.W. (1958). The Nature of Prejudice. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor Books.

Allport, G.W. (1960). Personality and Social Encounter. Boston, MA: Beacon Press

Alpass, F.M., & Neville, S. (2003). Loneliness, health and depression in older males. Aging and Mental Health, 7(3), 212-216

Amiot, C. E., & Aubin, R. M. (2013). Why and how are you attached to your social group? Investigating different forms of social identification. British Journal of Social Psychology, 52(3), 563-586.

Amodio, D.M. (2008). The neuroscience of intergroup relations. European Review of Social Psychology, 18, 1-54

Amiot, C. E., & Aubin, R. M. (2013). Why and how are you attached to your social group? Investigating different forms of social identification. British Journal Of Social Psychology, 52(3), 563-586.Anderson, C. A., Miller, R. S., Riger, A. L., Dill, J. C., & Sedikides, C. (1994). Behavioral and characterological attributional styles as predictors of depression and loneliness: Review, refinement, and test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66(3), 549-558. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.66.3.549

Ang, C., Mansor, A.T., and Tan, K. (2014). Pangs of loneliness breed material lifestyle but don’t power up life satisfaction of young people: The moderating effect of gender. Social Indic Research, 117, 353-365

Arpin, S.N., Mohr, C.D., & Brannan, D. (2015). Having friends and feeling lonely: A daily process of examination of transient loneliness, socialization, and drinking behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(5), 615-628, DOI: 10.1177/0146467215569773

Aschenbrenner, K. M., & Schaefer, R. E. (1980). Minimal group situations: Comments on a mathematical model and on the research paradigm. European Journal of Social Psychology, 10(4), 389-398. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420100406

Ayalon, L., Shiovitz-Ezra, S., & Roziner, I. (2016). A cross-lagged model of the reciprocal associations of loneliness and memory functioning. Psychology and Aging, 31(3), 255-261. doi:10.1037/pag0000075

Bangee, M., Harris, R.A., Bridges, N., Rotneberg, K.J., & Qualter, Pz., (2014). Loneliness and attention to social threat in young adults: Findings from an eye tracker study. Personality and Individual Differences, 63(2014) 16–23

Baumeister, B. F., & Leary, M. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497

Beart, S., Hardy, G., & Buchan, L. (2005). How People with Intellectual Disabilities View Their Social Identity: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 18(1), 47-56. doi:10.1111/j.1468-3148.2004.00218.x

Bizumic, B., Reynolds, K.J., Turner, J.C., Bromhead, D., & Subasic, E. (2009). The role of the group in individual functioning: Social identification and the psychological well-being of staff and students. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 58(1), 171-192

Bornewasser, M., & Bober, J. (1987). Individual, social group and intergroup behaviour. Some conceptual remarks on the social identity theory. John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 1996.

Bornstein, G., Crum, L., Wittenbraker, J., Harring, K., Insko, C. A., & Thibaut, J. (1983). On the measurement of social orientations in the minimal group paradigm. European Journal of Social Psychology, 13(4), 321-350. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420130402

Brewer, M. B. (1979). In-group bias in the minimal intergroup situation: A cognitive-motivational analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 86(2), 307-324. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.86.2.307

Brooks, L. M. (1933). The relation of spatial isolation to psychosis. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 27(4), 375-379. doi:10.1037/h0072806

Brown, R. J., Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1980). Minimal group situations and intergroup discrimination: Comments on the paper by Aschenbrenner and Schaefer. European Journal of Social Psychology, 10(4), 399-414. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420100407

Bukoff, A., & Elman, D. (1979). Repeated exposure to liked and disliked social stimuli. The Journal of Social Psychology, 107(1), 133-134. doi:10.1080/00224545.1979.9922685

Burford, B. (2012). Group processes in medical education: Learning from social identity theory. Medical Education, 56, 143-152

Burke, P.J., & Stets, J.E. (2009). Identity theory. New York, NY: Oxford Press.

Caccioppo, J.T. & Gardner, W.L. (1999). Emotion. Annual Review of Psychology. 50, 191-214.

Cacioppo, J. T., Cacioppo, S., & Cole, S. W. (2013). Social Neuroscience and Social Genomics: The Emergence of Multi-Level Integrative Analyses. International Journal of Psychological Research, 61-6.

Cacioppo, J.T., & Patrick, W. (2008). Loneliness: Human Nature and the need for social connection. New York, NY: W.T. Horton & Company

Cacioppo, J.T., Christakis, N.A., & Fowler, J.H. (2009). Alone in the crowd The structure and spread of loneliness in a large social network. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97(6), 977-991

Cacioppo, J.T., Frum, C., Asp, E., Weiss, R.M., Lewis, J.W., & Cacioppo, S. (2013). A quantitative meta-analysis of functional image studies of social rejection. Scientific Reports, 3, 2027 DOI: 10.1038/srep02027

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., & Preacher, K.J. (2010). Loneliness impairs daytime functioning but not sleep duration. Health Psychology, 29(2), 124-129

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., & Thisted, R.A. (2009). Loneliness predicts reduced physical activity: Cross-sectional & longitudinal analyses. Health Psychology, 28(3), 354-363

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., & Thisted, R.A. (2010). Perceived social isolation makes me sad: 5-year cross-lagged analyses of loneliness and depressive symptomatology in the Chicago health, aging, and social relations study. Psychology and Aging, 25(2), 453-463

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., Berntson, G.G., Ernst, J.M., Gibbs, A.C., Stickgold, R., & Hobson, J.A. (2002). Do lonely days invade the nights? Potential social modulation of sleep efficiency. Psychological Science, 13(4), 384-387

Cacioppo, J.T., Norris, C.J., Decety, J., Monteleone, G., & Nubaum, H. (2008). In the eye of the beholder: Individual differences in perceived social isolation predict regional brain activation to social stimuli. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 21(1), 84-92

Cacioppo, S., Cacioppo, J.T., & Capitanio, J.P. (2014). Toward a neurology of loneliness. Psychological Bulletin, 140(6), 1464-1504

Carter, M.J. (2013). Advancing identity theory: Examining the relationship between activated identities and behavior in different social contexts. Social Psychology Quarterly, 76(3), 203-223

Catterson, J., & Hunter, S. C. (2010). Cognitive mediators of the effect of peer victimization on loneliness. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(3), 403-416. doi:10.1348/000709909X481274

Change, C., Chang, C., Biegel, D.E., Pernice-Duca, F., Min, M.O., & D’Angelo, L. (2014). Predictors of loneliness of clubhouse members. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 37(1), 51-54

Chen, Y., & Feeley, T. H. (2015). Predicting binge drinking in college students: Rational beliefs, stress, or loneliness? Journal of Drug Education, 45(3-4), 133-155. doi:10.1177/0047237916639812

Cicognani, E., Klimstra, T., & Goosens, L. (2014). Sense of community, identity status, and loneliness in adolescence: A cross-national study on Italian and Belgian youth. Journal of Community Psychology, 42(4), 414-432

Conoley, C.W., & Garber, R.A. (1985). Effects of reframing and self-control directives on loneliness, depression, and controllability. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 32(1), 139-142

Cooke, N.J. (2015). Team cognition as interaction. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(6), 415-419

Costabile, K.A. (2016). Narrative construction, social perceptions, and situational model. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(5), 589-602

de Minzi, M. R. (2006). Loneliness and Depression in Middle and Late Childhood: The Relationship to Attachment and Parental Styles. The Journal of Genetic Psychology: Research and Theory On Human Development, 167(2), 189-210. doi:10.3200/GNTP.167.2.189-210

Mita, T. H., Dermer, M., & Knight, J. (1977). Reversed facial images and the mere-exposure hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 597-601.

DeWall, C. N., & Pond, R. J. (2011). Loneliness and smoking: The costs of the desire to reconnect. Self and Identity, 10(3), 375-385. doi:10.1080/15298868.2010.524404

Dong, L., Lin, C., Li, T., Dou, D., & Zhou, L. (2015). The relationship between cultural identity and self-esteem among Chinese Uyghur college students: The mediating role of acculturation attitudes. Psychological Reports, 117(1), 302-318. doi:10.2466/17.07.PR0.117c12z8

Durak, M., & Senol-Durak, E. (2010). Psychometric qualities of the UCLA Loneliness Scale – Version 3 as applied in a Turkish culture. Educational Gerontology, 36, 988-1007

Eisenberger, N. I., Lieberman, M. D., & Williams, K. D. (2003). Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion. Science, 302(5643), 290-292. doi:10.1126/science.1089134

Eisenberger, N.I. (2012). Broken hearts and broken bones: A neural perspective on the similarities between social and physical pain. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(1) 42-47, DOI: 10.117/0963721411429455

Epley, N., Akalis, S., Waytz, A., & Cacioppo, J.T (2008). Creating social connection through inferential reproduction: Loneliness and perceived agency in gadgets, gods, and greyhounds. Psychological Science, 19(2), 114-120

Feeney, B.C., & Collins, N.L. (2015). A new look at social support: Theoretical perspective on thriving through relationships. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 19(2), 112-147

Field, A., (2009). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS Statistics (4th ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications

Fiske, S. T. (2013). Social beings: Core motives in social psychology (3rd ed). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Fokkema, T., Gierveld, J.D., & Dykstra, P.A. (2012). Cross-national differences in older adult loneliness. The Journal of Psychology, 146(1-2), 201-228

Ford, J., O’Hare, D., & Henderson, R. (2013). Putting the ‘we’ into teamwork: Effects of priming personal or social identity on flight attendants’ perceptions of teamwork and communication. Human Factors, 55(3), 499-508. doi:10.1177/0018720812465311

Frosdick, R.B. (1918). The War and Navy Department Commission on training camp activities. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 79, 130-142

Ganley, R. M. (1989). Emotion and eating in obesity: A review of the literature. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 8(3), 343-361. doi:10.1002/1098-108X(198905)8:3<343::AID-EAT2260080310>3.0.CO;2-C

Gentina, E. (2014). Understanding the effects of adolescent girls’ social position within peer groups on exchange practices. Journal of Consumer Behavior, 13, 73-80

Goldenberg, A., Halprin, E., van Xomeren, M., & Gross, J.J. (2016). The process model of group-based emotion: integrating intergroup emotion and emotion regulation perspectives. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 20(2), 118-141, doi: 10.177/1088868315581263

Gonzalez, V. M., & Skewes, M. C. (2013). Solitary heavy drinking, social relationships, and negative mood regulation in college drinkers. Addiction Research & Theory, 21(4), 285-294. doi:10.3109/16066359.2012.714429

Gordon, P. C., & Holyoak, K. J. (1983). Implicit learning and generalization of the ‘mere exposure’ effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45(3), 492-500. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.45.3.492

Grageset, J., Eide, G.E., Kirkevold, M., & Ramhoff, A.H. (2012). Emotional loneliness is associated with mortality among mentally intact nursing home residents with and without cancer: A five-year follow-up study. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 22, 106-114

Gruepentrog, B.K., Harold, C.M., Holtz, B.C., Klimoski, R.J., & Marsh, S.M. (2012). Integrating social identity and the theory of planned behavior: Predicting withdrawal from organizational recruitment process. Personnel Psychology, 65, 723-753

Grush, J. E. (1976). Attitude formation and mere exposure phenomena: A nonartifactual explanation of empirical findings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33(3), 281-290. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.33.3.281

Hansson, R.O., & Jones, W.H. (1981). Loneliness, cooperation, and conformity among American undergraduates. The Journal of Social Psychology, 115, 103-108

Haslam, S.A. (2014). Making good theory practical: Five lessons for an applied social identity approach to challenges of organizational, health, and clinical psychology. British Journal of Social Psychology, 53, 1-20

Hawkley, L.C., & Cacioppo, J.T., Preacher,  (2010). Loneliness matters: A theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annual Behavioral Medicine. 40, 218-227

Hawkley, L.C., & Cacioppo, J.T. (2010). Loneliness matters: A theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annual Behavioral Medicine. 40, 218-227

Hellmich, N. (2014). Feeling lonely? It may increase risk of early death. Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/17/loneliness-seniors-early-death/5534323/

Herringer, L. G., & Garza, R. T. (1987). Perceptual accentuation in minimal groups. European Journal of Social Psychology, 17(3), 347-352. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420170308

Hertz, S. G., & Krettenauer, T. (2016). Does moral identity effectively predict moral behavior?: A meta-analysis. Review of General Psychology, 20(2), 129-140. doi:10.1037/gpr0000062

Hogg, M.A., & Turner, J.C. (1987). Intergroup behavior, self-stereotyping, and the salience of social categories. British Journal of Social Psychology, 26, 325-340, doi:10.1111/j.2044-8309.1987.tb00795.x

Hogg, M.A., Knippenberg, D.V., & Rast III, D.E. (2012). The social identity theory of leadership: Theoretical origins, research findings, and conceptual developments. European Review of Social Psychology, 23, 258-304

Holt-Lunstad, J. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10: 227-237, doi: 10.1177/1745691614568352

Howe, L. C., & Dweck, C. S. (2016). Changes in self-definition impede recovery from rejection. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(1), 54-71. doi:10.1177/0146167215612743

Immonen, S., Valvanne, J., & Pitkälä, K. H. (2011). Older adults’ own reasoning for their alcohol consumption. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 26(11), 1169-1176.

Jackson, J.W. (2011). Intragroup cooperation as a function of group performance and group identity. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 15(4), 343-356

Jakeobovits, L. A. (1968). Effects of mere exposure: A comment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(2, Pt.2), 30-32. doi:10.1037/h0025750

Jakubiak, B.K., & Feeney, B.C., (2016). Affectionate touch to promote relational, psychological, and physical well-being in adulthood: A theoretical model and review of the research. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 1–25, doi: 10.1177/1088868316650307

James, W. (1890). Psychology: American Science Series, Vol. I and II. New York, NY: Henry Holt & Co.

Jaremka, L.M., Andridge, R.R., Alfano, C.M., Povoscki, S.P., Lipari, A.M., Agnese, D.M., Arnold, M.W., Faffarm W.B., Yee, L.D., Carson, III, W.E., Bekaii-Sabb, T., Martin, Jr., E.W., Schmidt, C.R., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K. (2014). Pain, depression, and fatigue: Loneliness as a longitudinal risk factor. Health Psychology, 33(9), 948-957

Jones, A.C., Schinka, K.C., van Dulman, H.M., Bossarte, R.M., Swahn, M.H. (2011). Changes in loneliness during middle childhood predicts risk for adolescent suicidality indirectly through mental health problems. Journal of Clinical and Adolescent Psychology, 40(6), 818-824

Jones, W.h., Hobbs, S.A., & Hockenbury, D. (1982). Loneliness and social skills. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42(4), 682-689

Kawakami, K., Dovidio, J. F., & Dijksterhuis, A. (2003). Effect of social category priming on personal attitudes. Psychological Science, 14(4), 315-319. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.14451

Ketturat, C., Frisch, J.U., Ullrich, J., Hausser, J.A., Dick, R., & Mojzisch, A. (2016). Disaggregating within- and between-person effects of social identification on subjective and endorcinological stress reaction in a real-life situation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(2), 147-160

Kong, X., Wei, D., Li, W., Cun, L., Xue, S., Zhang, Q., & Qiu, J. (2015). Neuroticism and extraversion mediate the association between loneliness and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Experimental Brain Research, 233(1), 157-164. doi:10.1007/s00221-014-4097-4

Korostelina, K. (2014). Intergroup identity insults: A social identity theory perspective. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 14, 214–229, DOI: 10.1080/15283488.2014.921170

Kumar, R., Seay, N., & Karabenick, S. (2011). Shades of White: Identity status, stereotypes, prejudice, and xenophobia. Educational Studies: Journal Of The American Educational Studies Association, 47(4), 347-378.

Kuyper, L., & Fokkema, T. (2010). Loneliness among older lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults: The role of minority stress. Arch Sexual Behavior, 39, 1171-1180

Lodder, G. A., Scholte, R. J., Clemens, I. H., Engels, R. E., Goossens, L., & Verhagen, M. (2015). Loneliness and hypervigilance to social cues in females: An eye-tracking study. Plos ONE, 10(4),

Lammers, J., Stoker, J.I., Rink, F., & Galinsky, A.D. (2016). Top have control over or to be free from others? The desire for power reflects a need for autonomy. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(4), 498-512

Lasgaard, M., Goossens, L., & Alklit, A. (2011). Loneliness, depressive symptomatology, and suicide ideation in adolescence: Cross-national and longitudinal analyses. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 29, 137-150

Lemyre, L., & Smith, P. M. (1985). Intergroup discrimination and self-esteem in the minimal group paradigm. Journal of Personality And Social Psychology, 49(3), 660-670. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.49.3.660

Leonardelli, G. J., & Toh, S. M. (2015). Social categorization in intergroup contexts: Three kinds of self‐categorization. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 9(2), 69-87. doi:10.1111/spc3.12150

Leonardelli, G.J., & Loyd, D.L. (2016). Optimal distinctiveness signals membership trust. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 42(7), 843-854, doi: 10.1177/0146167216643934

Lieberman, M.D. (2013). Social: Why our brains are wired to connect. New York, NY: Broadway Books.

Lin, L., & Guo, Q. (2007). Loneliness and health-related quality of life for the empty nest elderly in the rural area of a mountainous county in China. Quality of Life Research, 16, 1275-1280

Lodder, G.M.A., Scholte, R.H.J., Clemens, I.A.H., Engels, R.S.M.E., Goosens, L., & Verhagen (2015). Loneliness and hypervigilance to social cures in females: An eye-tracking study. PLOS ONE, DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0125141

Lunt, P.K. (1991). The perceived causal structure of loneliness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(1), 26-34

Luster, S.S., Nelson, L.J., Poulsen, F.O., & Willoubby, B.J. (2013). Emerging adult sexual attitudes and behaviors: Does shyness matter? Emerging Adulthood, 1(3), 185-195, DOI: 10.1177/2167696813475611

Mackia, D.M., & Smith, E.R. (2015). Intergroup emotions. In Milkulincer, M., & Shaver, P.R. (Eds). APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology: Vol.2 Group Process. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Martinam C.M.S., & Stevens, N.L. (2006). Breaking the cycle of loneliness? Psychological effects of a friendship enrichment program for older women. Aging and Mental Health, 10(5), 467-475

McWhirter, B. T. (1990). Loneliness: A review of current literature, with implications for counseling and research. Journal of Counseling & Development, 68(4), 417-422. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6676.1990.tb02521.x

Mehrabian, A., & Stefl, C.A. (1995). Basic temperament components of loneliness, shyness, and conformity. Social Behavior and Personality, 23(3), 253-264

Mita, T. H., Dermer, M., & Knight, J. (1977). Reversed facial images and the mere-exposure hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35(8), 597-601. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.35.8.597

Moghaddam, F. M., & Stringer, P. (1986). Trivial and important criteria for social categorization in the minimal group paradigm. The Journal of Social Psychology, 126(3), 345-354. doi:10.1080/00224545.1986.9713595

Most, T., Ingber, S., & Heled-Ariam, E. (2012). Social competence, sense of loneliness, and speech intelligibility of young children with hearing loss in individual inclusion and group inclusion. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 17(2), 259-272. doi:10.1093/deafed/enr049

Newall, N.E.G., Chipperfield, J.G., & Stewart, T.L. (2013). Consequences of loneliness on physical activity and mortality in older adults and the power of positive emotions. Health Psychology, 32(8), 921-924

Nurmi, J., Toivonen, S., Salmela-Aro, K., & Eronen, S. (1997). Social strategies and loneliness. The Journal of Social Psychology, 137(6), 764-777. doi:10.1080/00224549709595497

Oakes, P. J., & Turner, J. C. (1980). Social categorization and intergroup behaviour: Does minimal intergroup discrimination make social identity more positive?. European Journal of Social Psychology, 10(3), 295-301. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420100307

Orehek, E. & Forest, A.L. (2016). When people serve as a means to goals: Implications of motivational account of close relationships. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(2), 79-84

Owen, J., & Fincham, F. D. (2011). Young adults’ emotional reactions after hooking up encounters. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 321-330. doi:10.1007/s10508-010-9652-x

Packer, D. J., Chasteen, A. L., & Kang, S. K. (2011). Facing social identity change: Interactive effects of current and projected collective identification on expectations regarding future self-esteem and psychological well-being. British Journal of Social Psychology, 50(3), 414-430. doi:10.1348/014466610X51968

Perry, R., & Sibley, C.G. (2011). Social dominance orientation: Mapping a baseline individual difference component across self-categorization. Journal of Individual Differences, 32(2), 110-116

Peterson, C.N., & Eastom, B.A. (on-going). Non-cognitive contributors to student success among first generation students. Helena, MT: Helena College University of Montana. Copy manuscript can be obtained by emailing Curtis.peterson@umhelena.edu

Rokach, A. (2000). Perceived causes of loneliness in adulthood. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 15(1), 67-84

Rokach, A. (2001). Strategies of coping with loneliness throughout the lifespan. Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, and Social. 20(1), 3-18

Rokach, A. (2007). Coping with loneliness among the terminally ill. Social Indicators Research, 82, 487-503

Rokach, A. (2012). Loneliness updated: An introduction. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 146(1-2), 1-6. doi:10.1080/00223980.2012.629501

Rokach, A., & Brock, H. (1997). Loneliness and the effects of life changes. The Journal of Psychology, 131(3), 284-298

Russell, D. (1996). UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3): Reliability, validity, and factor structure. Journal of Personality Assessment, 66, 20-40.

Russell, D. W., Cutrona, C. E., McRae, C., & Gomez, M. (2012). Is loneliness the same as being alone?. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary And Applied, 146(1-2), 7-22. doi:10.1080/00223980.2011.589414

Russell, D., Peplau, L.A., & Furguson, M.L. (1978). Developing a measure of loneliness. Journal of Personality Assessment, 42, 290-294

Sachdev, I., & Bourhis, R. Y. (1985). Social categorization and power differentials in group relations. European Journal of Social Psychology, 15(4), 415-434. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420150405

Saegert, S., Swap, W., & Zajonc, R. B. (1973). Exposure, context, and interpersonal attraction. Journal of Personality And Social Psychology, 25(2), 234-242. doi:10.1037/h0033965

Segrin, C. & Passalacqua, S.A. (2010). Functions of loneliness, social support, health behaviors, and stress association with poor health. Health Communications, 25, 312-322

Segrin, C., & Domschke, T. (2011). Social support, loneliness, recuperative processes, and their direct and indirect effects on health. Health Communications, 26, 221-232

Segrin, C., Powell, H. L., Givertz, M., & Brackin, A. (2003). Symptoms of depression, relational quality, and loneliness in dating relationships. Personal Relationships, 10(1), 25-36. doi:10.1111/1475-6811.00034

Sells. S.B. (1948). Observational methods of research. Review of Educational Research, 18, 424-447

Shankar, A., McMunn, A., Banks, J., & Steptoe, A. (2011). Loneliness, social isolation, and behavioral and biological health indicators in older adults. Health Psychology 30(4) 377-385

Sherif, M., Harvey, O.J., White, B.J., Hood, W.R., & Sherif, C.W. (1961). Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment. Norman, OK: A publication of the Institute of Group Relations University of Oklahoma

Simon, B., & Hastedt, C. (1999). Self-aspects as social categories: The role of personal importance and valence. European Journal of Social Psychology, 29(4), 479-487. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-0992(199906)29:4<479::AID-EJSP939>3.0.CO;2-M

Smith, J.M. (2012). Towards a better understanding of loneliness in community-dwelling older adults. The Journal of Psychology, 146(3), 293-311

Stang, D. J. (1974). Methodological factors in mere exposure research. Psychological Bulletin, 81(12), 1014-1025. doi:10.1037/h0037419

Stokes, J. & Levin, I. (1986). Gender differences in predicting loneliness from social network characteristics. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(5), 1069-1074

Suedfeld, P., Epstein, Y. M., Buchanan, E., & Landon, P. B. (1971). Effects of set on the ‘effects of mere exposure.’. Journal 0f Personality And Social Psychology, 17(2), 121-123. doi:10.1037/h0030378

Sullivan, H. S. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York, NY: Norton.

Tajfel, H. (1969). Cognitive aspects of prejudice. Journal of Social Issues, 25, 79-97

Tajfel, H. (1982). Social Identity and Intergroup Relations. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations (The Nelson-Hall series in psychology) (pp. 7–24). Chicago, IL: Burnham.

Thompson, G. M. (1948). MMPI correlates of certain movement responses in the group Rorschachs of two college samples. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 12(6), 379-383. doi:10.1037/h0057028

Torres, H. L., & Gore-Felton, C. (2007). Compulsivity, substance use, and loneliness: The loneliness and sexual risk model (LSRM). Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 14(1), 63-75. doi:10.1080/10720160601150147

Turner, J.C. (1975). Social comparison and social identity: Some prospects for intergroup behavior. European Journal of Social Psychology, 5, 5-34

Turner, J.C. (1982). Towards a cognitive redefinition of the social group. In Tajfel, H. (Eds.) Social Identity and Intergroup Relations. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Turner, J.C., & Reynolds, K.J. (2003). The social identity perspective in intergroup relations: Theories, themes, and controversies. In Brown, R., & Gaertner (Eds) Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology: Intergroup processes. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd.

Vanhalst, J., Luyckx, K., Raes, F., & Goossens, L. (2012). Loneliness and depressive symptoms: The mediating and moderating role of uncontrollable ruminative thoughts. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary And Applied, 146(1-2), 259-276. doi:10.1080/00223980.2011.555433

Vassar, M., & Crosby, J.W. (2008). A reliability generalization study of coefficient alpha for the UCLA loneliness scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 90(6), 601-60

Veelen, R., Eisenbeiss, K.K., & Otten, S. (2016). Newcomers to social categories: Longitudinal predictors and consequences of in-group identification. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(6), 811-825, DOI: 10.1177/0146167216643937

Veelen, R., Otten, S., Cabinu, M., & Hansen, N. (2015). An integrative model of social identification: Self-stereotyping and self-anchoring as two cognitive pathways. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 20(1), 3-26

Victor, S.R., & Bowling. A. (2012). A longitudinal analysis of loneliness among older people in Great Britain. The Journal of Psychology, 146(2), 313-332

Vider, S. (2004). Rethinking crowd violence: Self-categorization theory and the Woodstock 1999 riot. Journal for The Theory of Social Behaviour, 34(2), 141-166. doi:10.1111/j.0021-8308.2004.00240.x

Walker, M.H., & Lynn, F.B. (2013). The embedded self: A social Network approach to identity theory. Social Psychology Quarterly, 76(2), 151-179

Watson-Jones, R.E., & Legare, C.H., (2016). The social function of group rituals. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(1), 42-46

Watson, G. (1930). Happiness among adult students of education. Journal of Educational Psychology, 21(2), 79-109. doi:10.1037/h0070539

Weiss, R.S. (1973/1985). Loneliness: The experience of emotional and social isolation. Baskerville, MA: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Wheeler, L., Reis, H., & Nezleck, J. (1983). Loneliness, social interaction, and sex roles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45(4), 943-953

Willetts, G., & Clarke, D. (2014). Constructing nurses’ professional identity through social identity theory. International Journal of Nursing Practice, 20, 164-169

Willson, D., Cutts, J., Lees, I., Mapingwana, S., & Maunganidze, l. (1992). Psychometrics properties of the revised UCLA loneliness scale and two short-form measures of loneliness in Zimbabwe. Journal of Personality Assessment, 59(1), 72-81

Winningham, R.G., & Pike, N.L. (2007). A cognitive intervention to enhance institutionalized older adults’ social support network and decrease loneliness. Aging and Mental Health, 11(6), 716-721

Wong, D. (2015). Asexuality in China’s sexual revolution: Asexual marriage as coping strategy. Sexualities, 18(1/2), 100–116, DOI: 10.1177/1363460714544812

Worland, J. (2015). Why Loneliness May Be the Next Big Public-Health Issue. Retrieved from: http://time.com/3747784/loneliness-mortality/

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(2, Pt.2), 1-27. doi:10.1037/h0025848

Zhang, F., You, Z., Fan, C., Goa, C., Cohen, R., Hsueh, Y., & Zhou Z. (2014). Friendship quality, social preference, proximity prestige and self-percieved social competence: Interactive influences on children’s loneliness. Journal of School Psychology, 52(2014), 511-526

Zimmer-Gembeck, M.J., Trevaskis, S., Nesdale, D., & Downey, G.A. (2014). Relational victimization, loneliness and depressive symptoms: Indirect associations via self and peer reports of rejection sensitivity. Journal of Youth Adolescents. 43, 568-582

What is loneliness?


This article is dedicated to my mom (Becky) my daughter (Latasha), my two sons (Taylor and Klinton) my niece (Katie) and my beautiful grandchild (Erin). Also to my wonderful friends (Ashley, Nathan, Rachael, Wendy, Lori, Shayla, Jose, Ramona, Dez, and Jamie) who bring sense of meaning and belongingness to my life everyday.


loneliness

In a previous blog I compared the pain state of rejection with the negative motivational state of loneliness. In this blog I will delve in deeper into the negative motivational state we call loneliness. Loneliness as a motivational state was first described by Psychiatrist Harry Sullivan in 1953, who stated that like many emotional states loneliness motivates us to fulfill one of our basic human drives which in this case is affiliation and the socialization with others. This motivational need he believed first develops in infancy when the infant has complete depends on his or her caregiver. Like the pains of hunger the pain of loneliness motivates us to seek out others who we can have a mutually beneficial relationships with. Indeed, current research supports this early development in loneliness, as we see loneliness in early childhood predicts poor socialization in middle childhood, and loneliness in middle childhood predicts depression and high risk behaviors in adolescence. This is to say, just like eating habits – good or poor – in one period predicts continued poor eating habits in another unless there is some type of intervention.

In furthering our understanding of loneliness Sociologist Robert S. Weiss wrote a seminal book entitled “Loneliness: The experience of emotional and social isolation”. In this book Weiss argued that loneliness can come in two forms. The first form is created when an individuals feels socially isolated from others and subjectively experience less than desirable social interaction. The second type is subjectively lacking any significantly emotionally close relationships and attachments with someone else. Indeed, research since Weiss has indicated that there are two types of loneliness and the intensity of our experience depends on how these two are experienced (i.e. together or separate, loneliness following rejection, or meaning one places on close emotional relationships versus social connection). Additionally, we see the role of each of these based on the age of the individual. Research suggests that through adolescence into early adulthood having several social contacts and friends is important, because this allows someone to experience various types of individuals. These experiences and skills then allows an individual in middle to late adulthood to focus in on just a few emotionally meaningful social relationships. Therefore, it seems social loneliness has more impact on adolescents and young adults whereas emotional loneliness tends to have more of an impact on middle to late aged adults. In my model of social identity – currently being tested – I argue that social loneliness drives us to identify with individuals like us (our in-group social identity) and then through the assimilation and relationship building with those in our in-group we avoid  emotional loneliness, which in turn motivates us to maintain connections and enhance our social identity. Next I want to pause before continuing our discussion on specifically loneliness to discuss the difference between loneliness and depression.

bigstock-Girl-Sits-In-A-Depression-On-T-52227706-300x207

Loneliness VS Depression

Many individuals who are experiencing bouts of depression often describe themselves as “lonely” and “isolated”. However, for our sake I want to make a clear difference between the loneliness an individual says they are experiencing when depressed and the negative motivational state we have been discussing here. As stated earlier loneliness is a motivational state much like hunger and thirst, it drives us to seek out social relationships. Depression on the other hand, drives us away from seeking social relationships through avoidance and the lack of desire to socialize with others. I make this distinction because people can at times mislabel depression as just being lonely. However, depression is a much more serious negative state. Therefore the reader is advised to always look at their motivational state when he or she feels lonely, and ask them self whether they feel the need to have social connection or the need to isolate away from others. If the later it is advised to seek help, as this maybe a more serious condition of depression.

Additionally, we should recognize the relationship between loneliness and later depression. In reviewing the depression literature over the past 15 years, there has been many predicting variables that increase the probability of someone experiencing depression. With the exception of social rejection or loss of a loved one, there in my experience has not been a stronger predictor variable than the experience of chronic loneliness. There is strong evidence that even early long past loneliness can predict later development of depression. For example, the chronic experience of loneliness in one’s thirties, predicts with strong confidence the development of depression in one’s fifties. Additionally it should be stated here that the chronic experience of loneliness is also one of the strongest predictors of obesity, mortality, and morbidity. That is to say the less socially and emotionally connected we are with others leads to unhealthy lifestyles both physically and psychologically.

Loneliness across the lifespan

We have noted throughout this blog about how loneliness influences other states of well-being across the lifespan. The question that comes to mind is, when do we experience the most loneliness and why? First we should say we do experience loneliness across the lifespan just like we experience any other motivational state. However, if we were to determine which groups experience the most loneliness it would be the elderly and individuals who are not well suited for living in rural locations.

Later adults are especially susceptible to loneliness, because as we age our social circles and social connections start to shrink and get smaller, as we disengage from work, social activities, and those who are older or of the same age start to pass away. This shrinkage of social circles along with the increased of loneliness and loss of identity has lead a lot of scientists to believe that this is why we see a stark increase in suicide with men starting at around the age of 50, and has been a increasing concern for women. However, we should note that there are many older individuals who do not experience large amounts of loneliness and the question becomes who? Research is clear that older adults who live in social communities and maintain close friendships – and can develop new ones – are less likely to experience loneliness.

Ever think about leaving the hassle and busyness of the city life for the peacefulness of country living? – you may want to think again. Living in rural areas takes a certain adaptive mindset, that allows individuals to cherish the times they spend with others, and accept that there are periods where one will be alone. This tends to be a native trait, that is a trait of someone who has always or mostly lived in rural locations. We find that when individuals leave larger populated areas for the quiet and peace of rural living they often run the risk of experiencing severe bouts of loneliness and can lead to heighten risk of depression and suicidal behaviors. Indeed, individuals not raised in a rural area are at 4x risk of attempting suicide than native rural livers. For those coming from larger more populated areas where there is always the opportunity for social connection, moving to a place in which one has to work and plan maintaining social relationships, can be lonely, stressful, and depressing endeavor. These combined experiences can lead an individuals to experience the hell and chaos of depression and suicidal thoughts rather than the peace and quiet that they wanted to seek out by escaping from city life.

How does loneliness influence other psychological states?

My colleague Barbara Eastom and I recently surveyed 60 college students on measure of loneliness, happiness, quality of life, meaning in life, and social support. We found when statistical dividing individuals into low, moderate, and high loneliness, that individuals who were in the high lonely group had a significantly lower quality of life, meaning in life, and social support, included a thwarted sense of identity. The following figures and graphs illustrate these stark differences.

Why are these findings meaningful? These findings indicate that loneliness does not only influence our social well-being it also influences many other indicators of well-being. Which means that one experiences loneliness, it important not to continue the cycle of loneliness and to seek out meaningful social connections.

Eliminating loneliness through fulfilling the need of belonging.

Social Psychologist Susan Fiske in 2013 offered a model of social belonging that provides a road map for one to combat loneliness in his or her life. This social cognitive model is based on the premise that individuals are motivated by five social processes: The need to belong, the need for understanding, the need for control, self-enhancement, and the need to trust others. When all of these five needs are met they become a buffer to the experience of loneliness.

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 2.54.22 PM

The need to belonging according to Fiske is the need for strong and stable relationships, and over arch the four other needs that can be divided into cognitive needs and affective needs. The two cognitive needs are the need for understanding and control. Understanding is the ability to maintain shared meaning that makes life more stable and predictable. When we engage in conversation with others we often engage in talking about things that are not only important to us but also to reinforce that our beliefs are stable and predictable through shared meaning with others. This is why it is a very lonely place for individuals who are on the fringe of most communities such as LGTBQ individuals, minority groups, the homeless, and many who suffer from mental illness. Because the majority of the community does not share these group’s qualities and challenges it is hard to create shared meaning and thereby making it harder to full fill the need for understanding. However, even within these fringe groups, when we find others that share our ideas, beliefs, and values our level of loneliness become reduced. The second cognitive need that Fiske mentions is the need for control. By her definition, control is knowing the perceived contingency between one’s behaviors today and some later outcome. As for example, showing up at work on time, will reduce the chance of being fired. What controlling is all about really is understanding that, in a given situation, what behaviors will lead to the best outcome. To figure this out we often look towards our social network and those individuals around us. Being able to access individuals who can help us have control and predictability in our world is important and without this it can lead us to feeling lonely, isolated, and ineffective in what we do.

The last two needs Fiske talks about she refers to as affective needs, this means they are less thought driven and more emotionally driven. The first need is the need for self-enhancement. Self-enhancement is our basic need to feel worthy and improvable. In order to feel worthy and improvable this means we must engage others for feedback and support. The second affective need is the need for trust. For Fiske trust means seeing others as benign and harmless. This means feeling little threat by the company we keep, and to seek out individuals that help us feel safe and secure. It should be noted that trust in Fiske terms is an emotional evaluation, and unfortunately in many social setting such as work, school, and public establishments the form of building trust comes in a cognitive form through rules, regulations, procedures, and policies. However, the best policy in the world does not matter unless an individual is affectively made to feel safe and that others are in essence benign. We do this not by reading policies and procedures but by asking others how they ‘feel’ about the situation. therefore, feeling safe trumps even the best written organizational or public policy or procedure. This may explain why cities who have tough on crime policies and militarize their police force actually feel less safe and there are increases and not decreases in criminal behavior, because a militarized police officer is seen emotionally as a threat and not as a form of trust and protection. This in turn increases the propensity for individuals to enter into self preservation behaviors.

Conclusion

This last section has offered four ways in which loneliness can be thwarted. By engaging in social situations that provide a sense of control and understanding and that establish trust and the ability of engage in self-enhancement we are more likely not to experience loneliness and the negative consequences with continued a chronic loneliness. Most important is we need to find ways to engage each other on emotional and meaningful levels, which may mean setting down the smartphone at dinner or at coffee with friends. It means building communities of inclusiveness where everyone has the ability to engage in the community and opportunities. It means centering policies that protect the community by not creating threat through policy but understanding and trust. It means answering the phone, answering the text message even when we don’t feel like it. But probably most important it means when someone has experienced rejection, feels lonely, expresses sadness, that we actually pay attention, not tell them to ‘just get over it’, and give them the same treatment that we seek when we experience those same emotions. Finally hug someone, tell them you love them, tell them you think about them, and thank them for being a part of your life!!!

5977aea84f36dbd4ac2bf73bee203225

Sources for this article

Abrams, D. (2014). Social identity and intergroup relations. In Mikulincer, M., & Chaver, P.R. (Eds) APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 2). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Amiot, C. E., & Aubin, R. M. (2013). Why and how are you attached to your social group? Investigating different forms of social identification. British Journal Of Social Psychology, 52(3), 563-586.

Baumeister, B. F., & Leary, M. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497

Bizumic, B., Reynolds, K.J., Turner, J.C., Bromhead, D., Subasic, E., (2009). The role of the group in individual functioning: School identification and the psychological well-being of staff and students. Applied Psychology, 58(1), 171-192

Bogart, F.R. (2015). Disability identity predicts lower anxiety and depression in multiple sclerosis. Rehabilitation Psychology, 60(1), 105-109

Burke, P.J., & Stets, J.E. (2009). Identity theory. New York, NY: Oxford Press.

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., Berntson, G.G., Ernst, J.M., Gibbs, A.C., Stickgold, R., & Hobson, J.A. (2002). Do lonely days invade the nights? Potential social modulation of sleep efficiency. Psychological Science, 13(4), 384-387

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., & Preacher, K.J. (2010). Loneliness impairs daytime functioning but not sleep duration. Health Psychology, 29(2), 124-129

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., & Thisted, R.A. (2009). Loneliness predicts reduced physical activity: Cross-sectional & longitudinal analyses. Health Psychology, 28(3), 354-363

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., & Thisted, R.A. (2010). Perceived social isolation makes me sad: 5-year cross-lagged analyses of loneliness and depressive symptomatology in the Chicago health, aging, and social relations study. Psychology and Aging, 25(2), 453-463

Cacioppo, J.T., & Patrick, W. (2008). Loneliness: Human Nature and the need for social connection. New York, NY: W.T. Horton & Company

Carter, M.J. (2013). Advancing identity theory: Examining the relationship between activated identities and behavior in different social contexts. Social Psychology Quarterly, 76(3), 203-223

Cicognani, E., Klimstra, T., & Goossens, L. (2014). Sense of community, identity, statuses, and loneliness in adolescence: A cross-national study on Italian and Belgian youth. Journal of Community Psychology, 42(4), 414-432

Dong, L., Lin, C., Li, T., Dou, D., & Zhou, L. (2015). The relationship between cultural identity and self-esteem among Chinese Uyghur college students: The mediating role of acculturation attitudes. Psychological Reports, 117(1), 302-318. doi:10.2466/17.07.PR0.117c12z8

Durak, M., & Senol-Durak, E. (2010). Psychometric qualities of the UCLA Loneliness Scale – Version 3 as applied in a Turkish culture. Educational Gerontology, 36, 988-1007

Epley, N., Akalis, S., Waytz, A., & Cacioppo, J.T (2008). Creating social connection through inferential reproduction: Loneliness and perceived agency in gadgets, gods, and greyhounds. Psychological Science, 19(2), 114-120

Fiske, S. T. (2010). Social beings: Core motives in social psychology (2nd Ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Ford, J., O’Hare, D., & Henderson, R. (2013). Putting the ‘we’ into teamwork: Effects of priming personal or social identity on flight attendants’ perceptions of teamwork and communication. Human Factors, 55(3), 499-508. doi:10.1177/0018720812465311

Gentina, E. (2014). Understanding the effects of adolescent girls’ social position within peer groups on exchange practices. Journal of Consumer Behavior, 13, 73-80

Hansson, R.O., & Jones, W.H. (1981). Loneliness, cooperation, and conformity among American undergraduates. The Journal of Social Psychology, 115, 103-108

Haslam, S.A. (2014). Making good theory practical: Five lessons for an applied social identity approach to challenges of organizational, health, and clinical psychology. British Journal of Social Psychology, 53, 1-20

Hawkley, L.C., & Cacioppo, J.T. (2010). Loneliness matters: A theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annual Behavioral Medicine. 40, 218-227

Jones, A.C., Schinka, K.C., van Dulman, H.M., Bossarte, R.M., Swahn, M.H. (2011). Changes in loneliness during middle childhood predicts risk for adolescent suicidality indirectly through mental health problems. Journal of Clinical and Adolescent Psychology, 40(6), 818-824

Kawakami, K., Dovidio, J. F., & Dijksterhuis, A. (2003). Effect of social category priming on personal attitudes. Psychological Science, 14(4), 315-319. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.14451

Kumar, R., Seay, N., & Karabenick, S. (2011). Shades of White: Identity status, stereotypes, prejudice, and xenophobia. Educational Studies: Journal of The American Educational Studies Association, 47(4), 347-378.

Lieberman, M.D. (2013). Social: Why our brains are wired to connect. New York, NY: Broadway Books.

Mehrabian, A., & Stefl, C.A. (1995). Basic temperament components of loneliness, shyness, and conformity. Social Behavior and Personality, 23(3), 253-264

Most, T., Ingber, S., & Heled-Ariam, E. (2012). Social competence, sense of loneliness, and speech intelligibility of young children with hearing loss in individual inclusion and group inclusion. Journal Of Deaf Studies And Deaf Education, 17(2), 259-272. doi:10.1093/deafed/enr049

Mummendey, A., Kessler, T., Klink, A., & Mielke, R. (1999). Strategies to cope with negative social identity: Predictions by social identity theory and relative deprivation theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(2), 229-245

Peterson, C.N., & Eastom, B.A. (2015). Non-cognitive contributors to student success among first generation students. Manuscript Submitted for Publication.

Segrin, C., & Domschke, T. (2011). Social support, loneliness, recuperative processes, and their direct and indirect effects on health. Health Communications, 26, 221-232

Segrin, C. & Passalacqua, S.A. (2010). Functions of  loneliness, social support, health behaviors, and stress association with poor health. Health Communications, 25, 312-322

Shankar, A., McMunn, A., Banks, J., & Steptoe, A. (2011). Loneliness, social isolation, and behavioral and biological health indicators in older adults. Health Psychology 30(4) 377-385

Simon, B., & Hastedt, C. (1999). Self-aspects as social categories: The role of personal importance and valence. European Journal Of Social Psychology, 29(4), 479-487. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-0992(199906)29:4<479::AID-EJSP939>3.0.CO;2-M

Smith, J.M. (2012). Towards a better understanding of loneliness in community-dwelling older adults. The Journal of Psychology, 146(3), 293-311

Sullivan, H. S. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York, NY: Norton.

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations (The Nelson-Hall series in psychology) (pp. 7–24). Chicago, IL: Burnham.

Turner, J.C. (1982). Towards a cognitive redefinition of the social group. In Tajfel, H. (Eds.) Social Identity and Intergroup Relations. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Turner, J.C., & Reynolds, K.J. (2003). The social identity perspective in intergroup relations: Theories, themes, and controversies. In Brown, R., & Gaertner (Eds) Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology: Intergroup processes. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd.

Vassar, M., & Crosby, J.W. (2008). A reliability generalization study of coefficient alpha for the UCLA loneliness scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 90(6), 601-60

Victor, S.R., & Bowling. A. (2012). A longitudinal analysis of loneliness among older people in Great Britain. The Journal of Psychology, 146(2), 313-332

Weijters, B., Baumgartner, H., & Schillewaert, N. (2013). Self-Esteem Measure [Database record]. Retrieved from PsycTESTS. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/t30379-000

Zimmer-Gembeck, M.J., Trevaskis, S., Nesdale, D., & Downey, G.A. (2014). Relational victimization, loneliness and depressive symptoms: Indirect associations via self and peer reports of rejection sensitivity. Journal of Youth Adolescents. 43, 568-582

Zhou, T., & Li, H. (2014). Social Identity Scale [Database record]. Retrieved from PsycTESTS. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/t36230-000

Loneliness VS social rejection

rejection-main  – VERSUS –  Lonely-Woman

Understanding the fundamental difference between emotions of social rejection and the emotions associated with loneliness is vital in understanding the experiences of individuals. First lets start with a definition of loneliness, it is important from the outset to understand there are two different types of loneliness: social loneliness which is the perceived lack of social connection; and emotional loneliness which is the perceived lack of emotionally and cognitively close relationships. In later posts, we will delve into these further, for the moment lets look at how we define social rejection which is the negative state due to the withdraw of another individual (or group of individuals) in our life. Emotionally the feelings we have when we experience loneliness and social rejection can be very similar, however, they differ on their motivational purpose.

Loneliness while it may be seen as purely an negative affective state, is better characterized as a motivational state. When one is experiencing loneliness the negative emotional state motivates the individual to seek out missing social connections. This state is more associated with the motivational areas of the brain rather than the emotional pain  states of the brain. Rejection however, is directly associated with the pain centers of the brain. That is to say social rejection is more analogous to a physical injury, like a cut or broken leg, versus the negative motivational states of loneliness. So the question becomes, what should we do when we experience rejection? (further blogs will focus on loneliness)

Letting go of bad information

If you have ever been told “get over it, and move on” you will understand the title of this section very well. The problem with rejection is we have been “treating” it wrong all our lives, by treating it as an emotion rather than what it is – physical pain. Like physical pain, rejection needs to be cared for in an appropriate way (1) emergency care, (2) continued maintenance of the wound, and (3)  time to heal. In the following sections we will look at all three of these in detail.

1465838235

Emergency Care

Think back to the last time you hurt yourself physically – what did you do? – how did you respond? – what was your first action? If like me, it probably included, verbal cries of pain, coddling of the injured area, and search for an immediate pain reducing activity or agent. I think in many ways this maybe the basic responses of most individuals. First we need appreciate this process, because what are we doing when we are engaging in these behaviors, (1) we are verbal to alert others of our injury and draw attention to the possible hazard, (2) we try to reduce the immediate severe wound by assessing the wound and apply some method to reduce the pain that the injury is causing, and (3) we start the process of long-term healing by stopping any bleeding, splinting the broken bone, and stabilize the body to prevent any further damage.

How can this same process be applied to the pain of social rejection? First we need to recognize that social rejection is an internal injury that is caused immediate external environment – the rejector. Therefore diagnosis of this pain can be similar to being poisoned by a potent chemical. The first thing we do when we are poisoned (hopefully) is identify the poison, seek help, and attempt to purge the poison out of the body. The poison in this case is usually the rejector, however, sometimes it can also include what the rejector represents and not just who the person is. This can help us determine the severity of the poison, that is the more the person represents (intimate partner versus a stranger) will determine the potency of the poison, and the amount of injury care the person will need to engage in. Purging can occur in many forms include emotional, physical, and cognitive purging. But the immediate response should start with making sure the poison can no longer be ingested, this can take form of changing ones situation and removing traces of the rejector.

Purging can especially difficult because sometimes the poison was something we were attached to. for example looking at the intimacy literature, the beginning phases of an intimate relationship is very similar to addiction with the same brain regions in full operation during both processes. Therefore, being rejected by an intimate partner can be like being addicted to a drug, but that drug has become toxic for us, and despite our desire to continue using it, it has rejected us. Therefore, going with the analogy of a drug overdoes or the beginning phases of addiction recovery the first purging process is to go through the pains of withdrawal and purging the toxin out of our bodies. This should include feeling the pain of the rejection and understanding what the rejection object meant to the individual. By understanding the poison we can learn how to avoid it in the future, but we can tell the difference between future poisons and future healthy individuals. It only when we avoid the pain and understanding of rejection that it can lead us to relapse in the future with similar poisonous people. But just like withdrawing from drugs and the pains associated with drug withdraws needs to be done in a safe and controlled environment with supportive individuals. It is important to recognize that severe pain can lead us to further self-injury if not done in a healthy environment with healthy non-toxic individuals. If you have difficulty finding healthy individuals, your community can be a great resource, such as professionals such as counseling services, or online support system can help, and these individuals and groups can provide the healthy support to help recover from severe rejection.

The final phase of first aid is to start the process of long-term care, by dressing and cleaning the wound. This can start during the withdraw phase when one understand the pain associated with the poison, and can include protecting the individual from further injury by cleaning and dressing the wound. This can look like surrounding oneself with friends and family, changing the environment by getting rid of environmental triggers such as gifts and pictures (cleaning the wound and reducing continued infection). Finally, one must start a plan for further recovery.

The final note I want to make in this section is to remind the reader that social rejection is a physical injury, and research has shown that the same medicines that reduce physical pain can reduce the pain associated with social rejection. This also means, more dangerous substances such as alcohol and other drugs can also numb the pain. The reader should be careful of engaging in these vices to manage their pain. Taking prescribed doses of acetaminophen maybe a safer pain reducing alternative to alcohol or elicit drugs.

broken_leg

Continued Maintenance of the Wound and Time to Heal

The main goal of the continued maintenance phase is the continued protection of the wound until it is fully healed. This means making sure no further injury occurs by not allowing further toxins into one’s life. This maybe the most risky point of recovery from rejection, because the more one feels better, the increased chance of engaging in the same habits and behaviors that resulted in the injury in the first place increases. When it comes to social rejection this can look like trying the engage the rejector back into one’s life or engaging individuals who are just if not more toxic than the original rejector.

During the maintenance phase, the analogy of a leg cast is good because the cast stabilizes the wound and protects it from further injury as it heals. This also means committing to a set of time to allow for healing, and surrounding one self with individuals, activities, and places that can act as the cast. Note that this is an active process just like a leg will not heal or will not heal correctly if it is ignored or one cuts the cast off too soon, the same goes with being rejected.

Best-friends-walking-with-007

Learning to Walk Again

I named this section learning to walk again to emphasize the final phase of recovery, which is to re-engage in the the social world from a healed perspective. Just like it takes time to walk normally after a broken leg it may take time to feel like one can engage in the social world the same after being rejected. However, there are some features of being recovered that we should discuss (1) just because the wound is healed, doesn’t mean the memory is still not painful, and (2) learning from experience.

Just because we know the causes and the situation in which caused rejection in our life, does not mean that the memory of the rejection will not hurt. This also includes good memories, if someone injures their leg skiing this does not mean they will have all bad memories of skiing. The same goes for social rejection, the problem is the combination of bad and good memories could lead us to engaging in risky behaviors that could lead us to being injured a second time. For addiction we call  this relapse, for broken leg we call this not learning our lesson the first time, either way it is during this phase that we can be at most risk of injury again. This is why learning from our experience and having reminders of the pain that it caused is important.

Literature on the difference between knowledge and actual behavior is very clear in that we can know better, but it doesn’t mean we will behave in a healthy way. I know for example a second helping of chocolate cake is not healthy, but sometimes given the opportunity my behavior will be different then my knowledge. This is a common mistake individuals experience when rejected is assuming they now know better, so they trust themselves not to engage in the same behaviors. Therefore, to truly heal from rejection we must engage in the hard work of training one’s self to engage in new behaviors and not assume we know better.Just like learning to walk after a serious leg injury this can take time and hard work. One needs to be committed to changing and assuring they do not get re-injured. This means engaging in new activities, learning different socialization skills (AND practicing them), finding new groups, and surrounding one’s self with healthy friends and family. Additionally, remember that this may not feel good and normal in the beginning, developing new habits consciously never does.

Before concluding this blog, I want to close with one last thing we need to know about social rejection. A person can remove all the knives in their kitchen, but this does not mean one will never cut their finger ever again. The same goes with rejection, we can go through the healing processes, and remove the current toxin in our life, but this does not mean we will never experience rejection ever again. Rejection like physical injury is part of life and is the amazing part of life that includes taking risks and sometimes receiving rewards and sometimes feeling pain and loss. But unless we take those chances and risks we never fully live as individuals and we live life with no meaning.

At this final point you may ask Curtis most of this article was on rejection and not loneliness as well. I wanted to start this article by differentiating the two because they are often mistaken for one another. Further blogs will focus solely on loneliness as we learn how to create a social connected and meaningful world for ourselves and the people we love.