Lonely in a crowd

One of the biggest tragedies of today's western world is loneliness. It may take various forms and it may be undetectable to others.

Let's take a look at John. He is a highly achieving corporate manager who seems to have it all. He has a nice house, drives an expensive car, has a boat in the Mediterranean, has children who are educated in private schools, in other words he is living a dream. What people don't know is that he suffers from depression. He can't find enjoyment in anything he does. He smiles when he talks to people but it is the face he puts on for the public. After all, a man of his class cannot show his weakness, can he? He suffers in silence. When he locks up in his his office to work, most of the time is spent thinking what the purpose of life is and what he can do. He is surrounded by people, yet he feels he has no one to speak to.

Of course, I am not talking about any specific person but about a trend I see in my practice. People come to therapists because they cannot continue to live a life without purpose and enjoyment. And it is lucky that people turn to therapists. Prolonged depression can lead to a tragic end.

Depression is not an imaginary disease. People don't choose to be depressed. It sneaks on you gradually. If you tell a depressed person to cheer up, at best it has no effect. Nobody can understand depression if they have not gone through it themselves. The good news is, it is reversible. It is not a permanent state.

Mental illness is on the increase. A lot of it is due to how our society has developed. Loneliness often seems to be a common denominator. We do not talk to people about our thoughts, feelings or struggles. We live among people, yet we feel isolated.

Many of us live far away from our families. Your close family are usually the people who love you unconditionally and are always prepared to help you but it is difficult to have a great relationship with your family if they live hundreds of miles away and you only talk to them for half an hour once a week or less often.

There is also this tendency to keep to yourself. A courteous: “How are you?” “I'm fine” is as far as we go with some people. It is even impolite to respond with “I've had a dreadful day. Could I talk to you about it?” Some of you will admit that if you heard such a response, you would be shocked and stunned. We have so many superficial conversations, keeping our worries to ourselves. Reasons? I can't tell you for sure. What I suspect is fear of being judged, a reluctance to impose yourself on others, a belief that nothing will change anyway.

We live in crowded cities, surrounded by people each step we take, equipped with technology that allows us to instantly contact others, yet our conversations are rarely deep and meaningful. Some people have hundreds of friends on social media, but the best we do in terms of sharing our lives is bragging about where we are and what we are doing. We rarely talk about things we struggle with, we rarely share our pain. If we did, if we chose to have one evening a week spent 1'1 with a close friend or a relative, we would notice that other people have similar struggles. We are not alone.

And there is the time issue. We always have something to do. How often do we really meet with our friends? How often do we go back to visit our families? We seem not to have time and we think others will not find time for us.

Can we heal the society and start having meaningful and supportive conversations or shall we just train more therapists?

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