By Dr. Nero Cavalieri
It is a well established fact that our mental status affects our body in many ways. For example, stress, in particular, chronic stress, can lead to a weakening and even breakdown of the immune system which then makes us susceptible to all sorts of diseases including heart attacks and cancer. And, we all know what stressors are. What many do not know is that there is an almost invisible stressor that can be a silent killer. It is the lack of human companionship; a form of social isolation that leads to heart-breaking loneliness. This form of stress not only affects the senior members of our society; the infirm, handicapped, and house bound. It can, and does, happen to everyone at some point in their life. When we’re young we may experience loneliness when a romantic partner leaves us, or when someone very close to us dies. In those instances, we may be able to bounce back and get our social life on track again through social network sites, supportive groups, even family, if they live near us. Then, there are the high tech communication devices that are available. But, we soon find they are poor substitutes for the human physical contact that we need. This need for social interaction is actually built into our mental program as part of human nature. We are not the only species that crave social contact. Many animals also share the need to be with others of their kind. It seems that we homo sapiens have an innate need to be part of a whole, to belong, to be close, physically and spiritually, to others . As Blasé Pascal said “ The heart has reasons that reason knows not of”.
The best way to combat loneliness is not to surrender. The metaphor of war is very appropriate because fighting loneliness is a constant battle, especially for those who are introverted. How do we fight? By physically removing ourselves from the lonely situation and immerse ourselves in the pool of social connectivity. In other words, join a supportive group, political group, church group…in short, be a part of the collective consciousness of humanity. That means learn to get along with people, even those with whom you may disagree. Once you begin, you will realize nothing is so important that it supersedes the humanness that we, as homo sapiens need to share.