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Soul of connection

Experts say loneliness is on the rise, and it’s making us ill. Anita Chaudhuri explores the misery and myths of this human condition, and how to navigate a path back to connectedness

Second only to love, of all the emotional states, loneliness must be the most exhaustively explored. Untold song lyrics, melancholy poems and fictional characters, from Frankenstein to Eleanor Oliphant, have all focused on the condition. And, perhaps because of this, as a society we believe we have a handle on exactly what loneliness looks like.

When I hear the word ‘loneliness’, what comes to mind, for some reason, is a shadowy ‘old person’ sitting hunched in an armchair all day, the world passing them by; or perhaps a woman’s face, tearstained, age indeterminate, coping with a breakup. If I really stretch my imagination, I might come up with a couple of other scenarios: a student or recent graduate starting out in a new city; maybe a new parent who hasn’t yet got it together to tap into the local mums’ network…

“Sometimes, I pick up the phone to call my mother and realise, too late, she is no longer here…I don’t mention it to anyone”

YES, ME TOO

However, when I read newspaper articles informing me that ‘Loneliness is as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day’, I never connect that type of ‘O.cial Loneliness’ with myself. Loneliness with a capital L: that can’t possibly be the same thing that I, a socially connected extrovert, sometimes feel on a Sunday afternoon when I pick up the phone to call my mother for our weekly chat and, too late, realise I can’t – because she is no longer here. The feeling is only fleeting, after all; hardly worth talking about, compared to the other people who are ‘properly lonely’. So I don’t mention it to anyone.

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