Isolation and empathy are by no means mutually exclusive.
- As we began prepping for isolation at home, there was a strange sense of disassociation, as if there was no need to think of or care for others and that it was everyone for themselves.
- The pandemic, interestingly enough, put many of us in a situation of "forced empathy."
- In reality, we are all "first responders" in the need for empathy, as countless anecdotes about inspiring acts of compassion during the pandemic attest.
These findings fit in with an overarching evolutionary theory on loneliness.
Loneliness is usually a difficult emotion to divulge. We want to project to others that we have a vibrant and fulfilling social life. Of course, we all get lonely sometimes, but some far more often than others. Usually, divulging that one is lonely elicits compassion, empathy, or even pity on the part of the listener. But perhaps they shouldn't feel so, according to one long-term study out of the University of Chicago. It finds that those who are chronically lonely are more likely to be self-centered. The findings of the study were published in the journal Personality and Psychology Bulletin.
We're more lonely than ever and this is horrible. Equally horrible? We can't bare to spend time alone.
‘All man’s miseries,’ wrote the French mathematician Blaise Pascal, ‘derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone’. Often in our busy lives this is caused by having too much to do. Sometimes it is our own inability to set down the smartphone and sit. Our go, go, go lives often leave us with little time for solitude. This is a shame, as many great minds argue, for being able to be alone with your own thoughts is a great skill that more people could use.
Scientists are finding that loneliness has real medical consequences, and the brain sees it as pain.