Lonely is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a state of being without company, cut off from others or producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation.
Emotions are not always easy to spot, but when you see lonely you know it. It is interesting, lonely is one of those feelings that you can feel while surrounded by hundreds, thousands or perhaps even millions.
In prisons, some wardens utilize solitary confinement as a form of punishment leaving an inmate alone in a small chamber for 22 to 24 hours at a time. Some prisons call it “Segregation” while others use the term “Restrictive Housing.”
In 2006, a study by Stuart Grassian led to a report on the “Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement.” The report was released by Washington University Journal of Law & Policy. The research showed that such confinement can cause severe psychiatric harm with long term consequences.
While those in prison who are forced into a tiny cell for hours upon hours face some of the most severe outcomes psychologically speaking, the report listed other major groups that have the same negative outcomes without being held in a 6 by 9 foot cell. Those groups included patients with spinal cord problems that are not mobile, patients who are held in intensive care units for extended periods and patients required to wear ear and eye patches for weeks to months at a time, just to name a few.
That being said… would it be fair to say that many outside the walls of restriction isolate themselves within their own mind for years if not centuries without meaning to? The self-isolation equates to a sea of loneliness or depression which can equal a feeling of not being loved by anyone.
One man felt so deprived of loving human contact that he invented or founded the “Free Hugs” movement. His name, Juan Mann.
The movement of free hugs was started by Mann in Australia in 2004. He started the movement after an ongoing feeling of loneliness, depression and isolation. He quickly found that giving and receiving hugs to complete strangers felt good and actually cheered him up. It also helped others and the movement grew rapidly around the world.
Isolation leads loneliness which leads to depression which turns into feelings that you cannot be loved. It threatens our well-being in hundreds of ways. Be it isolation within ourselves, in the prison system or within medical settings, isolation is more dangerous than it was once thought to be.
“Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I'm most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.” - Anne Hathaway