Circumstance, Meaning

To Feel Isolated

“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”

Carl Jung, Memories Dreams and Reflections, 1963

Feeling isolated can be difficult to nail down.

You might see someone every day-a partner arrives home every evening, a child may spend all day with you, family members can be close by- and yet still. Feeling isolated isn’t so much about being alone, as it is about feeling like we are in it alone. What ‘it’ is exactly, differs from situation to situation, but ‘it’ is whatever we are dealing with, whatever we are embarking upon. For whatever reason, we may feel overwhelmed, lost, uncertain and frightened. And those kinds of feelings are very hard to put into words and communicate. And so, we feel isolated. Often our life takes a turn and we find ourselves in a story where only we can be the protagonist. In other words, we’re handed a task that only we can do, given a role only we can fill. And so, we feel isolated.

“Among them, but not of them.”

Lord Byron, 1812-1818, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto III (1816), Stanza 113

The thing to remember is, we are, in fact, never alone.

Your friends may be on a different path and your family may not be able to understand how you feel, but there are others. There is a whole world full of people who have felt like you, who are, right now in this moment, sharing the exact same experience as you. You know this, for example, when you listen to a special piece of music that speaks to your deepest thoughts and emotions. The song reaches the crescendo and in that moment, you realise you’re not alone. Everything we feel and deal with is our own personal slice of a universal experience. Once we realise this, we can feel the warmth from the proverbial fire that we gather round.

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

John Donne, Meditation XVII, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, 1624
Edward Hopper, 1942, Nighthawks
Edward Hopper, 1942, Nighthawks
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