In a revealing Q&A with Vox’s Brian Resnick, Maike Luhmann, a psychologist at the University of Cologne in Germany, explains how loneliness works and propagates itself.
“We depend on others to feel secure. When we feel lonely, we feel like there’s a permanent threat. It might not be a real threat, but we perceive things as threatening.
So what this amounts to when we’re in a normal, neutral social situation, we’re more likely to interpret the other person as being threatening. Someone might look at us in a neutral way, and the lonely person will think, "This person doesn’t like me.”
And so begins that cycle of self doubt. As author Olivia Laing writes:
“Loneliness feels like such a shameful experience, so counter to the lives we are supposed to lead, that it becomes increasingly inadmissible, a taboo state whose confession seems destined to cause others to turn and flee.”
It is this exact rationale that stops many from breaking out of loneliness. Luhmann argues loneliness can actually be a good thing because it “signals that we need to do something about our social connections. This is a sign from our psychological systems that there’s something off.”
The solution? Find other humans. This doesn’t mean you throw yourself into networking sessions of suits and fancy hors d'oeuvres. Start small. Head to a fairly crowded place - a coffee shop, a library or a bookstore, and set up work. Then, if you can afford it and bear it, transition to a co-working space or rent an office desk in your town. Sometimes, just seeing other humans around is reason enough to feel like a world beyond you exists. If not, then find others like yourself to work together like a group of writers who rent a hotel room and work around a common table. Shared space, but isolated work output.