The Need To Be Loved – The difference between being alone and loneliness


By Rebecca Ward


Among the many blessings of age-related wisdom is the awareness that every holiday isn’t mandatory. In fact, most of them are economic constructs that we follow because we “Believe in the wisdom of collective ignorance” (Alvin Toffler), or, we just haven’t reached a level of maturity where our own opinion is of great value.


Where I’m going with this is not about evil holidays, but how they can trigger deep emotional responses that can be most troubling.

Valentine’s Day is one of the most joyful, painful or anxious holidays that has been foisted us by Hallmark, Whitman’s, FTD, the diamond industry and the like. That pink and red day invites us to clearly accept whether we are truly loved and joined in that love by this one special person with whom we spend the hours of our life with . . . or not.

Flowers arriving at the office to those lucky in love may salt our wounds, and hearing plans of romantic evenings are bummers if you are no one’s Valentine. Getting a sweet card from a friend is nice but not getting one from a significant other is painful to most people. It tells them that they are ALONE in this special way that requires two people, not one.

Now there is a huge difference between the state of being alone and the feeling of loneliness. Being alone is physical and feeling lonely or loneliness is emotional. And I will tell you, it is far better to be alone, than it is to feel loneliness while in the company of another, especially one with whom one has shared physical and emotional intimacy. There are cures for both conditions, but it’s far more daunting to emend the latter. Having a silent, aloof, pouting, disdainful and distant partner in another room is deeply wounding and almost demands that you recognize SOMETHING IS WRONG HERE. VERY. VERY. WRONG. Such potential and possibilities, yet the bleakness of loneliness permeates.

If there is one thing I know without doubt, is that we human beings are social creatures who NEED the connection with others to experience ourselves fully and to develop our potentials with those connections. Now, sometimes through the mistakes of nature, nurture or a cruel whimsy of the universe, there are people who seem to prefer solitude and repel the efforts of others to touch them in some physical or feeling way.

There are babies born, who from the very beginning, seem to resist the normal cuddling instinct. Conversely, there are potent studies of infants who were denied the warmth of human affection through dire circumstances, who failed to thrive and suffered long term damage – physically, mentally and emotionally – from lack of nurturing human contact. After orphanages recognized these deficits they invited people to come in and hold the babies for hours a day, and the babies began to thrive. Babies who don’t receive the nurture of a loving caretaker carry that injury for a lifetime. Some babies died from lack of being loved. Tragic.

So, here is Valentine’s Day. Really a rather innocuous day that can be brightened by heart-shaped candy boxes or a vase of flowers or even a small box with something shiny within. It doesn’t really take much to signify to another that they are valued and loved. However, if they aren’t treated as if they are valued and loved all of the time, such gifts will seem paltry, empty and the day will just be one of painful reminders.

In my experience, we people want love and acceptance without fear of abandonment and engulfment. When you truly love another and they love you, those fears are manifest.

We must learn to balance our fears so we can enjoy all our relationships, but especially the deep bonding-binding love about which poems are written, songs are sung and all young people dream.

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