The Path to No Path

Loneliness

Loneliness hurts. It hurts to the very bones. I lived with it for many, many years, from the first day I went to primary school to the day I left grammar school. And afterwards, too.

When I had not been very long in primary school, I felt that I had no friends there. I knew nobody, and it seemed that nobody wanted to know me. I tried to be friendly with another child, as he seemed willing to relate to me, but I was soon told that he was a no good person and that I shouldn't have anything to do with him. If I chose to be friends with him, nobody else would be my friend.

One day in school, I was standing in a queue of children in a corridor, waiting to go into some room. I was feeling utterly lonely and miserable, and wanted to reach out and make contact with someone. There was a girl standing in front of me, with long blonde hair down to the middle of her back. I happened to be standing very close behind, and I gave her hair a gentle, friendly tug. She spun round, snarled in my direction, and shrieked in complaint to a teacher.

The teacher asked who had pulled her hair, and I did not reply. I was taken to the headmaster. I could see that he was not interested in me as a person – all he seemed to want to do was to apprehend and punish the guilty party. I did not consider myself guilty, for I had not intended any harm, nor had I caused any physical hurt – it had been a very gentle pull.

Apparently surprised by my refusal to admit my guilt, the headmaster asked me if I would swear to my innocence on the Bible. I considered that I had not done anything wrong; I had felt desperately lonely and had tried to reach out to someone, only to be rejected – attacked by the girl, and blamed by the teacher.

I had hoped that perhaps I might be able to talk with the headmaster, but he wasn't at all interested in the truth of my situation, so I decided that I would swear the actual truth on the Bible, thus 'lying', for if I said the truth, that I had indeed pulled her hair, I could only expect to be punished, and I had already been punished for what I considered was a non-offence. To lie on the Bible would mean that I could hope to escape the punishment that I did not deserve and a punishment which would have therefore been immoral to inflict on me. So I lied.

According to Carl Rogers, there are two reasons for one's feelings of isolation and loneliness. One is that we have become estranged from our experiencing organisms:

In this fundamental rift, the experiencing organism senses one meaning in experience, but the conscious self clings rigidly to another, since that is the way it has found love and acceptance from others.

It is clear to me that this lack of internal communication has been forced upon us by our upbringing: we have been forced to live according to other people's ideas. We reluctantly tolerate this violence because of our desperate, biological, need for love, yet what we receive can be love in name only, for anybody who truly loves somebody will never for one moment harm them in this way.

Rogers continues:

The other element in our loneliness is the lack of any relationship in which we communicate our real experiencing – and hence our real self – to another. When there is no relationship in which we are able to communicate both aspects of our divided self – our conscious façade and our deeper level of experiencing – then we feel the loneliness of not being in real touch with any other human being.

And indeed, I remained lonely for many years until I went into therapy and started to relate on a meaningful level to other people, having found, to my amazement, people who were ready and willing to listen to me. [These two quotations are from Carl Rogers, A Way Of Being, Chapter 8, p. 165 and p. 166.]

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I look forward to hearing from you.

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