Kay Smythe


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Thursday, August 15

Loneliness: a literature review

*please Subscribe to access the entire literature review in September 2019, with all accompanying materials

It does not exist as a rock in the pit of one’s stomach, nor as the fluttering of hopelessness in one’s chest. That growing darkness is a relative sensation, rarely dwindling, a constant rise and fall like your breath. Loneliness has become such a normalized state for vast swathes of the human population that one might question why the fuck we aren’t talking to each other about it and doing something to mitigate it?  
             When an idea becomes a paradigm of knowledge on a particular topic, such as the Theory of Evolution, we base all education and scientific development around that paradigm until another one comes along that replaces it. We cannot definitively “prove” a paradigm, so we cannot say that Evolution is a fact. What we can prove as a fact is that we are not okay. Our health, economic system, climate, relationships, nationalities, and entire future are failing, and we can prove that as a fact with both qualitative and quantitative data. Loneliness is a symptom of this collapse, and is the topic of discussion in this literature review.
             Unlike a majority of the largest issues facing society, Loneliness is one that exists within the plain of existence of an individual. No one can tell you that you are lonely, because only you can feel it. In the same way, no one can tell you that you are not lonely, despite an aesthetic reality that may suggest otherwise. If you feel lonely, then you are lonely; it is one of the few diseases we can only diagnose at home. Though part of the treatment for loneliness has to begin in the home, the tools needed to avoid and cure it completely fall to the hands of our social networks. 
             The largest ignorance of the mental health research community is the assumption that a majority of mental health disorders can be cured with medication or a one-size-fits-all approach. If you are a proponent of medicating people first (except for in clearly diagnosable cases, with quantitative and physical data of a psychotic disorder) then you are not a doctor, you are not a professional, you are part of the problem. Loneliness is a systemic societal issue, but it is experienced by the individual in a relative way. In layman’s terms, loneliness can be defined as: whatever the fuck you as an individual defines loneliness to be, and it is whatever the fuck the person sitting next to you defines it to be, and you will never truly know what it is like for the person sitting next to you, but with a little empathy, you might have a pretty good idea, and can help ease their burden. 
             Many researchers have sought to establish broader theoretical knowledge on loneliness, but the somewhat beautiful irony of loneliness as a scientific area of research is that, for the most part, it’s an incredibly isolating subject matter. You are a certain sort of ignorant if you don’t feel at least a degree of foreboding, the thundering sense of doom under today’s political, economic, and social climate. This is not to mention the actual failing climate. It is not polite dinner conversation, office-talk, or “parental” to discuss the failures of our species to support strangers the system we have built around us. 
             When the very nature of loneliness is an uncomfortable subject matter, making it even more difficult to conduct primary research necessary to help eradication, it stands to reason that the responsibility does fall upon We The People to remind ourselves of unconditional love, and various other behaviors to help ease ours and our loved ones feelings of loneliness by forcing the topic down each other’s throats. The purpose of this Literature Review of Loneliness is to shed light on the scholarly, academic, and scientific research into loneliness, both in relation to work and family, in the hopes that you will take a personal moment to check-in with yourself and your social networks. Someone might be feeling lonely, it might be you, and the overarching problem of loneliness is the form in which it manifests. 
             Those of us in Gen Y* likely don’t know where to begin when it comes to the world that we exist within: no wonder we’re scared, suicidal, addicted to opioids, shooting up heroin, shooting up schools, joining militias. We have absolutely zero sense of purpose and no one to talk to about it because our parents are just as fucked up as us, if not more so. When we finally have the governmental freedom, we have turned 18 with the cognitive damage done, and are forced into mandatory poverty cycles through higher education or institutional racism and bias. The only thing we occasionally have control over is our vote, and even that barely holds water if our candidate pool doesn’t change anything. Our climate is killing us by our forefathers doing; we are being educated to hate one another; the law enforcement and governmental systems that dictate to us have failed us, and we are frightened and alone. 
             Beside the absolute minimal fix of making every single election a national holiday so we can start voting in the people who listen to us when we say we need help, Generation Y also has a responsibility to ourselves as individuals: our cognitive functioning directly impacts on our social networks. Of course we can take to social media, start our empires, and inspire the mass protest of people, but what good is it if we fail to bring those tools home for ourselves and we fail to engage with those closest to us? 
             Not to tear down the tone here, but we have all had the experience of being the Luke. P of Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette in certain social contexts. Most of us wouldn’t have (a) gone on one of the top rated television shows in the world without first establishing who we are as independent individuals, and (b) understand that when everyone hates us, we are the center of the problem. For those of you weirdos who do not enjoy the soothing tones of Chris Harrison, and the epic modern fairy tale that is The Bachelorette, this highly relevant and very important case-study example can be explained under the scientific umbrella of in-group and out-group bias: one of the leading causes of loneliness in society. Who of us hasn’t felt an outsider in a room full of people who you desperately want to understand? We are all guilty of bullying, making sweeping assumptions of others, and jumping to our biases even when confronted by the needs of our loved ones. 
             Loneliness is not something you are going through alone, but I sure know it feels like it. Some of us go the extremes of placing the blame on the people we love, and forcing ourselves into godforsaken scenarios as we silently scream for help. We are all just as guilty of ignoring our instincts, and choosing to be bad people. Whether someone is in your group, or out of it, they are still people. Loneliness starts inside of each of us, but this virus has spread throughout human society, and it is killing us. When we can see it so planely before our eyes, on some of the most watched television in the world, the question has to be asked: what did we all do to deserve this hatred toward each other, and what can we do to solve for the manifestation of  this hate upon ourselves? 
             This first Literature Review of Loneliness does not open with an academic discussion, but I can assure you that all of the content in this paper is either strictly academic, or has been formed from the amalgamation of scientific and scholarly research on the topic. Sure, there will be the occasional filter of commentary, and my abundantly flowing wit, but that’s more to avoid you sneaky motherfuckers from plagiarizing the whole thing for your thesis. Let us head into the next section of the review: the definitions of loneliness that lonely folks in lonely places have come up with over the years, and the more recent take on this normalized social and individual isolation paradigm.

Literature Review Main Body
  • discussions including: unconscious bias, cognitive empathy, the opioid crisis, suicide, mental health, the false perception of macro-polarization, Tucker Carlson, and more... 
Topline Summary 

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