With all the talk of oil and gas shortages, planned blackouts, and a cost-of-living crisis, the news these days can feel like it’s straight out of the 1970s — and we even have the mullet hairstyles to enjoy again.
The children going back to school often bring with them a sense of foreboding. When we see the signs in the shop windows for new school shoes and school bags and books, many of us shudder collectively when we think of what’s in store for the rest of the year.
For millennia, this has been the time to consider whether we’ve harvested enough food for the winter, and so perhaps there’s an atavistic reminder that brings a mini-assessment of our lives each September.
This is mostly a helpful tendency; Some of us are thinking about starting a new course or project in September. The human brain is a problem-solving organ, and we evolved as a result of our ability to think about how to deal with threats.
While this means our ability to survive is quite amazing, the downside is that being human means being restless, alert, thoughtful, and always anticipating trouble.
Animals are free from being aware of mortality; free from existential angst. But animals miss out on the beauty of music, the pleasure of enjoying a child’s innocence, and the uplifting warmth of conversing with an old friend.
We are animals, but we are also human. Our sophisticated brains can respond to threats with words, while animals, when threatened, can only respond physically. As mammals, when we see a threat, we have a chemical reaction and release cortisol, which creates a sense of danger.
However, we humans go further. We crystallize the threat with complex thoughts that anticipate the problem and find out the flaws in all possible solutions. We gnaw at all the problems that concern us. We think about it and we talk about it and we find possible solutions.
That might be why we really need our friendships — the bond that comes from being understood and sharing common values is often incredibly heartwarming.
This is also why we scroll through our social media, looking for the latest problem and trying to calm our constant feelings of anxiety that can so easily overcome us.
Be it the war in Ukraine or the recent political shenanigans or the problems in the health system.
There’s no point in trying to avoid problems, so we’re much better off learning to live alongside problems. It’s wiser to learn to enjoy life even though we have problems than to think that one fine day we can finally solve the last problem and then be happy.
Fortunately, while we have many challenges ahead – autumn is just around the corner and we will no doubt be hearing about more strange variants of Covid – our brains are wired to learn from our experiences and come up with creative solutions.
Today, loneliness is one of the most common issues faced by clients in my practice as a psychotherapist. These are successful, charming, personable people who might have a best friend who lives somewhere far away, a good friend nearby who is always busy, co-workers they rarely see anymore, and a few buddies they might not particularly fond of, but share common interests like children of the same age.
In general, most of us simply hang out with our families and neighbors whether we like them or not.
Arguably one of the biggest differences between this generation and the last generation is that the digital revolution has driven carriages and horses through our sense of community. We don’t know people like we used to.
We may have 1,000 followers on social media, but we don’t have a fraction of that many face-to-face interactions with other people.
We don’t eat lunch with our colleagues like we used to. We no longer waste time talking about management and talking about our children like we used to. Zoom calls are efficient, but the efficiency they offer means the opportunities to turn the breeze have been eradicated.
Thousands more are working from home post lockdown and while few of us miss the commute, many of us miss the camaraderie.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and with the superpower problem-solving organ in our heads, perhaps we will soon begin to address the isolation that plagues this generation. Could local cafes take initiatives to lure workers out of their homes?
Most of us can count on one hand the number of good friendships we have. Too often we forget to appreciate the few friendships we have.
Maybe this September some of us will take the time to cultivate the few good friendships we already have rather than start a new project.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/loneliness-is-a-deep-cut-that-can-be-healed-by-nurturing-friendships-we-already-have-41945254.html Loneliness is a deep cut that can be healed by nurturing the friendships we already have