Responding to Criticism on my notion of loneliness

By: Curtis Peterson ©

img_4243

Recently I have been criticized for my views on loneliness, even though these views are deeply seated in current research on the topic of loneliness. I would like to respond to some of the criticisms I have received. For this blog, I want to take on one of the most salient criticisms I have received

Criticism 1: Loneliness is not a product of an individual’s social world, but rather a disposition of a person and psychological disorders.

This criticism mostly comes from individuals who work in the mental health field, and work with individuals who report being extremely lonely. In this view, many of the individuals who are upset with my notion that loneliness is deeply seated within one’s social experiences, claim that loneliness is part of one’s psychological disorder and therefore should be treated on the individual level.

However, there are fundemental problems with this argument. The first comes from science dating back to the 1940s and is supported by current research, and that is loneliness is not a symptom of psychological disorders, but are a consequence of the social allienation most individuals with psychological disorders experience.

There is only one exception to this rule, and that is for individuals who experience depression. But, loneliness, when someone is in a bout of depression, is qualitatively different than the normative loneliness that everyone experiences. Loneliness during depression drives us away from seeking social and emotional connections, while normative loneliness drives us to seek out a social and emotional connection to alleviate the negative emotional state associated with the experience of loneliness. For me, there is another very important reason to separate loneliness from depression, and that comes from recent research conducted with individuals who have made serious suicide attempts and individuals who display suicidal thoughts. According to this research, individuals who are diagnosed with depression seem to only have suicidal ideation and attempts when they also score high on scales of normative loneliness – such as the UCLA Loneliness Scale. This is important because it provides a window into what drives individuals who are experiencing depression and when they are at risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts.

The second fundamental problem with loneliness only being a feature of psychological disorders that are self-driven is that everyone can experience loneliness regardless of their mental state. In fact, loneliness is a fact of being human. One reason that some individuals may argue that it is not is we all have varying degrees of the need to have social and emotional connections with other individuals. Indeed, most of the individuals that disagree with me have very low needs for social and emotional relationships. Loneliness and social connection as a drive system are very much like our system for hunger and thirst. Some individuals need for more food intake – and make sure they get three meals a day -and some individuals only have the desire to eat maybe once during the day. Loneliness is the same way, some individuals need a constant stream of socialization and emotional connection, whereas others need very little. Unfortunately the high-level person – especially in American culture – are considered needy, dependent, and weak – whereas individuals who have very little need are seen as strong and independent. While I would argue that being at either extreme can lead to dysfunction – just like too much food can lead to obesity, and too little food can lead to anorexia – the assumption that low social need people are stronger than high need individuals is just empirically false. There is no evidence in the empirical literature to suggest that individuals differ on how “strong” and “independent” they are based on their need for social and emotional connections.

My main goal for refuting the claim that loneliness is a feature of one’s disposition is in our modern world individuals are becoming more and more disconnected from each other. Evidence indicates that loneliness and the negative physical and psychological consequences of continued chronic loneliness are on the increase especially among at risk populations such as teens, elderly, and individuals who are members of stigmatized groups. Therefore, loneliness as an increasing epidemic in our society needs to be addressed on the social and cultural level, and we should let go of old unsupported notions that loneliness is a feature of one’s disposition. I make this plea that we should look at loneliness as a disease of society because the only long-term solution and “cure” for loneliness are for one to meet their social and emotional connections with others, through engaging in their social life.

 

Theoretical Framework of Loneliness

By: Curtis Peterson ©

 

Suicide and the sacred


I have been asked a lot lately why I think a person’s social identity would reduce a person’s experience of loneliness. So I have decided instead of retyping the same thing over and over I would just provide a link to the theoretical framework of identity and loneliness that I have developed over the past few years.


Theoretical Foundation

In this section the theoretical basis for the hypothesis that saliency of social identity may reduce an individual’s current subjective experience of loneliness will be explored. Figure 1 represented the combination of four formalized theories that together explain the theoretical relationship between social identification and loneliness (figure 1. Proposed model of loneliness reduction through social identification).

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 11.07.15 AM

Based on the theories that will be presented after Figure 1, the theoretical model is based on the assumption that emotions occur through the cognitive appraisal of a person’s current situation, this is represented in the first three boxes of figure 1, starting from left to right. Under situation, one will note that saliency of one’s social identity is important in this model, as it will be argued that saliency of one’s identity is important in the evaluation of one’s situation and determines one’s evaluation of loneliness. Additionally, two other factors have a role in the appraisal process, (1) past emotional memories, and (2) social categorization and social identification. Both of these factors are used by the individual to determine whether the current situation is one that is potentially harmful to the individual (part emotional memories) and the importance of the saliency of the person’s social identity (social categorization and social identification). Based on these initial appraisal of the situation, emotional memories, and identity, the person will evaluate the situation as either they belong or they are lonely in the given situation.

An example of how this process may work in the real world is a student who identifies with be a college student at a given college – let us call this ABC University. In a given evaluative situation, for example, being home during the summer away from school mates and the ABC University environment. The individual may evaluate this situation as lacking in strong social connection and identity, and therefore, may evaluate their situation as lonely and experience the desire to return from summer break early, the alleviate the state of loneliness. Once the student returns to ABC University and the situation makes their identity as ABC University student salient again, and the shared bond (categorization) and similar connection (emotional belonging), the individual experiences an increase in belonging and a reduced feeling of loneliness.

The need to belong.

To understand the interplay between loneliness and social settings it important to start with a meta-theory of the need to belong (Fiske, 2013; Lieberman, 2013; Cacioppo, & Patrick, 2008). Lieberman (2013) who studies the neurological basis of social behavior and Cacioppo and Patrick (2008) who studies the neurological basis of loneliness both agree that the human brain has largely evolved to meet the social demands of humans. Lieberman (2013) extends this to the notion of evolution, stating that if evolution had a purpose and a consciousness it made a bet on the social aspects of the human brain rather than the individual survival skills of the human brain to assure it continued survival. Indeed, both Lieberman (2013); and Cacioppo and Patrick (2008), provide significant evidence that the higher evolved areas of the brain are used in the processing of social information rather than non-social information. Lieberman (2013) even provides compelling evidence that when individuals stop engaging in non-social actions the brain immediately reverts to the activation of the social areas of the brain without conscious knowledge or effort. Based on this neurological evidence, it has lead these researchers to theorize that one of the most basic needs of human beings is to create and maintain social connections.

While Lieberman (2013) and Cacioppo and Patrick (2008) developed a neurological basis for social belonging, Fiske (2013) develop a social cognitive needs model which places the need for belonging as an overarching motivation to four other cognitive and affective cognitive reasons for creating and maintaining social connections. In one’s motivation to belong Fiske (2013) theorizes that there are two relatively cognitive needs and motives, and two relatively affective needs and motives. The cognitive needs include the need for understanding and the need for control. The need to understanding is the need to have shared experiences that makes both the social and non-social world predictable. The second cognitive need is the need and motivation for control as defined as being able to have some control between behavior and the outcome of behavior. Again this can arise through shared meaning, storytelling, and knowing the experiences of others. Indeed, one can argue that while there are self-enhancements that drive this proposal and dissertation, the other social meaning is to provide a shared meaning of social identification and loneliness, and to provide a potential control between one’s behavior resulting from experience of loneliness and the potential positive outcomes through engaging in the social identification process. However, if the results of this proposal are not supported it also has shared understanding and control as well. Fiske (2013) also argued that there are two relatively affective needs and motives that are driven by the belonging process. The first is the need for self-enhancement, this is the basic need to be able to see one’s self as basically worthy and improvable. It can be argued that this can only occur within a social context either through direct social feedbacks or by comparing one’s self to some social norm. The second affective need is the need for trust which is defined by Fiske (2013) as seeing others as basically benign. Lieberman (2013) argued that the reason the human brain evolved in a large part to meet their social world is because it was an evolutionary advantage for human being to live in groups and work as a coherent unit. This social system also requires seeing individuals within that social system as relatively benign and safe. Therefore, Fiske (2013) felt this was an important aspect of one of the sub-categories of the need to belong, as she argues the more benign others are within a group, the more open and creative; and less closed and apprehensive.

Cacioppo and Patrick (2008) theorize that loneliness is a mechanism by which a person comes to understand that their need to belong or social connection is not being fulfilled. This will be discussed in the next section titled “Thwarted belonging leading to loneliness”. However, to summarize this section, the need to belong is considered a basic human need and can be explained by neurological evidence (Lieberman, 2013), and social cognitive evidence (Fiske, 2013). In the overall model presented in figure one the need for belonging would be evaluated in the appraisal of the situation for which the individual is attending. This appraisal can result in a thwarting of any five of Fiske’s cognitive needs leading to the negative emotional state of loneliness.

Thwarted belonging leading to loneliness.

As will be presented on the literature review on loneliness, the study of the topic has a long and rich history. What seems to be clear from this collection of data is that loneliness is a negative emotional state that motivates an individual to fulfill their needing for social connection and belonging (Ayalon, Shiovitz-Ezra, & Roziner, 2016). There are two types of loneliness that individuals experience best explained by Weiss (1973/1985) who theorized that individuals can experience two types of loneliness one emotional and the other social. Emotional loneliness is defined as a person’s subjective evaluation that they do not have sufficient emotionally close relationships. It can be argued under Fiske (2013) model that individuals need close emotional relationships to enhance their self-enhancement through honest feedback and encouragement. One could also argue emotional relationships are necessary to have a sufficient amount of trust, in a complex social world in which not everyone can be trusted.

The second form of loneliness described by Weiss (1973/1985) is social loneliness, also known in the literature as social isolation. Social loneliness is the appraisal that one does not have sufficient social connections. Not having sufficient social connections can thwart Fiske’s (2013) need for understanding and control, by not having sufficient information through social connection to make one’s world predictable and to have some sense of control. While the majority of Cacioppo’s work on loneliness has specifically dealt with social loneliness in relation to neurological process and health and mental health outcomes, he concedes that when social-emotional needs are not met this thwarts an individual’s confidence and abilities to create and develop meaningful social connections leading to the experience of chronic loneliness (Cacioppo, Christakis, & Fowler, 2009). The clear separation for emotional loneliness and social loneliness comes from evidence that individuals may still experience loneliness despite having several social connections, and when this has been investigated the main conclusion is that for these individuals while they may have a large social network, they lack any real meaningful emotionally close relationships (Grageset, Eide, Kirkevold, & Ramhoff, 2012). While as will be indicated later in this proposal loneliness can lead to some rather anti-social and self-defeating behaviors such as isolation (Cacioppo, Hawkley, & Thisted, 2010), drinking (Chen, & Feeley, 2015), hypervigilance and inability to trust (Lodder, Scholte, Clemens, Engels, Goosens, & Verhagen, 2015), focusing on non-social objects (Epley, Akalis, Waytz, & Cacioppo, 2008), and becoming more non-conforming, loneliness is largely seen as a negative emotional motivational model rather than a self-defeating model. Indeed, for the majority of individuals the experience of loneliness leads to increase social and emotional connections with others, satisfying and individuals need for belonging. As can be indicated in Figure 1, emotional and social loneliness are seen as outcomes of the evaluative process after a person has determined that they are not meeting their belonging needs. Loneliness is represented in the manner to emphasize that this emotional experience then leads to proceeding behaviors such as socialization or regaining emotional connections. Before moving on to the proposed mechanisms that may reduce loneliness (social identity) it is worth pausing for a moment and taking a look at the theoretical models of emotions, as loneliness is considered as an emotional state.

Emotional basis of loneliness.

Loneliness can be considered as fitting within two groups of emotions, the first is personal emotions where one has an individual experience of loneliness which aspects of this experience of loneliness are best explained by theories of emotions presented by Cacioppo and Gardner (1999). The second is loneliness can be experienced as a social and group emotion and be driven through social and group processes which is best explained by the group based emotion theory of Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016). A full evaluation of Cacioppo and Gardner’s (1999) theory is provided in the section on loneliness while a full evaluation of Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016) is provided in the section on social identity. The purpose here is to provide the theoretical underpinnings of each of these theories as they relate to the experience of emotions.

To begin the exploration of emotions it should begin with some basic ideas of emotions presented by Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016) who provide evidence that the majority of research on emotions indicates that it is a situationally bound experienced based on an appraisal process of what elements of a situation are being attended to and how they are appraised based on the individual’s identity and experience with the situation. The idea and notion of emotions being situationally bound and go through an appraisal processes emphasizes a short fall in both the research on emotions and the personal experiences of emotions, in that, according to Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016), emotions are well understood as they are experienced. This may explain why at times individuals may try to alleviate emotions through more destructive means rather than in a manner consistent with what the emotion means to the individual. Lastly, Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016), point out that in research, that compares group emotions versus personal emotions, has largely concluded that they are not experienced qualitatively different. Meaning that emotional states as experienced by the individual versus group emotions experienced by a group, do not differ in any significant way. This according to Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren, and Gross (2016) indicates that social identity and social evaluation should be taken into consideration in the evaluation of emotional states. Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016) theory and ideas of emotions are explored more deeply starting on page 106 and represented on Figure 2 on page 109. For this section on building a theoretical framework Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016) ideas can be represented in the situation, attention, and appraisal aspects of Figure 1, in that their theory supports the appraisal process of emotions based on the current situation.

The second theory of emotions used for the development of this theoretical framework come from Cacioppo and Gardner (1999). Like Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross (2016), Cacioppo and Gardner (1999) theorized that emotions, while not always rationally based have cognitive evaluative processes by which a person may determine the meaning and purpose of a given emotional state. Cacioppo and Gardner (1999) theorized that emotions have both a safety and appetitive pathway or what they called channels. The safety channel are emotions that signal either the need to gain safety or that the organism is in a safe situation. In figure 1, this is represented through the appraisal of past emotional memories, which provides information on whether the situation is safe. The appetitive channel (also called hedonic needs by Goldenberg, Halperin, Zomeren and Gross, 2016) are needs that satisfy the basic needs of the organism but also the pleasure needs of the organism. In the context of loneliness and the belonging model of Fiske (2013), safety needs (fulfilled through trust, understanding, and control) when thwarted can lead to the negative emotional state of loneliness signaling to the organism that these basic needs are not being fulfilled. Appetitive needs under Fiske (2013) may include self-enhancement needs when not being satisfied may lead to the experience of loneliness. In addition to this emphasis on cognitive process, Cacioppo and Gardner (1999), also placed emphasis on socio-emotional development as an important understanding of not only how one will experience an emotion but understand and cope with it as well. The emphasis of socio-emotional development is represented as past emotional memories in Figure 1 to emphasize that individual’s experience with emotions and their already developed personal theories about emotions has significant implications of how one will evaluate the current situation and therefore the proceeding emotional state. One question that this proposal is trying to determine, is if emotional states – such as loneliness – are situationally bound, then there must at least theoretically, be a way to change situational variables that can lead to a changing evaluation of the situation and therefore the experience of the given emotion. This proposal theorizes that a potential situational variable is the saliency of one’s social identity. The next section will provide a theoretical overview of social identity theory.

Social identity theory and social categorization theory.

This research builds on the research conducted on Social Identity Theory (SIT) and Social Categorization Theory (SCT) research findings, which was originally formulated by Tajfel and Turner in 1982. According to SIT individuals seek groups which have similar attributes that they have. This leads to group affiliation and the development of a social identity based on the qualities of that group (Turner, 1982). Once individuals start to develop a social identity in order to protect that identity he or she will categorize individuals into either in-groups or out-groups as described by SCT (Abrams, 2014). Like one’s personal identity, individuals like to think of themselves as good people, in general, therefore they will implement protective mechanisms to enhance their social identity and have their social identity protected (Carter, 2013). Accordingly, most research on SIT has focused on how individuals protect their social identity through engaging in prejudice and discrimination towards out-groups (Kumar, Seay, & Karabenick, 2011). However, recent research has focused on the positive aspects of social identity, for example Haslam (2014) provided evidence that a sense of social identity among medical doctor residency students can enhance their educational experience through developing a sense of identity as a doctor. Haslam (2014) also argues that social identity is becoming such a key variable in individual’s social and personal experiences that both mental health and physical health practitioners should not deny the importance one’s social identity has and should work to enhance their social identity for the welfare of their clients and patients.

Specific to this research, the original assumption of SIT is that individuals seek out a social identity in order to enhance their self-esteem (Turner, 1982). However, research on this self-esteem hypothesis has been inconsistent and generally does not support this view (Abrams, 2014). This has lead Abrams (2014) to believe that there are probably multiple mechanisms which motivates an individual to engage in social identification. The argument of this proposal is the experience of loneliness maybe on motivating factor for one to engage in social identification. More importantly, is that social identity maybe a protective factor in reducing not only the evaluative phase of loneliness but also the experience of loneliness. This is represented in Figure 1, part of the evaluation process, and allows the individual to interpret the situation as one in which they belong both emotionally and socially. If this assumption is correct, it will indicate that social identity does indeed have a key role in an individual’s experience of loneliness. As will be shown in later sections in this chapter social identities provide the opportunity for social belonging and the development of emotional bonds based on similar attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs. This emotional bond and the feeling of social belonging may provide relief of the emotional pains of loneliness. Additionally, the saliency of which can be placed in any situation in which maybe lonely evoking for individuals, subsequently reducing the chance that individual will experience loneliness. Emphasis on the saliency of one’s social identity is important, because research on social identity finds that unless one’s identity is made salient within the situation, it has little influence affective and behavioral outcomes (Carter, 2013). With this theoretical model in mind, focus will now turn to research that is relevant to understanding loneliness and social identity both from a historical standpoint and a contemporary view.

Full Reference List

Abrams, D. (2014). Social identity and intergroup relations. In Mikulincer, M., & Chaver, P.R. (Eds) APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 2). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Allport, G.W. (1937). Personality: A Psychological Interpretation. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.

Allport, G.W. (1955). Becoming: Basic Considerations for a Psychology of Personality (Based on the Terry Lectures delivered at Yale University). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press

Allport, G.W. (1958). The Nature of Prejudice. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor Books.

Allport, G.W. (1960). Personality and Social Encounter. Boston, MA: Beacon Press

Alpass, F.M., & Neville, S. (2003). Loneliness, health and depression in older males. Aging and Mental Health, 7(3), 212-216

Amiot, C. E., & Aubin, R. M. (2013). Why and how are you attached to your social group? Investigating different forms of social identification. British Journal of Social Psychology, 52(3), 563-586.

Amodio, D.M. (2008). The neuroscience of intergroup relations. European Review of Social Psychology, 18, 1-54

Amiot, C. E., & Aubin, R. M. (2013). Why and how are you attached to your social group? Investigating different forms of social identification. British Journal Of Social Psychology, 52(3), 563-586.Anderson, C. A., Miller, R. S., Riger, A. L., Dill, J. C., & Sedikides, C. (1994). Behavioral and characterological attributional styles as predictors of depression and loneliness: Review, refinement, and test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66(3), 549-558. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.66.3.549

Ang, C., Mansor, A.T., and Tan, K. (2014). Pangs of loneliness breed material lifestyle but don’t power up life satisfaction of young people: The moderating effect of gender. Social Indic Research, 117, 353-365

Arpin, S.N., Mohr, C.D., & Brannan, D. (2015). Having friends and feeling lonely: A daily process of examination of transient loneliness, socialization, and drinking behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(5), 615-628, DOI: 10.1177/0146467215569773

Aschenbrenner, K. M., & Schaefer, R. E. (1980). Minimal group situations: Comments on a mathematical model and on the research paradigm. European Journal of Social Psychology, 10(4), 389-398. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420100406

Ayalon, L., Shiovitz-Ezra, S., & Roziner, I. (2016). A cross-lagged model of the reciprocal associations of loneliness and memory functioning. Psychology and Aging, 31(3), 255-261. doi:10.1037/pag0000075

Bangee, M., Harris, R.A., Bridges, N., Rotneberg, K.J., & Qualter, Pz., (2014). Loneliness and attention to social threat in young adults: Findings from an eye tracker study. Personality and Individual Differences, 63(2014) 16–23

Baumeister, B. F., & Leary, M. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497

Beart, S., Hardy, G., & Buchan, L. (2005). How People with Intellectual Disabilities View Their Social Identity: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 18(1), 47-56. doi:10.1111/j.1468-3148.2004.00218.x

Bizumic, B., Reynolds, K.J., Turner, J.C., Bromhead, D., & Subasic, E. (2009). The role of the group in individual functioning: Social identification and the psychological well-being of staff and students. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 58(1), 171-192

Bornewasser, M., & Bober, J. (1987). Individual, social group and intergroup behaviour. Some conceptual remarks on the social identity theory. John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 1996.

Bornstein, G., Crum, L., Wittenbraker, J., Harring, K., Insko, C. A., & Thibaut, J. (1983). On the measurement of social orientations in the minimal group paradigm. European Journal of Social Psychology, 13(4), 321-350. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420130402

Brewer, M. B. (1979). In-group bias in the minimal intergroup situation: A cognitive-motivational analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 86(2), 307-324. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.86.2.307

Brooks, L. M. (1933). The relation of spatial isolation to psychosis. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 27(4), 375-379. doi:10.1037/h0072806

Brown, R. J., Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1980). Minimal group situations and intergroup discrimination: Comments on the paper by Aschenbrenner and Schaefer. European Journal of Social Psychology, 10(4), 399-414. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420100407

Bukoff, A., & Elman, D. (1979). Repeated exposure to liked and disliked social stimuli. The Journal of Social Psychology, 107(1), 133-134. doi:10.1080/00224545.1979.9922685

Burford, B. (2012). Group processes in medical education: Learning from social identity theory. Medical Education, 56, 143-152

Burke, P.J., & Stets, J.E. (2009). Identity theory. New York, NY: Oxford Press.

Caccioppo, J.T. & Gardner, W.L. (1999). Emotion. Annual Review of Psychology. 50, 191-214.

Cacioppo, J. T., Cacioppo, S., & Cole, S. W. (2013). Social Neuroscience and Social Genomics: The Emergence of Multi-Level Integrative Analyses. International Journal of Psychological Research, 61-6.

Cacioppo, J.T., & Patrick, W. (2008). Loneliness: Human Nature and the need for social connection. New York, NY: W.T. Horton & Company

Cacioppo, J.T., Christakis, N.A., & Fowler, J.H. (2009). Alone in the crowd The structure and spread of loneliness in a large social network. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97(6), 977-991

Cacioppo, J.T., Frum, C., Asp, E., Weiss, R.M., Lewis, J.W., & Cacioppo, S. (2013). A quantitative meta-analysis of functional image studies of social rejection. Scientific Reports, 3, 2027 DOI: 10.1038/srep02027

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., & Preacher, K.J. (2010). Loneliness impairs daytime functioning but not sleep duration. Health Psychology, 29(2), 124-129

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., & Thisted, R.A. (2009). Loneliness predicts reduced physical activity: Cross-sectional & longitudinal analyses. Health Psychology, 28(3), 354-363

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., & Thisted, R.A. (2010). Perceived social isolation makes me sad: 5-year cross-lagged analyses of loneliness and depressive symptomatology in the Chicago health, aging, and social relations study. Psychology and Aging, 25(2), 453-463

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., Berntson, G.G., Ernst, J.M., Gibbs, A.C., Stickgold, R., & Hobson, J.A. (2002). Do lonely days invade the nights? Potential social modulation of sleep efficiency. Psychological Science, 13(4), 384-387

Cacioppo, J.T., Norris, C.J., Decety, J., Monteleone, G., & Nubaum, H. (2008). In the eye of the beholder: Individual differences in perceived social isolation predict regional brain activation to social stimuli. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 21(1), 84-92

Cacioppo, S., Cacioppo, J.T., & Capitanio, J.P. (2014). Toward a neurology of loneliness. Psychological Bulletin, 140(6), 1464-1504

Carter, M.J. (2013). Advancing identity theory: Examining the relationship between activated identities and behavior in different social contexts. Social Psychology Quarterly, 76(3), 203-223

Catterson, J., & Hunter, S. C. (2010). Cognitive mediators of the effect of peer victimization on loneliness. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(3), 403-416. doi:10.1348/000709909X481274

Change, C., Chang, C., Biegel, D.E., Pernice-Duca, F., Min, M.O., & D’Angelo, L. (2014). Predictors of loneliness of clubhouse members. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 37(1), 51-54

Chen, Y., & Feeley, T. H. (2015). Predicting binge drinking in college students: Rational beliefs, stress, or loneliness? Journal of Drug Education, 45(3-4), 133-155. doi:10.1177/0047237916639812

Cicognani, E., Klimstra, T., & Goosens, L. (2014). Sense of community, identity status, and loneliness in adolescence: A cross-national study on Italian and Belgian youth. Journal of Community Psychology, 42(4), 414-432

Conoley, C.W., & Garber, R.A. (1985). Effects of reframing and self-control directives on loneliness, depression, and controllability. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 32(1), 139-142

Cooke, N.J. (2015). Team cognition as interaction. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(6), 415-419

Costabile, K.A. (2016). Narrative construction, social perceptions, and situational model. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(5), 589-602

de Minzi, M. R. (2006). Loneliness and Depression in Middle and Late Childhood: The Relationship to Attachment and Parental Styles. The Journal of Genetic Psychology: Research and Theory On Human Development, 167(2), 189-210. doi:10.3200/GNTP.167.2.189-210

Mita, T. H., Dermer, M., & Knight, J. (1977). Reversed facial images and the mere-exposure hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 597-601.

DeWall, C. N., & Pond, R. J. (2011). Loneliness and smoking: The costs of the desire to reconnect. Self and Identity, 10(3), 375-385. doi:10.1080/15298868.2010.524404

Dong, L., Lin, C., Li, T., Dou, D., & Zhou, L. (2015). The relationship between cultural identity and self-esteem among Chinese Uyghur college students: The mediating role of acculturation attitudes. Psychological Reports, 117(1), 302-318. doi:10.2466/17.07.PR0.117c12z8

Durak, M., & Senol-Durak, E. (2010). Psychometric qualities of the UCLA Loneliness Scale – Version 3 as applied in a Turkish culture. Educational Gerontology, 36, 988-1007

Eisenberger, N. I., Lieberman, M. D., & Williams, K. D. (2003). Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion. Science, 302(5643), 290-292. doi:10.1126/science.1089134

Eisenberger, N.I. (2012). Broken hearts and broken bones: A neural perspective on the similarities between social and physical pain. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(1) 42-47, DOI: 10.117/0963721411429455

Epley, N., Akalis, S., Waytz, A., & Cacioppo, J.T (2008). Creating social connection through inferential reproduction: Loneliness and perceived agency in gadgets, gods, and greyhounds. Psychological Science, 19(2), 114-120

Feeney, B.C., & Collins, N.L. (2015). A new look at social support: Theoretical perspective on thriving through relationships. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 19(2), 112-147

Field, A., (2009). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS Statistics (4th ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications

Fiske, S. T. (2013). Social beings: Core motives in social psychology (3rd ed). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Fokkema, T., Gierveld, J.D., & Dykstra, P.A. (2012). Cross-national differences in older adult loneliness. The Journal of Psychology, 146(1-2), 201-228

Ford, J., O’Hare, D., & Henderson, R. (2013). Putting the ‘we’ into teamwork: Effects of priming personal or social identity on flight attendants’ perceptions of teamwork and communication. Human Factors, 55(3), 499-508. doi:10.1177/0018720812465311

Frosdick, R.B. (1918). The War and Navy Department Commission on training camp activities. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 79, 130-142

Ganley, R. M. (1989). Emotion and eating in obesity: A review of the literature. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 8(3), 343-361. doi:10.1002/1098-108X(198905)8:3<343::AID-EAT2260080310>3.0.CO;2-C

Gentina, E. (2014). Understanding the effects of adolescent girls’ social position within peer groups on exchange practices. Journal of Consumer Behavior, 13, 73-80

Goldenberg, A., Halprin, E., van Xomeren, M., & Gross, J.J. (2016). The process model of group-based emotion: integrating intergroup emotion and emotion regulation perspectives. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 20(2), 118-141, doi: 10.177/1088868315581263

Gonzalez, V. M., & Skewes, M. C. (2013). Solitary heavy drinking, social relationships, and negative mood regulation in college drinkers. Addiction Research & Theory, 21(4), 285-294. doi:10.3109/16066359.2012.714429

Gordon, P. C., & Holyoak, K. J. (1983). Implicit learning and generalization of the ‘mere exposure’ effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45(3), 492-500. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.45.3.492

Grageset, J., Eide, G.E., Kirkevold, M., & Ramhoff, A.H. (2012). Emotional loneliness is associated with mortality among mentally intact nursing home residents with and without cancer: A five-year follow-up study. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 22, 106-114

Gruepentrog, B.K., Harold, C.M., Holtz, B.C., Klimoski, R.J., & Marsh, S.M. (2012). Integrating social identity and the theory of planned behavior: Predicting withdrawal from organizational recruitment process. Personnel Psychology, 65, 723-753

Grush, J. E. (1976). Attitude formation and mere exposure phenomena: A nonartifactual explanation of empirical findings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33(3), 281-290. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.33.3.281

Hansson, R.O., & Jones, W.H. (1981). Loneliness, cooperation, and conformity among American undergraduates. The Journal of Social Psychology, 115, 103-108

Haslam, S.A. (2014). Making good theory practical: Five lessons for an applied social identity approach to challenges of organizational, health, and clinical psychology. British Journal of Social Psychology, 53, 1-20

Hawkley, L.C., & Cacioppo, J.T., Preacher,  (2010). Loneliness matters: A theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annual Behavioral Medicine. 40, 218-227

Hawkley, L.C., & Cacioppo, J.T. (2010). Loneliness matters: A theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annual Behavioral Medicine. 40, 218-227

Hellmich, N. (2014). Feeling lonely? It may increase risk of early death. Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/17/loneliness-seniors-early-death/5534323/

Herringer, L. G., & Garza, R. T. (1987). Perceptual accentuation in minimal groups. European Journal of Social Psychology, 17(3), 347-352. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420170308

Hertz, S. G., & Krettenauer, T. (2016). Does moral identity effectively predict moral behavior?: A meta-analysis. Review of General Psychology, 20(2), 129-140. doi:10.1037/gpr0000062

Hogg, M.A., & Turner, J.C. (1987). Intergroup behavior, self-stereotyping, and the salience of social categories. British Journal of Social Psychology, 26, 325-340, doi:10.1111/j.2044-8309.1987.tb00795.x

Hogg, M.A., Knippenberg, D.V., & Rast III, D.E. (2012). The social identity theory of leadership: Theoretical origins, research findings, and conceptual developments. European Review of Social Psychology, 23, 258-304

Holt-Lunstad, J. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10: 227-237, doi: 10.1177/1745691614568352

Howe, L. C., & Dweck, C. S. (2016). Changes in self-definition impede recovery from rejection. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(1), 54-71. doi:10.1177/0146167215612743

Immonen, S., Valvanne, J., & Pitkälä, K. H. (2011). Older adults’ own reasoning for their alcohol consumption. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 26(11), 1169-1176.

Jackson, J.W. (2011). Intragroup cooperation as a function of group performance and group identity. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 15(4), 343-356

Jakeobovits, L. A. (1968). Effects of mere exposure: A comment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(2, Pt.2), 30-32. doi:10.1037/h0025750

Jakubiak, B.K., & Feeney, B.C., (2016). Affectionate touch to promote relational, psychological, and physical well-being in adulthood: A theoretical model and review of the research. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 1–25, doi: 10.1177/1088868316650307

James, W. (1890). Psychology: American Science Series, Vol. I and II. New York, NY: Henry Holt & Co.

Jaremka, L.M., Andridge, R.R., Alfano, C.M., Povoscki, S.P., Lipari, A.M., Agnese, D.M., Arnold, M.W., Faffarm W.B., Yee, L.D., Carson, III, W.E., Bekaii-Sabb, T., Martin, Jr., E.W., Schmidt, C.R., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K. (2014). Pain, depression, and fatigue: Loneliness as a longitudinal risk factor. Health Psychology, 33(9), 948-957

Jones, A.C., Schinka, K.C., van Dulman, H.M., Bossarte, R.M., Swahn, M.H. (2011). Changes in loneliness during middle childhood predicts risk for adolescent suicidality indirectly through mental health problems. Journal of Clinical and Adolescent Psychology, 40(6), 818-824

Jones, W.h., Hobbs, S.A., & Hockenbury, D. (1982). Loneliness and social skills. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42(4), 682-689

Kawakami, K., Dovidio, J. F., & Dijksterhuis, A. (2003). Effect of social category priming on personal attitudes. Psychological Science, 14(4), 315-319. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.14451

Ketturat, C., Frisch, J.U., Ullrich, J., Hausser, J.A., Dick, R., & Mojzisch, A. (2016). Disaggregating within- and between-person effects of social identification on subjective and endorcinological stress reaction in a real-life situation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(2), 147-160

Kong, X., Wei, D., Li, W., Cun, L., Xue, S., Zhang, Q., & Qiu, J. (2015). Neuroticism and extraversion mediate the association between loneliness and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Experimental Brain Research, 233(1), 157-164. doi:10.1007/s00221-014-4097-4

Korostelina, K. (2014). Intergroup identity insults: A social identity theory perspective. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 14, 214–229, DOI: 10.1080/15283488.2014.921170

Kumar, R., Seay, N., & Karabenick, S. (2011). Shades of White: Identity status, stereotypes, prejudice, and xenophobia. Educational Studies: Journal Of The American Educational Studies Association, 47(4), 347-378.

Kuyper, L., & Fokkema, T. (2010). Loneliness among older lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults: The role of minority stress. Arch Sexual Behavior, 39, 1171-1180

Lodder, G. A., Scholte, R. J., Clemens, I. H., Engels, R. E., Goossens, L., & Verhagen, M. (2015). Loneliness and hypervigilance to social cues in females: An eye-tracking study. Plos ONE, 10(4),

Lammers, J., Stoker, J.I., Rink, F., & Galinsky, A.D. (2016). Top have control over or to be free from others? The desire for power reflects a need for autonomy. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(4), 498-512

Lasgaard, M., Goossens, L., & Alklit, A. (2011). Loneliness, depressive symptomatology, and suicide ideation in adolescence: Cross-national and longitudinal analyses. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 29, 137-150

Lemyre, L., & Smith, P. M. (1985). Intergroup discrimination and self-esteem in the minimal group paradigm. Journal of Personality And Social Psychology, 49(3), 660-670. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.49.3.660

Leonardelli, G. J., & Toh, S. M. (2015). Social categorization in intergroup contexts: Three kinds of self‐categorization. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 9(2), 69-87. doi:10.1111/spc3.12150

Leonardelli, G.J., & Loyd, D.L. (2016). Optimal distinctiveness signals membership trust. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 42(7), 843-854, doi: 10.1177/0146167216643934

Lieberman, M.D. (2013). Social: Why our brains are wired to connect. New York, NY: Broadway Books.

Lin, L., & Guo, Q. (2007). Loneliness and health-related quality of life for the empty nest elderly in the rural area of a mountainous county in China. Quality of Life Research, 16, 1275-1280

Lodder, G.M.A., Scholte, R.H.J., Clemens, I.A.H., Engels, R.S.M.E., Goosens, L., & Verhagen (2015). Loneliness and hypervigilance to social cures in females: An eye-tracking study. PLOS ONE, DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0125141

Lunt, P.K. (1991). The perceived causal structure of loneliness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(1), 26-34

Luster, S.S., Nelson, L.J., Poulsen, F.O., & Willoubby, B.J. (2013). Emerging adult sexual attitudes and behaviors: Does shyness matter? Emerging Adulthood, 1(3), 185-195, DOI: 10.1177/2167696813475611

Mackia, D.M., & Smith, E.R. (2015). Intergroup emotions. In Milkulincer, M., & Shaver, P.R. (Eds). APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology: Vol.2 Group Process. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Martinam C.M.S., & Stevens, N.L. (2006). Breaking the cycle of loneliness? Psychological effects of a friendship enrichment program for older women. Aging and Mental Health, 10(5), 467-475

McWhirter, B. T. (1990). Loneliness: A review of current literature, with implications for counseling and research. Journal of Counseling & Development, 68(4), 417-422. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6676.1990.tb02521.x

Mehrabian, A., & Stefl, C.A. (1995). Basic temperament components of loneliness, shyness, and conformity. Social Behavior and Personality, 23(3), 253-264

Mita, T. H., Dermer, M., & Knight, J. (1977). Reversed facial images and the mere-exposure hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35(8), 597-601. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.35.8.597

Moghaddam, F. M., & Stringer, P. (1986). Trivial and important criteria for social categorization in the minimal group paradigm. The Journal of Social Psychology, 126(3), 345-354. doi:10.1080/00224545.1986.9713595

Most, T., Ingber, S., & Heled-Ariam, E. (2012). Social competence, sense of loneliness, and speech intelligibility of young children with hearing loss in individual inclusion and group inclusion. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 17(2), 259-272. doi:10.1093/deafed/enr049

Newall, N.E.G., Chipperfield, J.G., & Stewart, T.L. (2013). Consequences of loneliness on physical activity and mortality in older adults and the power of positive emotions. Health Psychology, 32(8), 921-924

Nurmi, J., Toivonen, S., Salmela-Aro, K., & Eronen, S. (1997). Social strategies and loneliness. The Journal of Social Psychology, 137(6), 764-777. doi:10.1080/00224549709595497

Oakes, P. J., & Turner, J. C. (1980). Social categorization and intergroup behaviour: Does minimal intergroup discrimination make social identity more positive?. European Journal of Social Psychology, 10(3), 295-301. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420100307

Orehek, E. & Forest, A.L. (2016). When people serve as a means to goals: Implications of motivational account of close relationships. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(2), 79-84

Owen, J., & Fincham, F. D. (2011). Young adults’ emotional reactions after hooking up encounters. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 321-330. doi:10.1007/s10508-010-9652-x

Packer, D. J., Chasteen, A. L., & Kang, S. K. (2011). Facing social identity change: Interactive effects of current and projected collective identification on expectations regarding future self-esteem and psychological well-being. British Journal of Social Psychology, 50(3), 414-430. doi:10.1348/014466610X51968

Perry, R., & Sibley, C.G. (2011). Social dominance orientation: Mapping a baseline individual difference component across self-categorization. Journal of Individual Differences, 32(2), 110-116

Peterson, C.N., & Eastom, B.A. (on-going). Non-cognitive contributors to student success among first generation students. Helena, MT: Helena College University of Montana. Copy manuscript can be obtained by emailing Curtis.peterson@umhelena.edu

Rokach, A. (2000). Perceived causes of loneliness in adulthood. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 15(1), 67-84

Rokach, A. (2001). Strategies of coping with loneliness throughout the lifespan. Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, and Social. 20(1), 3-18

Rokach, A. (2007). Coping with loneliness among the terminally ill. Social Indicators Research, 82, 487-503

Rokach, A. (2012). Loneliness updated: An introduction. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 146(1-2), 1-6. doi:10.1080/00223980.2012.629501

Rokach, A., & Brock, H. (1997). Loneliness and the effects of life changes. The Journal of Psychology, 131(3), 284-298

Russell, D. (1996). UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3): Reliability, validity, and factor structure. Journal of Personality Assessment, 66, 20-40.

Russell, D. W., Cutrona, C. E., McRae, C., & Gomez, M. (2012). Is loneliness the same as being alone?. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary And Applied, 146(1-2), 7-22. doi:10.1080/00223980.2011.589414

Russell, D., Peplau, L.A., & Furguson, M.L. (1978). Developing a measure of loneliness. Journal of Personality Assessment, 42, 290-294

Sachdev, I., & Bourhis, R. Y. (1985). Social categorization and power differentials in group relations. European Journal of Social Psychology, 15(4), 415-434. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420150405

Saegert, S., Swap, W., & Zajonc, R. B. (1973). Exposure, context, and interpersonal attraction. Journal of Personality And Social Psychology, 25(2), 234-242. doi:10.1037/h0033965

Segrin, C. & Passalacqua, S.A. (2010). Functions of loneliness, social support, health behaviors, and stress association with poor health. Health Communications, 25, 312-322

Segrin, C., & Domschke, T. (2011). Social support, loneliness, recuperative processes, and their direct and indirect effects on health. Health Communications, 26, 221-232

Segrin, C., Powell, H. L., Givertz, M., & Brackin, A. (2003). Symptoms of depression, relational quality, and loneliness in dating relationships. Personal Relationships, 10(1), 25-36. doi:10.1111/1475-6811.00034

Sells. S.B. (1948). Observational methods of research. Review of Educational Research, 18, 424-447

Shankar, A., McMunn, A., Banks, J., & Steptoe, A. (2011). Loneliness, social isolation, and behavioral and biological health indicators in older adults. Health Psychology 30(4) 377-385

Sherif, M., Harvey, O.J., White, B.J., Hood, W.R., & Sherif, C.W. (1961). Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment. Norman, OK: A publication of the Institute of Group Relations University of Oklahoma

Simon, B., & Hastedt, C. (1999). Self-aspects as social categories: The role of personal importance and valence. European Journal of Social Psychology, 29(4), 479-487. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-0992(199906)29:4<479::AID-EJSP939>3.0.CO;2-M

Smith, J.M. (2012). Towards a better understanding of loneliness in community-dwelling older adults. The Journal of Psychology, 146(3), 293-311

Stang, D. J. (1974). Methodological factors in mere exposure research. Psychological Bulletin, 81(12), 1014-1025. doi:10.1037/h0037419

Stokes, J. & Levin, I. (1986). Gender differences in predicting loneliness from social network characteristics. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(5), 1069-1074

Suedfeld, P., Epstein, Y. M., Buchanan, E., & Landon, P. B. (1971). Effects of set on the ‘effects of mere exposure.’. Journal 0f Personality And Social Psychology, 17(2), 121-123. doi:10.1037/h0030378

Sullivan, H. S. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York, NY: Norton.

Tajfel, H. (1969). Cognitive aspects of prejudice. Journal of Social Issues, 25, 79-97

Tajfel, H. (1982). Social Identity and Intergroup Relations. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations (The Nelson-Hall series in psychology) (pp. 7–24). Chicago, IL: Burnham.

Thompson, G. M. (1948). MMPI correlates of certain movement responses in the group Rorschachs of two college samples. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 12(6), 379-383. doi:10.1037/h0057028

Torres, H. L., & Gore-Felton, C. (2007). Compulsivity, substance use, and loneliness: The loneliness and sexual risk model (LSRM). Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 14(1), 63-75. doi:10.1080/10720160601150147

Turner, J.C. (1975). Social comparison and social identity: Some prospects for intergroup behavior. European Journal of Social Psychology, 5, 5-34

Turner, J.C. (1982). Towards a cognitive redefinition of the social group. In Tajfel, H. (Eds.) Social Identity and Intergroup Relations. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Turner, J.C., & Reynolds, K.J. (2003). The social identity perspective in intergroup relations: Theories, themes, and controversies. In Brown, R., & Gaertner (Eds) Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology: Intergroup processes. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd.

Vanhalst, J., Luyckx, K., Raes, F., & Goossens, L. (2012). Loneliness and depressive symptoms: The mediating and moderating role of uncontrollable ruminative thoughts. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary And Applied, 146(1-2), 259-276. doi:10.1080/00223980.2011.555433

Vassar, M., & Crosby, J.W. (2008). A reliability generalization study of coefficient alpha for the UCLA loneliness scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 90(6), 601-60

Veelen, R., Eisenbeiss, K.K., & Otten, S. (2016). Newcomers to social categories: Longitudinal predictors and consequences of in-group identification. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(6), 811-825, DOI: 10.1177/0146167216643937

Veelen, R., Otten, S., Cabinu, M., & Hansen, N. (2015). An integrative model of social identification: Self-stereotyping and self-anchoring as two cognitive pathways. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 20(1), 3-26

Victor, S.R., & Bowling. A. (2012). A longitudinal analysis of loneliness among older people in Great Britain. The Journal of Psychology, 146(2), 313-332

Vider, S. (2004). Rethinking crowd violence: Self-categorization theory and the Woodstock 1999 riot. Journal for The Theory of Social Behaviour, 34(2), 141-166. doi:10.1111/j.0021-8308.2004.00240.x

Walker, M.H., & Lynn, F.B. (2013). The embedded self: A social Network approach to identity theory. Social Psychology Quarterly, 76(2), 151-179

Watson-Jones, R.E., & Legare, C.H., (2016). The social function of group rituals. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(1), 42-46

Watson, G. (1930). Happiness among adult students of education. Journal of Educational Psychology, 21(2), 79-109. doi:10.1037/h0070539

Weiss, R.S. (1973/1985). Loneliness: The experience of emotional and social isolation. Baskerville, MA: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Wheeler, L., Reis, H., & Nezleck, J. (1983). Loneliness, social interaction, and sex roles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45(4), 943-953

Willetts, G., & Clarke, D. (2014). Constructing nurses’ professional identity through social identity theory. International Journal of Nursing Practice, 20, 164-169

Willson, D., Cutts, J., Lees, I., Mapingwana, S., & Maunganidze, l. (1992). Psychometrics properties of the revised UCLA loneliness scale and two short-form measures of loneliness in Zimbabwe. Journal of Personality Assessment, 59(1), 72-81

Winningham, R.G., & Pike, N.L. (2007). A cognitive intervention to enhance institutionalized older adults’ social support network and decrease loneliness. Aging and Mental Health, 11(6), 716-721

Wong, D. (2015). Asexuality in China’s sexual revolution: Asexual marriage as coping strategy. Sexualities, 18(1/2), 100–116, DOI: 10.1177/1363460714544812

Worland, J. (2015). Why Loneliness May Be the Next Big Public-Health Issue. Retrieved from: http://time.com/3747784/loneliness-mortality/

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(2, Pt.2), 1-27. doi:10.1037/h0025848

Zhang, F., You, Z., Fan, C., Goa, C., Cohen, R., Hsueh, Y., & Zhou Z. (2014). Friendship quality, social preference, proximity prestige and self-percieved social competence: Interactive influences on children’s loneliness. Journal of School Psychology, 52(2014), 511-526

Zimmer-Gembeck, M.J., Trevaskis, S., Nesdale, D., & Downey, G.A. (2014). Relational victimization, loneliness and depressive symptoms: Indirect associations via self and peer reports of rejection sensitivity. Journal of Youth Adolescents. 43, 568-582

What is loneliness?


This article is dedicated to my mom (Becky) my daughter (Latasha), my son (Taylor) my niece (Katie) and my beautiful grandchild (Erin).


loneliness

In a previous blog, I compared the pain state of rejection with the negative motivational state of loneliness. In this blog, I will delve in deeper into the negative motivational state we call loneliness. Loneliness as a motivational state was first described by Psychiatrist Harry Sullivan in 1953, who stated that like many emotional states loneliness motivates us to fulfill one of our basic human drives which in this case is an affiliation and the socialization with others. This motivational need he believed first develops in infancy when the infant has complete depends on his or her caregiver. Like the pains of hunger, the pain of loneliness motivates us to seek out others who we can have a mutually beneficial relationship with. Indeed, current research supports this early development in loneliness, as we see loneliness in early childhood predicts poor socialization in middle childhood, and loneliness in middle childhood predicts depression and high-risk behaviors in adolescence. This is to say, just like eating habits – good or poor – in one period predicts continued poor eating habits in another unless there is some type of intervention.

In furthering our understanding of loneliness Sociologist Robert S. Weiss wrote a seminal book entitled “Loneliness: The experience of emotional and social isolation”. In this book, Weiss argued that loneliness can come in two forms. The first form is created when an individuals feel socially isolated from others and subjectively experience less than desirable social interaction. The second type is subjectively lacking any significantly emotionally close relationships and attachments with someone else. Indeed, research since Weiss has indicated that there are two types of loneliness and the intensity of our experience depends on how these two are experienced (i.e. together or separate, loneliness following rejection, or meaning one places on close emotional relationships versus social connection). Additionally, we see the role of each of these based on the age of the individual. Research suggests that through adolescence into early adulthood having several social contacts and friends is important, because this allows someone to experience various types of individuals. These experiences and skills then allow an individual in middle to late adulthood to focus in on just a few emotionally meaningful social relationships. Therefore, it seems social loneliness has more impact on adolescents and young adults whereas emotional loneliness tends to have more of an impact on middle to late aged adults. In my model of social identity – currently being tested – I argue that social loneliness drives us to identify with individuals like us (our in-group social identity) and then through the assimilation and relationship building with those in our in-group we avoid  emotional loneliness, which in turn motivates us to maintain connections and enhance our social identity. Next, I want to pause before continuing our discussion on specifical loneliness to discuss the difference between loneliness and depression.

bigstock-Girl-Sits-In-A-Depression-On-T-52227706-300x207

Loneliness VS Depression

Many individuals who are experiencing bouts of depression often describe themselves as “lonely” and “isolated”. However, for our sake, I want to make a clear difference between the loneliness an individual says they are experiencing when depressed and the negative motivational state we have been discussing here. As stated earlier loneliness is a motivational state much like hunger and thirst, it drives us to seek out social relationships. Depression, on the other hand, drives us away from seeking social relationships through avoidance and the lack of desire to socialize with others. I make this distinction because people can at times mislabel depression as just being lonely. However, depression is a much more serious negative state. Therefore the reader is advised to always look at their motivational state when he or she feels lonely, and ask them self whether they feel the need to have a social connection or the need to isolate away from others. If the later it is advised to seek help, as this may be a more serious condition of depression.

Additionally, we should recognize the relationship between loneliness and later depression. In reviewing the depression literature over the past 15 years, there have been many predicting variables that increase the probability of someone experiencing depression. With the exception of social rejection or loss of a loved one, there in my experience has not been a stronger predictor variable than the experience of chronic loneliness. There is strong evidence that even early long past loneliness can predict later development of depression. For example, the chronic experience of loneliness in one’s thirties, predicts with strong confidence the development of depression in one’s fifties. Additionally, it should be stated here that the chronic experience of loneliness is also one of the strongest predictors of obesity, mortality, and morbidity. That is to say the less socially and emotionally connected we are with others leads to unhealthy lifestyles both physically and psychologically.

Loneliness across the lifespan

We have noted throughout this blog about how loneliness influences other states of well-being across the lifespan. The question that comes to mind is, when do we experience the most loneliness and why? First, we should say we do experience loneliness across the lifespan just like we experience any other motivational state. However, if we were to determine which groups experience the most loneliness it would be the elderly and individuals who are not well suited for living in rural locations.

Later adults are especially susceptible to loneliness, because as we age our social circles and social connections start to shrink and get smaller, as we disengage from work, social activities, and those who are older or of the same age start to pass away. This shrinkage of social circles along with the increased of loneliness and loss of identity has to lead a lot of scientists to believe that this is why we see a stark increase in suicide with men starting at around the age of 50, and has been an increasing concern for women. However, we should note that there are many older individuals who do not experience large amounts of loneliness and the question becomes who? Research is clear that older adults who live in social communities and maintain close friendships – and can develop new ones – are less likely to experience loneliness.

Ever think about leaving the hassle and busyness of the city life for the peacefulness of country living? – you may want to think again. Living in rural areas takes a certain adaptive mindset, that allows individuals to cherish the times they spend with others and accept that there are periods where one will be alone. This tends to be a native trait, that is a trait of someone who has always or mostly lived in rural locations. We find that when individuals leave larger populated areas for the quiet and peace of rural living they often run the risk of experiencing severe bouts of loneliness and can lead to heighten the risk of depression and suicidal behaviors. Indeed, individuals not raised in a rural area are at 4x risk of attempting suicide than native rural livers. For those coming from larger more populated areas where there is always the opportunity for social connection, moving to a place in which one has to work and plan to maintain social relationships, can be a lonely, stressful, and depressing endeavor. These combined experiences can lead an individual to experience the hell and chaos of depression and suicidal thoughts rather than the peace and quiet that they wanted to seek out by escaping from city life.

How does loneliness influence other psychological states?

I recently surveyed 60 college students on a measure of loneliness, happiness, quality of life, meaning in life, and social support. We found when statistical dividing individuals into low, moderate, and high loneliness, that individuals who were in the high lonely group had a significantly lower quality of life, meaning in life, and social support, included a thwarted sense of identity. The following figures and graphs illustrate these stark differences.

Why are these findings meaningful? These findings indicate that loneliness does not only influence our social well-being it also influences many other indicators of well-being. Which means that one experiences loneliness, it important not to continue the cycle of loneliness and to seek out meaningful social connections.

Eliminating loneliness through fulfilling the need of belonging.

Social Psychologist Susan Fiske in 2013 offered a model of social belonging that provides a roadmap for one to combat loneliness in his or her life. This social cognitive model is based on the premise that individuals are motivated by five social processes: The need to belong, the need for understanding, the need for control, self-enhancement, and the need to trust others. When all of these five needs are met they become a buffer to the experience of loneliness.

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 2.54.22 PM

The need to belonging according to Fiske is the need for strong and stable relationships and over arch the four other needs that can be divided into cognitive needs and affective needs. The two cognitive needs are the need for understanding and control. Understanding is the ability to maintain shared meaning that makes life more stable and predictable. When we engage in conversation with others we often engage in talking about things that are not only important to us but also to reinforce that our beliefs are stable and predictable through shared meaning with others. This is why it is a very lonely place for individuals who are on the fringe of most communities such as LGTBQ individuals, minority groups, the homeless, and many who suffer from mental illness. Because the majority of the community does not share these group’s qualities and challenges it is hard to create shared meaning and thereby making it harder to full fill the need for understanding. However, even within these fringe groups, when we find others that share our ideas, beliefs, and values our level of loneliness become reduced. The second cognitive need that Fiske mentions is the need for control. By her definition, control is knowing the perceived contingency between one’s behaviors today and some later outcome. As for example, showing up at work on time will reduce the chance of being fired. What controlling is all about really is understanding that, in a given situation, what behaviors will lead to the best outcome. To figure this out we often look towards our social network and those individuals around us. Being able to access individuals who can help us have control and predictability in our world is important and without this, it can lead us to feel lonely, isolated, and ineffective in what we do.

The last two needs Fiske talks about she refers to as affective needs, this means they are less thought driven and more emotionally driven. The first need is the need for self-enhancement. Self-enhancement is our basic need to feel worthy. In order to feel worthy this means we must engage others for feedback and support. The second effective need is the need for trust. For Fiske trust means seeing others as benign and harmless. This means feeling little threat by the company we keep, and to seek out individuals that help us feel safe and secure. It should be noted that trust in Fiske terms is an emotional evaluation, and unfortunately, in many social setting such as work, school, and public establishments the form of building trust comes in a cognitive form through rules, regulations, procedures, and policies. However, the best policy in the world does not matter unless an individual is effectively made to feel safe and that others are in essence benign. We do this not by reading policies and procedures but by asking others how they ‘feel’ about the situation. therefore, feeling safe trumps even the best written organizational or public policy or procedure. This may explain why cities who have tough on crime policies and militarize their police force actually feel less safe and there are increases and not decreases in criminal behavior because a militarized police officer is seen emotionally as a threat and not as a form of trust and protection. This, in turn, increases the propensity for individuals to enter into self-preservation behaviors.

Conclusion

This last section has offered four ways in which loneliness can be thwarted. By engaging in social situations that provide a sense of control and understanding and that establish trust and the ability of engaging in self-enhancement we are more likely not to experience loneliness and the negative consequences with continued a chronic loneliness. Most important is we need to find ways to engage each other on emotional and meaningful levels, which may mean setting down the smartphone at dinner or at coffee with friends. It means building communities of inclusiveness where everyone has the ability to engage in the community and opportunities. It means centering policies that protect the community by not creating threat through policy but understanding and trust. It means answering the phone, answering the text message even when we don’t feel like it. But probably most important it means when someone has experienced rejection, feels lonely, expresses sadness, that we actually pay attention, not tell them to ‘just get over it’, and give them the same treatment that we seek when we experience those same emotions. Finally hug someone, tell them you love them, tell them you think about them, and thank them for being a part of your life!!!

5977aea84f36dbd4ac2bf73bee203225

Sources for this article

Abrams, D. (2014). Social identity and intergroup relations. In Mikulincer, M., & Chaver, P.R. (Eds) APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 2). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Amiot, C. E., & Aubin, R. M. (2013). Why and how are you attached to your social group? Investigating different forms of social identification. British Journal Of Social Psychology, 52(3), 563-586.

Baumeister, B. F., & Leary, M. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497

Bizumic, B., Reynolds, K.J., Turner, J.C., Bromhead, D., Subasic, E., (2009). The role of the group in individual functioning: School identification and the psychological well-being of staff and students. Applied Psychology, 58(1), 171-192

Bogart, F.R. (2015). Disability identity predicts lower anxiety and depression in multiple sclerosis. Rehabilitation Psychology, 60(1), 105-109

Burke, P.J., & Stets, J.E. (2009). Identity theory. New York, NY: Oxford Press.

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., Berntson, G.G., Ernst, J.M., Gibbs, A.C., Stickgold, R., & Hobson, J.A. (2002). Do lonely days invade the nights? Potential social modulation of sleep efficiency. Psychological Science, 13(4), 384-387

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., & Preacher, K.J. (2010). Loneliness impairs daytime functioning but not sleep duration. Health Psychology, 29(2), 124-129

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., & Thisted, R.A. (2009). Loneliness predicts reduced physical activity: Cross-sectional & longitudinal analyses. Health Psychology, 28(3), 354-363

Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., & Thisted, R.A. (2010). Perceived social isolation makes me sad: 5-year cross-lagged analyses of loneliness and depressive symptomatology in the Chicago health, aging, and social relations study. Psychology and Aging, 25(2), 453-463

Cacioppo, J.T., & Patrick, W. (2008). Loneliness: Human Nature and the need for social connection. New York, NY: W.T. Horton & Company

Carter, M.J. (2013). Advancing identity theory: Examining the relationship between activated identities and behavior in different social contexts. Social Psychology Quarterly, 76(3), 203-223

Cicognani, E., Klimstra, T., & Goossens, L. (2014). Sense of community, identity, statuses, and loneliness in adolescence: A cross-national study on Italian and Belgian youth. Journal of Community Psychology, 42(4), 414-432

Dong, L., Lin, C., Li, T., Dou, D., & Zhou, L. (2015). The relationship between cultural identity and self-esteem among Chinese Uyghur college students: The mediating role of acculturation attitudes. Psychological Reports, 117(1), 302-318. doi:10.2466/17.07.PR0.117c12z8

Durak, M., & Senol-Durak, E. (2010). Psychometric qualities of the UCLA Loneliness Scale – Version 3 as applied in a Turkish culture. Educational Gerontology, 36, 988-1007

Epley, N., Akalis, S., Waytz, A., & Cacioppo, J.T (2008). Creating social connection through inferential reproduction: Loneliness and perceived agency in gadgets, gods, and greyhounds. Psychological Science, 19(2), 114-120

Fiske, S. T. (2010). Social beings: Core motives in social psychology (2nd Ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Ford, J., O’Hare, D., & Henderson, R. (2013). Putting the ‘we’ into teamwork: Effects of priming personal or social identity on flight attendants’ perceptions of teamwork and communication. Human Factors, 55(3), 499-508. doi:10.1177/0018720812465311

Gentina, E. (2014). Understanding the effects of adolescent girls’ social position within peer groups on exchange practices. Journal of Consumer Behavior, 13, 73-80

Hansson, R.O., & Jones, W.H. (1981). Loneliness, cooperation, and conformity among American undergraduates. The Journal of Social Psychology, 115, 103-108

Haslam, S.A. (2014). Making good theory practical: Five lessons for an applied social identity approach to challenges of organizational, health, and clinical psychology. British Journal of Social Psychology, 53, 1-20

Hawkley, L.C., & Cacioppo, J.T. (2010). Loneliness matters: A theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annual Behavioral Medicine. 40, 218-227

Jones, A.C., Schinka, K.C., van Dulman, H.M., Bossarte, R.M., Swahn, M.H. (2011). Changes in loneliness during middle childhood predicts risk for adolescent suicidality indirectly through mental health problems. Journal of Clinical and Adolescent Psychology, 40(6), 818-824

Kawakami, K., Dovidio, J. F., & Dijksterhuis, A. (2003). Effect of social category priming on personal attitudes. Psychological Science, 14(4), 315-319. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.14451

Kumar, R., Seay, N., & Karabenick, S. (2011). Shades of White: Identity status, stereotypes, prejudice, and xenophobia. Educational Studies: Journal of The American Educational Studies Association, 47(4), 347-378.

Lieberman, M.D. (2013). Social: Why our brains are wired to connect. New York, NY: Broadway Books.

Mehrabian, A., & Stefl, C.A. (1995). Basic temperament components of loneliness, shyness, and conformity. Social Behavior and Personality, 23(3), 253-264

Most, T., Ingber, S., & Heled-Ariam, E. (2012). Social competence, sense of loneliness, and speech intelligibility of young children with hearing loss in individual inclusion and group inclusion. Journal Of Deaf Studies And Deaf Education, 17(2), 259-272. doi:10.1093/deafed/enr049

Mummendey, A., Kessler, T., Klink, A., & Mielke, R. (1999). Strategies to cope with negative social identity: Predictions by social identity theory and relative deprivation theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(2), 229-245

Peterson, C.N. (2015). Non-cognitive contributors to student success among first generation students. Manuscript Submitted for Publication.

Segrin, C., & Domschke, T. (2011). Social support, loneliness, recuperative processes, and their direct and indirect effects on health. Health Communications, 26, 221-232

Segrin, C. & Passalacqua, S.A. (2010). Functions of  loneliness, social support, health behaviors, and stress association with poor health. Health Communications, 25, 312-322

Shankar, A., McMunn, A., Banks, J., & Steptoe, A. (2011). Loneliness, social isolation, and behavioral and biological health indicators in older adults. Health Psychology 30(4) 377-385

Simon, B., & Hastedt, C. (1999). Self-aspects as social categories: The role of personal importance and valence. European Journal Of Social Psychology, 29(4), 479-487. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-0992(199906)29:4<479::AID-EJSP939>3.0.CO;2-M

Smith, J.M. (2012). Towards a better understanding of loneliness in community-dwelling older adults. The Journal of Psychology, 146(3), 293-311

Sullivan, H. S. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York, NY: Norton.

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations (The Nelson-Hall series in psychology) (pp. 7–24). Chicago, IL: Burnham.

Turner, J.C. (1982). Towards a cognitive redefinition of the social group. In Tajfel, H. (Eds.) Social Identity and Intergroup Relations. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Turner, J.C., & Reynolds, K.J. (2003). The social identity perspective in intergroup relations: Theories, themes, and controversies. In Brown, R., & Gaertner (Eds) Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology: Intergroup processes. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd.

Vassar, M., & Crosby, J.W. (2008). A reliability generalization study of coefficient alpha for the UCLA loneliness scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 90(6), 601-60

Victor, S.R., & Bowling. A. (2012). A longitudinal analysis of loneliness among older people in Great Britain. The Journal of Psychology, 146(2), 313-332

Weijters, B., Baumgartner, H., & Schillewaert, N. (2013). Self-Esteem Measure [Database record]. Retrieved from PsycTESTS. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/t30379-000

Zimmer-Gembeck, M.J., Trevaskis, S., Nesdale, D., & Downey, G.A. (2014). Relational victimization, loneliness and depressive symptoms: Indirect associations via self and peer reports of rejection sensitivity. Journal of Youth Adolescents. 43, 568-582

Zhou, T., & Li, H. (2014). Social Identity Scale [Database record]. Retrieved from PsycTESTS. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/t36230-000

Loneliness VS social rejection

rejection-main  – VERSUS –  Lonely-Woman

Understanding the fundamental difference between emotions of social rejection and the emotions associated with loneliness is vital in understanding the experiences of individuals. First lets start with a definition of loneliness, it is important from the outset to understand there are two different types of loneliness: social loneliness which is the perceived lack of social connection; and emotional loneliness which is the perceived lack of emotionally and cognitively close relationships. In later posts, we will delve into these further, for the moment lets look at how we define social rejection which is the negative state due to the withdraw of another individual (or group of individuals) in our life. Emotionally the feelings we have when we experience loneliness and social rejection can be very similar, however, they differ on their motivational purpose.

Loneliness while it may be seen as purely an negative affective state, is better characterized as a motivational state. When one is experiencing loneliness the negative emotional state motivates the individual to seek out missing social connections. This state is more associated with the motivational areas of the brain rather than the emotional pain  states of the brain. Rejection however, is directly associated with the pain centers of the brain. That is to say social rejection is more analogous to a physical injury, like a cut or broken leg, versus the negative motivational states of loneliness. So the question becomes, what should we do when we experience rejection? (further blogs will focus on loneliness)

Letting go of bad information

If you have ever been told “get over it, and move on” you will understand the title of this section very well. The problem with rejection is we have been “treating” it wrong all our lives, by treating it as an emotion rather than what it is – physical pain. Like physical pain, rejection needs to be cared for in an appropriate way (1) emergency care, (2) continued maintenance of the wound, and (3)  time to heal. In the following sections we will look at all three of these in detail.

1465838235

Emergency Care

Think back to the last time you hurt yourself physically – what did you do? – how did you respond? – what was your first action? If like me, it probably included, verbal cries of pain, coddling of the injured area, and search for an immediate pain reducing activity or agent. I think in many ways this maybe the basic responses of most individuals. First we need appreciate this process, because what are we doing when we are engaging in these behaviors, (1) we are verbal to alert others of our injury and draw attention to the possible hazard, (2) we try to reduce the immediate severe wound by assessing the wound and apply some method to reduce the pain that the injury is causing, and (3) we start the process of long-term healing by stopping any bleeding, splinting the broken bone, and stabilize the body to prevent any further damage.

How can this same process be applied to the pain of social rejection? First we need to recognize that social rejection is an internal injury that is caused immediate external environment – the rejector. Therefore diagnosis of this pain can be similar to being poisoned by a potent chemical. The first thing we do when we are poisoned (hopefully) is identify the poison, seek help, and attempt to purge the poison out of the body. The poison in this case is usually the rejector, however, sometimes it can also include what the rejector represents and not just who the person is. This can help us determine the severity of the poison, that is the more the person represents (intimate partner versus a stranger) will determine the potency of the poison, and the amount of injury care the person will need to engage in. Purging can occur in many forms include emotional, physical, and cognitive purging. But the immediate response should start with making sure the poison can no longer be ingested, this can take form of changing ones situation and removing traces of the rejector.

Purging can especially difficult because sometimes the poison was something we were attached to. for example looking at the intimacy literature, the beginning phases of an intimate relationship is very similar to addiction with the same brain regions in full operation during both processes. Therefore, being rejected by an intimate partner can be like being addicted to a drug, but that drug has become toxic for us, and despite our desire to continue using it, it has rejected us. Therefore, going with the analogy of a drug overdoes or the beginning phases of addiction recovery the first purging process is to go through the pains of withdrawal and purging the toxin out of our bodies. This should include feeling the pain of the rejection and understanding what the rejection object meant to the individual. By understanding the poison we can learn how to avoid it in the future, but we can tell the difference between future poisons and future healthy individuals. It only when we avoid the pain and understanding of rejection that it can lead us to relapse in the future with similar poisonous people. But just like withdrawing from drugs and the pains associated with drug withdraws needs to be done in a safe and controlled environment with supportive individuals. It is important to recognize that severe pain can lead us to further self-injury if not done in a healthy environment with healthy non-toxic individuals. If you have difficulty finding healthy individuals, your community can be a great resource, such as professionals such as counseling services, or online support system can help, and these individuals and groups can provide the healthy support to help recover from severe rejection.

The final phase of first aid is to start the process of long-term care, by dressing and cleaning the wound. This can start during the withdraw phase when one understand the pain associated with the poison, and can include protecting the individual from further injury by cleaning and dressing the wound. This can look like surrounding oneself with friends and family, changing the environment by getting rid of environmental triggers such as gifts and pictures (cleaning the wound and reducing continued infection). Finally, one must start a plan for further recovery.

The final note I want to make in this section is to remind the reader that social rejection is a physical injury, and research has shown that the same medicines that reduce physical pain can reduce the pain associated with social rejection. This also means, more dangerous substances such as alcohol and other drugs can also numb the pain. The reader should be careful of engaging in these vices to manage their pain. Taking prescribed doses of acetaminophen maybe a safer pain reducing alternative to alcohol or elicit drugs.

broken_leg

Continued Maintenance of the Wound and Time to Heal

The main goal of the continued maintenance phase is the continued protection of the wound until it is fully healed. This means making sure no further injury occurs by not allowing further toxins into one’s life. This maybe the most risky point of recovery from rejection, because the more one feels better, the increased chance of engaging in the same habits and behaviors that resulted in the injury in the first place increases. When it comes to social rejection this can look like trying the engage the rejector back into one’s life or engaging individuals who are just if not more toxic than the original rejector.

During the maintenance phase, the analogy of a leg cast is good because the cast stabilizes the wound and protects it from further injury as it heals. This also means committing to a set of time to allow for healing, and surrounding one self with individuals, activities, and places that can act as the cast. Note that this is an active process just like a leg will not heal or will not heal correctly if it is ignored or one cuts the cast off too soon, the same goes with being rejected.

Best-friends-walking-with-007

Learning to Walk Again

I named this section learning to walk again to emphasize the final phase of recovery, which is to re-engage in the the social world from a healed perspective. Just like it takes time to walk normally after a broken leg it may take time to feel like one can engage in the social world the same after being rejected. However, there are some features of being recovered that we should discuss (1) just because the wound is healed, doesn’t mean the memory is still not painful, and (2) learning from experience.

Just because we know the causes and the situation in which caused rejection in our life, does not mean that the memory of the rejection will not hurt. This also includes good memories, if someone injures their leg skiing this does not mean they will have all bad memories of skiing. The same goes for social rejection, the problem is the combination of bad and good memories could lead us to engaging in risky behaviors that could lead us to being injured a second time. For addiction we call  this relapse, for broken leg we call this not learning our lesson the first time, either way it is during this phase that we can be at most risk of injury again. This is why learning from our experience and having reminders of the pain that it caused is important.

Literature on the difference between knowledge and actual behavior is very clear in that we can know better, but it doesn’t mean we will behave in a healthy way. I know for example a second helping of chocolate cake is not healthy, but sometimes given the opportunity my behavior will be different then my knowledge. This is a common mistake individuals experience when rejected is assuming they now know better, so they trust themselves not to engage in the same behaviors. Therefore, to truly heal from rejection we must engage in the hard work of training one’s self to engage in new behaviors and not assume we know better.Just like learning to walk after a serious leg injury this can take time and hard work. One needs to be committed to changing and assuring they do not get re-injured. This means engaging in new activities, learning different socialization skills (AND practicing them), finding new groups, and surrounding one’s self with healthy friends and family. Additionally, remember that this may not feel good and normal in the beginning, developing new habits consciously never does.

Before concluding this blog, I want to close with one last thing we need to know about social rejection. A person can remove all the knives in their kitchen, but this does not mean one will never cut their finger ever again. The same goes with rejection, we can go through the healing processes, and remove the current toxin in our life, but this does not mean we will never experience rejection ever again. Rejection like physical injury is part of life and is the amazing part of life that includes taking risks and sometimes receiving rewards and sometimes feeling pain and loss. But unless we take those chances and risks we never fully live as individuals and we live life with no meaning.

At this final point you may ask Curtis most of this article was on rejection and not loneliness as well. I wanted to start this article by differentiating the two because they are often mistaken for one another. Further blogs will focus solely on loneliness as we learn how to create a social connected and meaningful world for ourselves and the people we love.