Understanding loneliness: what does your 'inner world' consist of?

Credit: Jeshu John from  Designerpics

Credit: Jeshu John from Designerpics

Loneliness is a tricky topic to discuss. Admit that you're lonely and you look and feel like you're of low social value. Refuse to talk about it and it will slowly but potently eat you up from the inside. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

On that note, I realized that I dedicated far too little attention to this topic. Let's continue the discussion from a few months ago then, but focus it by placing particular emphasis on this notion of a person's "inner world."



To save you the strain of a few extra clicks, I'll restate the definitions of loneliness and closeness that I used in the previous discussion:

Loneliness: A lack/absence of closeness with those around you.

Closeness: Direct access to another person’s inner world through knowing what’s going on in a deeper way and caring about it.
— Kira Asatryan

We can see that the crux of loneliness (and closeness) is clearly based on your "inner world", so let's get into what this might be. Disclaimer: all of the following is not based on science or hard facts. They are merely my personal insights. 


The Space Between Two Worlds

So what actually constitutes your inner world? To figure this out, I dug deep into my own memory to recall the times that I really connected with people and placed them roughly into the following categories:

Sense of humor: This is an extremely underrated but fundamentally important part of your inner world. It speaks for itself, but I want to emphasize it because it can be a strong factor in understanding loneliness. We can all think back to the times when we were the only ones making some off-beat jokes or absolutely tearing up at certain movie scenes, only to hear a few uncomfortable and/or polite chuckles from those around you. *Cue the song "Sound of Silence" to accompany you and your lonely sorrows.*

Quirky language/your personalized way of communicating: I know that when I'm hanging out with my closest circle of friends, I use some pretty wacky terms and language to communicate with them. Now that I think of it, there are times where it's barely even English anymore but, to be honest, therein lies precisely its beauty. This is your 'language' that you use to bring your 'tribe' of close friends together into each other's beautiful little world. I struggle to explain it properly because it's something that is so intangible that it has to be experienced personally to really grasp it. 

That said, it's not necessarily the exact vocabulary that's the point; the beauty lies in your manner of expression and the particular phrases used to communicate particular messages. That space between two worlds disappears when all the original, stylized terms that you use to express yourself aren't lost in translation with the other person.


Sidenote: Gary Chapman's bestselling book "The 5 Love languages" explains how people can be on different wavelengths because of how their "love languages" dictate the way in which they emotionally connect. I haven't read it yet myself but it sounds fascinating.


Daydreaming: I'll admit, I spend a lot of time daydreaming. I daydream about all kinds of things that I then try to pass on into the real world: from adventures in different worlds to mastering the elements and fighting with my band of warriors. The degree to which you're the type that loves to let his mind wander off to different, fantastical worlds or stays firmly grounded in the reality of what we see is an important determinant in how easily you can access/understand another person's world.

How do you identify this in a person, you ask? Besides how often you catch the person staring out into oblivion, you can often detect this based on how colorfully (s)he talks about the relatively mundane things in life or how (s)he tries to bring seemingly fantastical ideas into real-world, tangible products. The late Steve Jobs spoke beautifully about this in the last 10 minutes of his 1995 interview (the full interview is on Netflix; unfortunately, it seems like it was taken off YouTube):

There’s something beyond what you see every day. There’s something going on here in life; beyond just a job, and a family, and two cars in the garage, and a career. There’s something more going on. There’s another side of the coin that we don’t talk about much and we experience it when there are gaps, when everything is not ordered and perfect. When there’s kinda a gap, you experience this inrush of something.

So a lot of people set out to find out what that was really about… that life isn’t just about what they saw their parents doing. It’s the same thing that causes people to want to be poets instead of bankers. Computers were the medium that was best capable of transmitting some feeling that our employees had and wanted to share with other people. ‘Hey, this is the medium that I think I can say something in!’
— Steve Jobs; The Lost Interview

Visions: This is basically a subcategory of "daydreaming", but I do think that it deserves its own space. How do you see the world? What general philosophies and motto's do you have about the world, the way it works, the way you operate within it, and your greater life dreams and ambitions?

Level of censorship: Obviously, when you're in your own little world, you can speak freely without fear of looking or sounding like a fool. However, a lack of closeness can easily arise when this fear causes you to constantly restrain and tone yourself down to 50%. We all want to say what we really want to say and express our genuine thoughts; no filters, no edits, no shame.

Interests and hobbies: A bit of a no-brainer that speaks for itself, so I'll take a slightly different angle on it. To understand its contribution to your inner world, I think it's crucial to understand the common emotional factor that connects all your hobbies and interests. Sure, you might be really into jamming on your guitar, playing videogames, and practicing the martial arts, but what is the emotional factor that binds these things together? What is it that emotionally resonates with you in each of your interests and hobbies? That is another component of your inner world.

'The Feels': To quote the great Dido, who makes you feel the way I make you feel? In this case, what really makes you 'feel'? Objects, nature, people, events, music, movies, videogames, activities... It can be anything! Whatever it is, though, it's likely to make up a crucial part of your world. Understanding why these things give you 'the feels' is also useful because it can be an important distinguishing factor. For example, two people can both be really moved emotionally by (the same type of) videogame, but for one person it can be because it reminds her of the few positive highlights of her otherwise unpleasant childhood, while for the other person it can be because her daydreaming of being as strong in real life as the story's protagonist(s) really lights her up.


Explanatory Power

I hope that this post didn't sound like one of those "what's your personality type" or "figure out why your personality type doesn't mix with that of other people" types of posts, because that was absolutely not the intention. It was meant to explore the components of your inner world and why you resonate so strongly (emotionally) with them. You'll probably have noticed that each of the categories discussed tend to overlap a little, which demonstrates that they operate as part of a greater whole instead of in their individual silos.

My goal for this deconstruction of your 'inner world' was to give you a 'guide' that helps you figure out why certain relationships in your life are so painfully void and platonic while others feel so rich and intimate. Maybe it's your relationship with your parents? Siblings? Friends? Colleagues? Neighbors? The list is endless. I simply wanted to give you another tool to help you understand this mystery of loneliness, intimacy, and connection; be it in a romantic relationship, a friendship, or a relationship with a family member.

It’s human nature to be weird but also human to be lonely. This conflict between fitting in and standing out is at the core of who we are.
— Seth Godin

See you, Space Cowboy.