One of the worst things that happens to us when we are in pain is that we enter into a kind of isolation room that sometimes seems as though it has no door. Terrible things may happen to all kinds of people, but the pain we feel is our own, no matter how common it may be for others.
In our own pain, we are alone. And if we will let it, that pain will become the sole sucking-force of our being, turning our full attention, our active thoughts, the very meaning of who we are, toward its focus.
Our job is to not let that happen. Sometimes, things are so bad in ordinary life, we just barely make it through the day, but when the day is filled with terrible hurt, no matter what the cause, we now have the additional task added of not letting it consume us.
What makes this worse is that where as once we had a culture that was built on community and interaction, we now because of busyness, the technologies, and the distances we have to go to connect with friends are facing a culture that is being built to enhance isolation.
In an article by Janet Kornblum, USA Today reported that Americans have one-third fewer close friends and confidants than just two decades ago. This is something of a seismic shift. “You usually don’t see that kind of big social change in a couple of decades,” reports Lynn Smith-Lovin, co-author of the study reported in American Sociological Review and professor of sociology at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
In 1985, the average American had three people in whom to confide matters that were important to them. By 2004, that number had dropped to two confidants, and the findings determined that consequently, 25% of Americans have no one in whom to confide.
Smith-Lovin explains, “Close relationships are a safety net. Whether it’s picking up a child or finding someone to help you out of the city in a hurricane, these are people we depend on.”
The USA Today article makes the point that research has linked social isolation and loneliness to mental and physical illness. If that is the case, can we not also conclude that our mental and physical (and spiritual) health improve when we are socially connected and not living in isolating environments?
So, here’s the thought for this blog: Do not let pain isolate you completely. Do not let it swallow you into itself. Find one friend. Search out an old companion. Join a group. Volunteer where people are present. Put yourself into a happy (and healthy) social environment. Become a member of an accountability group or a recovery program. Just don’t face this terrible season of life by yourself. You can open the door in the isolation room. Don’t stay there so long that you begin to think it’s normal, or you begin to love it.
Other projects involving Karen Mains right now:
Karen Mains, published author with a background in radio and television, has supervised more than 250 Listening Groups that provide a place for people to hear one another and be heard in turn. She leads women’s Retreats of Silence, is a spiritual coach to hundreds, and is the author of the best-selling Open Heart, Open Home, a book about using the home to alleviate the isolation in our culture.
She and her husband, David, are hoping to lead a Christian trip to Kenya, Africa next March for the purpose of developing micro-enterprise projects.