The Many Faces of Loneliness

Loneliness in Philosophy, Psychology, and Literature B.L. Mijuskovic: Author



Consider a person locked inside a 6 by 6 jail cell with nowhere to go, no one to talk with and just himself to contemplate his future and every thought. Imagine what would happen if someone came over to the metal bars and attempted to have a conversation with this isolated man. What about someone locked away in a mental institution calling out and screaming hoping for someone to answer but having no idea what he/she would like as a response.  The only thing this person has is the restraints that confine him from self inflicting any injuries and the thoughts running through his head yet not understanding the response that he wants. Isolated by others not by his choice. What about the child at the playground surrounded by other children yet feeling isolated and alone? Stated in the introduction of his book, Ben Mijuskovic states “ Man is social, “political,” that is to say, a communal animal. Without the desire for companionship he becomes progressively less human.” What about the prisoner or the patient all alone? If given the chance or opportunity would they prefer to be alone or with someone else? He continues to write that while man is or senses that he is alone it is not abundantly clear. The author has developed many theories that he has extensively researched in literature, philosophers quoted and psychological reasons states. The mind is fascinating to me and the various levels of thinking and our thought processes although individual to each person the author states that everyone has a certain consciousness, a “Philosophy of mind, which alone can account on various levels, existential, psychological, epistemological, phenomenological, existential, psychological and passional to name a few. He continues by linking the relationship between loneliness in literature and the theory of consciousness.


This book draws heavily on the interdisciplinary approach focusing on philosophy, literature and psychology. In chapter one the author wishes to convey the following: an image of man intrinsically alone and irredeemably lost. He continues to state that man is always struggling to escape the solipsistic (The theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified.) prison of his frightening solitude. Second, he will discuss a theory of consciousness that will allow the reader a better insight and understanding of why man is lonely.


Author Ben Mijuskovic asks the reader to look long and hard at the definition of loneliness and understand that man and everyone has at sometime suffered from feelings of loneliness which most try to escape but never completely. There are many people that emotionally isolate themselves in a social setting with other people. They might even withdraw into a corner and keep their feelings to themselves. Some will not accept emotional support from anyone. Some feel sad, sullen and shut down completely and refuse to communicate. It is almost like self-imposed isolation or self inflicted loneliness. These people find it hard to connect with others.


The author states that a man who is lonely feels “no delight.” He also states within Chapter One that it can be argued that the concept of loneliness is served, and I found this really quite compelling, like the idea of exile. Citing Ovid’s Tristia or Letter from Exile and stating that it can be interpreted as the expression of longing for what most of us want: Family, friends and a country, which was caused by his exile from Rome. He also states and quite succinctly that even if you overcome loneliness for a while you cannot escape or “vanquish” it for long. There are so many pieces of literature cited within this chapter that if I cite them all I would never be able to tell you about the rest. But, when the author states that a salesman whose actions purports that he knows and likes everyone, in the end will come to a startling or harsh realization that he can count on no one. There is much more elaborated on page 7 of Chapter One.

Linking the theme of loneliness within the three disciplines throughout each chapter and weaving in many stories, even going back to the Middle Ages, Roman and Greek Mythology and allowing the reader to know that loneliness is not just a thing of the present. The most compelling reference in literature is his reference to Robinson Crusoe and The History of Robinson and Friday.


Chapter 2 focuses on the awareness of loneliness. In simple terms what causes a person, any one of us to have this sense of isolation and make it possible? Referring to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason we learn that Kant’s main purpose or aim is to determine the scope and limits of pure reason. Simply explained he wants to know exactly what reason alone can determine minus the other senses or any other faculties. He expands on this by explaining in detail the two specific distinctions: Priori and posteriori knowledge and between analytic and synthetic judgments and follows with a more detailed explanation.


He continues with his definition of the three models of consciousness, which are: the behaviorist, the intentional and the reflexive paradigms of cognitive apprehension. The author continues with the definitions of all three and links it to many great works in literature.  Rather than cite every example I will instead relate which statements that I found compelling and which I agree with. For example on page 28 he states that each of us is alone, is a tragedy. When we try to reach another person, since no one wants to be alone, we often find ourselves in a situation where each person wants to dominate the other and he explains it more in detail on pages 28-30. Chapter Three is titled Loneliness and Time Consciousness followed by Types of Loneliness. He elaborates by referring to an article written by Gotesky which defines the four possible definitions of loneliness: Physical loneliness, loneliness in contrast to loneliness according to Gotesky is a state of mind, third in his analysis defines the state of feeling isolated and finally the fourth aspect of isolation is solitude which he considers a positive. He continues by discussing the main disagreements within his classificatory scheme and his defense of solitude. First he states that loneliness is not avoidable and secondly against Gotseky; who insists that this sense of aloneness was practically nonexistent before the Renaissance. He sites Nicholas Beriiaev, other well-known psychologists and returns to Gotesky with his discussion of friendship in his paper.


Chapter five talks about Loneliness and Narcissism and 6 Loneliness and Phenomenology. Chapter 7 focuses on Loneliness and the Possibility of a Private Language where the author discusses in detail the basic motivational and emotional drive in man to try and escape his aloneness, sense of isolation and seeking companionship with other consciousnesses or trying to achieve “ a temporary memory block in which some fact from the recent or remote past is forgotten but later recalled,” referred to in this book as benign forgetfulness. Throughout this chapter he refers to psychologists of loneliness such as Erich Fromm, Clark Moustakas, R.D. Laing and James Howard. As a result of his research and findings in this chapter the author concludes “ man feels himself to be alone, that he is conscious of his isolation before he learns to express this fact in language.” I must add that at the end of each chapter he includes the explanation for each of the footnotes in detail. The final chapter before adding all of the appendices to the book is Loneliness and the Divided Self. Appendix A written by the author alone is titled: Loneliness An Interdisciplinary Approach which includes a discussion of The Psychology and Sociology of Loneliness which I found most interesting. In this appendix the author discusses in children their first phobias related to these situations: darkness and solitude. Children often fear being alone when there is the absence of some person close to them that loved them. Sometimes children will call out when they are in the dark and the response is one that is hurtful, abrupt and unfeeling letting the child know the adult does not want to deal with them or handle their fears. Death is another concept he deals with in this appendix since children are afraid of death and often have trouble as adults do, with a permanent loss. But, he makes an interesting statement: we do not fear death but we fear loneliness. He continues with this throughout this very informative Appendix. The remainder of the Appendices you need to read for yourself. Appendix: Loneliness and Personal Identity and Appendix C titled The Sociology and Psychology of Loneliness and Appendix D where he continues with Kant: Kant’s Reflections on the Unity of Consciousness, Time Consciousness, and the Unconscious. One final statement which refers to Appendix C in this appendix he sums it up quite well when he states that all human beings are lonely, and the desire to avoid isolation constitutes the ultimate motivational drive in human passion, thought and conduct cited from paragraph one page 190.


There are many different definitions and experiences that define loneliness within this book. Imagine yourself on an island all alone with no one there but yourself, your thoughts and your mind. What are the determining factors involved in man’s constant confrontation with loneliness? You need to find the answers to this question and explore your own feelings about loneliness, read the book, the research and determine what you agree or disagree with but one thing for sure after reading this book you will definitely have a better understanding of the deeper meaning of this word.


This book is great for psychology, philosophy and literature students, professors and anyone who wants to truly understand the meaning of Loneliness and connect them to the three disciplines: Literature, Psychology and Philosophy. Just to let the reader know I really think everyone should read this book and as you can tell from my detailed review I learned a lot and really did like the book.


Fran Lewis: reviewer





















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