and men (but not women) from confidants (Fischer & Phillips, 1982).
The isolation from friends and confidants causes unhappiness.
If you ask people, "What contributes most to your happiness?",
married people say: (1) being in love, (2) marriage and children, (3)
the partner's happiness, (4) a job, for men; personal growth, for
women, and (5) sex. For singles it's: (1) friends and social life, (2)
being in love, (3) job, (4) recognition and success, and (5) sex.
Conclusion: human contact, in some form, is vitally important to our
To love and to be loved is life's greatest joy.
To do something about loneliness, you need to know the unique
causes in your case. If a person says, "I can't make friends," what
does that really mean? It could mean that no one is available in the
current situation? Or, it could mean "I don't know how to do it--what
would I say?" Or, it could mean "I know how but I just can't bring
myself to do it--I'm shy and inhibited." Or, "I'm too nervous to do it--
I'd fall apart and make a fool of myself." Or, "they aren't going to like
me--I'm too dull and quiet." Obviously, these different answers reflect
different assumed causes and outcomes (the real causes and
outcomes may be different) and suggest different ways of handling the
loneliness. Some causes seem more treatable than others; certain
attributions (explanations) provide more hope than others.
When lonely and non-lonely students were asked to explain their
interpersonal successes and failures, the lonely more often attributed
their failures to a lack of ability and permanent character traits ("I'm
dull and uninteresting") rather than poor strategy, lack of effort, their
mood, or other factors. Therefore, they feel there is no hope. When
Horowitz, French & Anderson (1982) tested the actual social skills of
the lonely and non-lonely, they found the lonely produced fewer and
poorer solutions to interpersonal problems. So, the lonely may be right
when they say, "I don't know how to interact." But they can learn
Remember that underachievers were thought to be motivated to
fail in order to avoid scary future responsibilities. Likewise, some
depressed people appear to fail in order to avoid people expecting
them to do something in the future. Now, there is a theory that lonely
people, who also have a low opinion of themselves (extensive research
documents low self-esteem, shame, and self-blame), are strongly
motivated to avoid contact with others. Why? So they will not get
more negative feedback, i.e. to protect their already fragile ego (Rook,
1984). As evidence for this notion, look at the way lonely people