Battling Loneliness In The Big City

February 14, 2016

After writer Olivia Laing relocated to New York from England, she quickly discovered how lonely you can feel in crowd. Still reeling after a breakup and struggling to adapt to a new country, she turned to artists like Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, and David Wojnarowicz to better understand how you can still feel isolated in a city teeming with millions of people.



Ann said "we ALL feel lonely at times" and guest said "it is an ABSOLUTELY universal experience". At 53 I have never experienced the sensation of loneliness. Lived in london for years, many of those years single. All those years before cell phones or Facebook. I loved being alone in the city. Loved to be alone in te streets At night, out in the city on the weekends, sometimes going alone to clubs and just watch people. As a young person I had all the insecurities and anxiety about group acceptance, who my friends were or weren't, but not "loneliness".

I loved it when I left home and went to travel Europe alone. My poor parents; I hardly called them and there wasn't email. I enjoyed the transitory connections of fleeting conversations on trains or cafes, or brief comradery of those on the same route for a few days.

Don't know what's different about me. I'm NOT a "loner", I enjoy company of others. I have friends. I enjoy socialising. I'm not such a big extrovert that I can strike up conversation with.anyone, but I can do it a bit. Maybe that sense of knowing that there are friends out there, or being grounded in growing up with parents who cared, has made that a feeling I don't know.

Perhaps if I lived in a war zone and my whole circle of connections were wiped out, would I feel loneliness then? When I'm 90 and in the nursing home with no visitors or energy or future or anything to do will I feel it then? If the last 50 are anything to go by, the small day to day interactions of care staff may be enough, not necessarily for happiness, but to preclude loneliness.

So please don't make these generalisations. It is interesting that we ARE all
So different and why.

I seem to remember a show you did on jealousy with the same assumption "everyone gets jealous" I never ever have. I truly don't understand that feeling either. It's not that I have emotional disregulation or autistic inability to identify emotions. I'm very emotionally literate, trained as a therapist (if that proves anything :-) !)

Jenny, thanks so much for sharing your experience after listening to the Lang interview. I'm 58 and I'm one of those lonely if not "loners." You write, "Maybe that sense of knowing that there are friends out there, or being grounded in growing up with parents who cared," guess is yes, if only because the adults in my family-of-origin, my aunts & uncles, even the parents in my childhood friends had some kind of issue, e.g., alcohol abuse, mental instability. You mention jealousy as well: I'm soooo jealous! Of you! Re generalisations, I'm not a psychologist, but me thinks you might be a perfectionist? (No offense intended.) But absolutely re of interest in our selves, one of the great mysteries of life that each of us are so different/unique.

I wrote my Master's thesis on Wojnarowicz in 1994. His work was intense & he had a wonderful aesthetic sense. I hadn't thought of his work representing loneliness, but I can see it. Since I spent a year off investigating his work, it didn't occur to me until later that almost no one had heard of him. It's always nice when someone talks about him or his work because I do think he was one of the best artists of the late 20th century.