The enigmatic phenomenon of loneliness

Karin Dahlberg
2007 International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health & Well-Being  
Much has been said and written on loneliness, which is a common human phenomenon that belongs to everyday existence, but few attempts have been made to capture the phenomenon and its existential meaning without reducing its complexity. This paper addresses the question: What is loneliness, what is its essence? The study practiced a phenomenological approach, called Reflective Lifeworld Research. Twenty-six interviews were analysed for meaning with the aim of describing an essential structure
more » ... ential structure for the phenomenon, showing what loneliness is. The analysis shows that the phenomenon of loneliness stands out in meaning as "figure" against a "background" of fellowship, connectedness and context. One is lonely when important others are not there, because either one has rejected them or they have chosen to be rejected and left the person behind, feeling lonely. One can reject others in favour of another kind of connectedness. Such loneliness is restful and pleasant. It involves the lack of tangible context that other present people can offer, yet a context is not missing*in this instance there is a relationship to and one is part of something else such as nature or animal fellowship. Involuntary loneliness on the other hand involves a lack of context and connectedness. To be involuntarily lonely and not belonging to anyone is to lack participation in the world. To not be. Loneliness as a phenomenon is further characterized as transcending the present situation containing loneliness. One can feel lonely even if there are many people around, or one can be completely alone without feeling lonely. Loneliness can disappear with a sense of belonging, when one connects with someone who is miles away.
doi:10.1080/17482620701626117 fatcat:nbaqy662erezjlfay5iyuvhiky