All the Lonely People
How remarkable!—having once written a book on my personal struggle with loneliness (Lonely No More)—I discovered while taking the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a standard measurement tool, that I was, indeed, no longer a lonely woman! Sometimes after being unwell, we become healthy so gradually that we take health for granted.
See how you do on the following loneliness test:
I am exultant in reporting that my total score is 10. It is a little like, though not the same as, being told you are cancer-free five years after the original diagnosis and treatment. Being loneliness-free, for me, is a declaration of psychological healthiness. If I had taken the test in my 40s and 50s the results would have been much different.
Brad Edmondson writes about a survey AARP Magazine conducted with 3,012 participants ages 45 and up. The results indicate that some 35 percent are chronically lonely—compared with 20 percent in a similar survey conducted a decade earlier. Surprisingly, it was not the elderly who were suffering from loneliness the most, but adults in their 40s and 50s. Loneliness actually decreases with age, and none of the experts really know why. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 127 million Americans are over age 45. AARP’s survey results would indicate that more than 44 million adults suffer from chronic loneliness!
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, professor of sociology at Duke University, Durham, N.C., and co-author of the study reported in American Sociological Review.
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?
How well I remember the crushing weight of this disassociated condition … loneliness. It hounded me through my busy days, surprised me as I navigated the alleys and back roads of my life and was always a possible (but most unwelcome) companion. This despite the fact that I had a happy marriage (excepting my husband’s workaholism), four healthy and thriving children (who were all poised to fly away into the world), was a successful writer with a speaking ministry (continually being torn away from a sense of rootedness through the isolation of writing and the pattern of constantly leaving home) and appeared independent and confident (but with little time to center and grow into my own deepest self).
There are many causes for loneliness, but for me, the most disturbing cause was that everything in my life actually separated me from the reality of who I needed to become in order to fulfill God’s design for my life, and everything in my life actually prevented the journey each human must make in order to become centered, stable and whole.
The cure for loneliness according to the AARP article is human connection—significant and satisfactory human connection.
For the last five years, Hungry Souls has been involved in developing the architecture for Listening Groups. As a former sufferer of loneliness, I found this journey of discovery into human connection amazing. The human connection I experienced as a leader participating in over 250 small listening groups is immeasurable. I would testify to the truth of this quote, “Healing comes through sharing our stories with one another in safe and compassionate relationships.” It comes from the article “Telling Lives: Trauma Recovery and Christian-conversion Narratives,” printed in the Journal of Religion and Abuse. It is in healthy relationships that we are healed—a healthy relationship with God and healthy relationships with one another. One clinical counselor who participated in an eight-month Listening Group cycle made this evaluation, “Almost all the problems that can develop in small group dynamics are prevented by the architecture of the Listening Groups.”
Listening Groups are being used by One Life Mapping as a way for people to solidify and communicate what they have learned during the mapping process. Listening Groups are being employed by church staffs to help the deepening of their relationships with one another. Listening Groups are part of the process one ministry employs in debriefing former jail inmates. Listening Groups have been used with the Mains’ teenage grandchildren.
I am sold on listening as a primary approach to enhancing healthy human connections. As we were concluding our journey together after eight months, one group member lamented, “Why can’t I be this connected and intimate with my women friends?”
What Hungry Souls is focusing on now is developing the Listening Group Leader Training end of things. Starting in February of 2010, I will lead as many Listening Groups as there are people interested (afternoon groups, evening groups, weekend groups) for the purpose of developing a teaching model that will give appropriate skills and training for anyone—men or women—who want to learn to become Listening Group Facilitators.
These groups will be small, three to four people, as usual. They will meet once a month through October or November. The cost will be $125. My commitment will be to finish a draft of the book by the last meeting, but also to develop participatory training tools so that other Listening Group leaders can be trained through a companion manual to the book.
If you are interested, contact me at email@example.com. Through my life, I have become a small-group specialist! I have also received focus-group-moderator certification through Riva Institute. My companions in learning were from Proctor Gamble, Disney, etc. They kept wondering, I suspect, why I needed this excellent training to run focus groups with pastors.
One of the scariest things about loneliness is its link to serious medical problems. More than half of the respondents in the AARP study who reported being in poor health were also lonely, compared with one-quarter who reported being in excellent health. No one can establish causal effects of being lonely to disease, but the percentages of the lonely among those diagnosed with obesity (43 percent), sleep disorders (45 percent), chronic pain (47 percent) and anxiety (56 percent) were considerably higher than the 35 percent who were lonely overall.
Intriguingly, cancer patients had the lowest rate of loneliness—only 24 percent. However, the social and healing systems have rallied to provide cancer victims with networks of survivor groups, some of which last even after the disease has been defeated and the people have been cancer-free for years, even decades. This sympathetic system prohibits loneliness and in itself, is credited with contributing to the healing profile of those who participate; small listening groups of sympathetic and empathetic hearers.
“Healing comes through sharing our stories with one another in safe and compassionate relationships.”
(Please note: Much of the material for this lead article of the e-Newsletter
Annual 24-hour Advent Retreat of Silence
Twenty-some women have taken advantage of the early-registration discount, and we have room for 35 more. The cost now is $120. You still can receive a price break if you bring a friend who has never attended a Hungry Souls Advent Retreat before. If you are new or bring a friend that’s new, the cost will be $90 per person. This fee includes a private room with bath and three meals.
We will be looking at the life of Mary and pondering the unknowns and the mysteries in all of our lives. For those new to this process of silence, this retreat is always a guided retreat.
The dates are Wednesday and Thursday, December 1 and 2. We will be meeting at the Bishop Lane Retreat Center in Rockford, IL. Directions and all the other details will be sent to you upon receipt of your registration. There are only a few days left for you to reserve a place for yourself and a friend!
You can register by e-mailing Susan Hands at firstname.lastname@example.org. We MUST have your check in the office by November 21. Please make your checks payable to “Hungry Souls” and mail them to:
Global Bag Project News
Five people have stepped forward to donate $30 for 12 months to match the $300/month loan that the Alive and Well Foundationem> is granting to the Global Bag Project to increase traffic to the www.globalbagproject web site. This is exciting! We are looking for five more loving donors—we need 10 in all to raise a matching total of $3,600. We have half that amount and just need $1,800 more.
Due to these gifts, a Global Bag Project fan page has been launched on Facebook. Keyword research is being launched so that large search engines—Google, Bing, Yahoo for instance—will begin to pick up our terms. (We know that the term “reusable shopping bags’ receives 55,000 search clicks per month.)
Thanks to these gifts, the Global Bag Project e-Newsletter has been designed and our first issue has been sent to previous customers. ALL subscribers to the Soulish Food e-Newsletter will receive a complimentary copy of this new e-Newsletter—just to keep you informed as to what is happening.
Congratulations are due: Mary Ogalo, the GBP Project Manager in Kenya, has given safe birth to her third child, a healthy boy, Luka. We praise the Lord for this joyful gift of life! Mary has been invaluable in setting up the systems, the GBP board for Kenya, establishing sewing training programs, working out glitches, and mailing bags (or sending them through tourist or missionary “mules”) to our GBP office.
Listening Groups Start in February, 2011
Karen Mains is gathering material to put a book on Listening Groups together and would love to journey from February 2011 through eight months until September with people who wish training as Listening Group leaders. This will keep her mind in the Listening Group mode and in dialogue with people who feel strongly about this spiritual exercise.
Her covenant is to have the first draft of the book written by September 2011.
As usual, the groups will consist of 3-4 members; we will meet once a month at the Mains’ home in West Chicago, IL. The meetings will last 2 1/2 hours, but will include training and hands-on activity with each participant taking turns leading the group. Karen is a small-group specialist, certified by Riva Institute as a focus group moderator.
We will be looking at the neurobiology of well-being cuased by the listening process, at how to ask good questions, at how to guard the architecture of the listening process, at how to create safety in a group, etc.
The fee for this 8-month journey is $125. If you are interested, contact Susan Hands at Mainstay Ministries at email@example.com.
The Soulish Food e-mails are being posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.
“How well I remember the crushing weight of this disassociated condition … loneliness. It hounded me through my busy days, surprised me as I navigated the alleys and back roads of my life and was always a possible (but most unwelcome) companion. This despite the fact that I had a happy marriage (excepting my husband’s workaholism), four healthy and thriving children (who were all poised to fly away into the world), was a successful writer with a speaking ministry (continually being torn away from a sense of rootedness through the isolation of writing and the pattern of constantly leaving home) and appeared independent and confident
(but with little time to
center and grow into
my own deepest self).”
Lonely No More
“This personal memoir was an attempt to capture as honestly as possible my journey through the mid-life process. I had chosen the title of Stranger to Myself No More, which I felt more closely described the contents of the book than the title that the marketing department finally chose.
“This is an ‘inscape’ to use that descriptor from Gerard Manley Hopkins, a look at the inward journey of the soul. I attempted to capture the struggles of personal dislocation that occur from being a Mom, a woman with a profession, a husband in national media ministry, and how that story intertwines with God’s action and persuasion in one life.”
“It is honest, frank, revealing and lyrical because it is an attempt to understand the meaning of my own life.”
We would suggest that you procure this book for about $4 to $7 on Amazon.com through the secondhand booksellers.