Loneliness, an unidentified addiction

It is my personal belief that every individual needs some form of an addiction to survive. It can obviously be one of the more common ones like alcohol, drugs and sex, or it can also be subtle and undetectable, something that doesn’t set off the red alert at first viewing. At the end of the day, every one of us needs something or someone that we can indulge in, that makes us forget reality and provides us with a false cushion of security. Hell, bollywood does that for some people.

But what part of being alone could possibly provide a sense of security? Isn’t being alone one of the primal states of being vulnerable? Yes, if you’re a big fan of the Scream film series or have watched The Blair Witch Project far too many times. But in reality (which is far worse) being alone can actually be comforting for some people, can actually make them feel safer than being in a room full of familiar people. Falling in love with being alone is a very slow process, and one that often does not start with the individual’s own choice. It is like AR Rahman’s music, it grows on you slowly and gets under your skin. Most psychological patterns can always be traced back to childhood – it’s the dark place where everything originates and sticks until you step foot in the grave. Classic example is of children who are born and bred in nuclear families where both parents are professionally driven people, or of children belonging to broken families where the spotlight is more on strained ties than on the children themselves.

Children require a lot of attention. Up until their mid to late teens, they need someone to hold their hand and walk them through the murky lanes of life. They need to know that someone will be there to congratulate them when they come first in class or scold them when they bully someone. Teens need to know that their parents will be there to pat them on their backs when they score well on boards and spank their backsides when they have unprotected sex. In short, kids need to know that someone has their back and cares about their well being. But in cases where parents are MIA (missing in action) – things in the kids’ brains go haywire.

When there is lack of adequate attention, it can lead to two types of behaviors – a) Reckless behavior where the kid might indulge in risky behavior patterns (Drinking, driving, stealing, sex, tattoos, failing in class etc ensue) or (b) trying too hard to be the “perfect” kid – where the kids might ignore all their needs and wants and put the parent’s needs and wants above their own. They might start detesting themselves for having flaws and try to fit into their parents’ version of themselves. All these behavior patterns arise out of a need for attention. They want their parents to turn towards them and notice them for either their imperfections or their perfections. They either want to be spanked or want to be put up on a pedestal. Either way, they want their parents to chuck whatever it is that is occupying their attention and maneuver it towards themselves.

In cases where this sometimes works, parents start viewing these behavior patterns at the kid’s entire personality and subsequently their attention is altered according to that. In case of the reckless kid, they may spend years worrying about how to correct it and don’t focus on any other trait (In Indian families the solution is to get them married, which only makes the soup messier. How messed up are Indian families?) and in case of the perfect kid, the parents become even more MIA because they believe the kid is good enough to take care of himself/herself.

But in cases where this does not work – and parental attention still eludes the kid, in my opinion they simply resort to finding happiness in loneliness. Once they grow out of the hormone driven teenage, at one point they simply sink into the darkness and voluntarily detach from everyone. People who come across as anti-social or develop social anxiety disorder, do so over a period of many years (unless it is a chronic case of PTSD) of neglect. The idea of being with people, socializing with them and making new relationships scares them. It’s too much of an effort. They cannot be around people for too long, it suffocates them and very soon they’re seeking their own company. That person loves being absolutely alone at home – not because they get to drink beer and play video games, but because they will finally be in a state that makes them happiest, a state in which they don’t have to pretend to be either perfect or “bad” – they can just be themselves.

One day, they come back home and declare that they failed in the final year of their masters – and suddenly the family is worried about their future. Well, the attention now is pointless and unnecessary, because they no longer crave it. Even then, they just want to be alone where they can be away from their worst enemy – attention.

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