Monday, November 4, 2013

ReView of LONELINESS: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection

Genre: NonFiction, Sociology
Format: Paperback
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
First Published: 2008

I bought this book years ago.  I stumbled on it coincidentally at a really low time in my life, and years later every once in a while I'd go back to it to understand some things better.  There's something really genuine and true about this book.
"John T. Cacioppo's groundbreaking research topples one of the pillars of modern medicine and psychology: the focus on the individual as the unit of inquiry.  By employing brain scans, monitoring blood pressure, and analyzing immune function, he demonstrates the overpowering influence of social context - a factor so strong that it can alter DNA replication.  He defines an unrecognized syndrome - chronic loneliness - brings it out of the shadow of its cousin depression, and shows how this subjective sense of social isolation uniquely disrupts our perceptions, behavior, and physiology, becoming a trap that not only reinforces isolation but can also lead to early death.  He gives the lie to the Hobbesian view of human nature as a 'war of all against all,' and he shows how social cooperation is, in fact, humanity's defining characteristic.  Most important, he shows how we can break the trap of isolation for our benefit both as individuals and as a society."

The book speaks about a very specific group of individuals who continuously and chronically feel out of place with the world they live in.  As a result, a state of loneliness incurs.

"Which contributes more to personality, nature or nurture?"

"It is not simply genes added to the environment, but genes interacting with the environment that typically determines the expression of most basic aspects of personality.  The influence of heredity means only that certain individuals, because of their genetic endowment, have a greater need for, or a greater sensitivity to the absence of, connection than others.  Whether or not they actually become lonely, either for certain brief periods or throughout their lives, depends on their environment - including their social environment - and environments are influenced by many different factors, including the individuals's own thoughts and actions."

What's fascinating about this book is that it opens up the view of predisposition to a sensitivity to social connections.  Some individuals require more social connections and others function better without as many social interactions. "The problem arises simply when there is a mismatch between the level of social connection desired and the level the environment provides."

If you are a person who constantly finds yourself 'lonely,' whether because you feel disconnected to your surrounding, or because you feel you aren't rooted to the life you're living, it's worth reading this book.  It will open your eyes to exactly how bad your loneliness is, and how important it is to remedy and adapt to your life even with the current state of your mind.  Your chronic loneliness will not influence the quality of your outside life, but also the state of your physiological well-being. "Loneliness not only alters behavior but shows up in measurements of stress hormones, immune function, and cardiovascular function."

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