I recently stumbled upon a quote by Plato, which said the following about humans―
“According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.”
― Plato, The Symposium
Even though the context in which I found the above quote was totally different, and the lines above were stuff of mythology, still these lines revealed to me something very fundamental about the human nature ― that humans are not meant to live in isolation, that we are by nature a species that need companionship, that we long for the presence of another soul like the parched earth longs for the drops of rain, and hence, seek a society or a circle of people to build our life around it.
Intrigued by the sudden revelation of this fundamental truth, I started checking the information available on the internet. I googled about can human beings stay alone without getting psychologically affected by it, and whether the need for another human being is overrated?
I found some interesting observations.
- Our fundamental human need to bond with another is beyond question.
- Newborns can be psychologically scarred (and worse die) if they don not experience human touch during the formative years of their life.
- Solitary confinement has been used throughout history as one of the worst forms of torture and punishment
- Our identity, our sense of worth and the character of our maturity are all shaped by the quality of our deep bonds with significant others.
One of the prisoners in America who endured solitary confinement has said the following about its effects…
[..] …I was so disoriented in Atlanta that I felt like I was in an episode of the twilight zone …Nearly all of the time, the officers refused to speak to me. Despite this, I heard people who I believed to be officers whispering into my vents, telling me they hated me and calling me names. To this day, I am not sure if the officers were doing this to me, or if I was starting to lose it and these were hallucinations. In the side pocket cell, I lost some ability to distinguished what was real. I dreamt I was in prison. When I woke up, I was not sure which was reality and which was a dream. .. […]
Prolonged isolation may damage the cerebral cortex, which is “the part of the brain that makes us most human.” This can lead to paranoia, insomnia and uncontrollable rage and fear, Subjects started losing their own self, in short, they started becoming less human.
. . .
Truth be told most of us will never go through such extreme isolation. But there is another form of isolation that lurks secretly among us. The isolation that we sometimes experience even when among the crowd. We may be surrounded by people in office and at home, but still we lack that someone who understands and responds to our deepest emotions.
This kind of isolation called social isolation is no less than the one discussed above, and is known to cause extreme form of depressions when experienced.
We need people in our lives who live beyond the superficial interaction we lead in this age of Facebook and Instagram. We need someone who can reach the inner recess of our thoughts and help us untangle the mess that we end up in because of our hectic life schedules. Someone who can understand us, and satisfy the basic need of companionship.
In this age of globalization when we end up living far from our families and old acquaintances, the need for finding companion is ever so pressing.
Many stars and celebrities have ended up in depression, even losing their lives in spite of the fact that they were loved by millions and had constant flow of people around them. Their lives were envied when looked upon from outsides. Still, the fame and fortune they amassed couldn’t fulfil this need of true companionship.
At the end of the day we need someone to come back to and share moments of togetherness, with whom we can be just over-selves, without the masks and cloaks we wear throughout the day.
. . .