The Lonely Brain

file-20200416-192703-1hak14x.jpg


We are not born with many instincts. The instincts we are born with, however, in keeping with the purpose of instincts in all creatures serve the need to help us survive. They do that by enhancing our ability to cope with vital environmental emergencies. Humans have three basic instincts: self-preservation, finding a mate and social behavior.

A pretty strong argument could be made that during the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and lockdowns across the globe the last one was severely circumscribed and, there was a majority of the global population for whom the last two were heavily impacted.

Our instinct for self-preservation allowed us to cope for a while. But not without side-effects. The rise in aggressive behavior, unfiltered social interactions, inappropriate social responses and generally poor decision making was not the result of the rise in perceived toxicity in newsfeeds or the use of social media or remote contact technology. All of this predated Covid-19 without our seeing a spike in anti-social behavior.

What we never had before this century was an experience of a restriction that starved our brain from the information it acquires during socializing in order to calibrate the norms within which it operates. The brain’s operational parameters guide choices and decisions that result in our everyday behavior.

Loneliness affects the brain the same way as trauma. But because we don't acknowledge it, it becomes even harder to deal with. As we are gradually coming out of the pandemic the question that should most consume us is how do we learn to behave socially again? So many of us are out of practice. Some of us are damaged either through personal loss, pandemic anxiety, isolation and loneliness, sudden changes in circumstances or, a combination of all of these. None of us are sure we can behave appropriately all the time, any more.

If you've been troubled by any of these questions, if you have been quietly thinking about them you can at least find some solace in that you're not alone. The answers are neither easy nor definitive, The problem is new and complex. There are ways, however, to make the transition into the post-pandemic world better.

If you are struggling here are some guidelines that will help:

1. Accept that things will feel weird. Much of our internal struggle comes from the mismatch of what we perceive and what we expected. The pandemic was a global stressor that stripped much of everyday reality from us. It will take time and perseverance to rebuild our understanding of what is emerging. It is key here to accept that things will feel weird for a while.

2. Be open about how you feel. We have all been bruised by what we've been through. Pretending we are OK is lying to our self and putting up a brave front that only makes others feel inadequate. If you are feeling uncomfortable about being social again. If you are experiencing anxiety about rejoining life. If the situations you encounter cause you stress. Speak to someone about it. Keep a journal, talk to a friend, start a thread. Just don't keep it to yourself, it only gets worse that way.

3. Be tolerant. While we are all supposed to be adults and polished and accomplished, accept that we have all been through a tough time regardless and none of us are sure how to behave any more. We are all trying but we will make mistakes. So if something triggers you, if you are not sure about something or you see behavior that feels odd, think that getting it right will take practice.

4. Be kind. The voice inside our head is more often a critic than a cheerleader. Right now we need the cheerleader more. So be kind to yourself first. Then be kind to those around you.

These are just four short steps that, applied, consistently, will make the entire experience of rejoining the external world feel better. I really hope this helps and a big thank you to the thoughtful Bee whose suggestion resulted in this post. You know who you are.
 

Nevetharine

Well-known member
Commando from Prometheus Cloud Galaxy
Pronouns: She/her
Posts: 184
The pandemic didn't affect me much. I've been lonely for years, starting from pre-school. I was an odd kid, apparently. Since I wasn't popular in school, ever. The friends I had never lasted beyond a couple of months. I wasn't allowed to go out with friends much, a result of a mentally ill parent. That made things worse.

I suppose it's no surprise that I talk to myself and answer myself almost all the time as if someone is there. The only place someone listens to me is in my imagination. I talk to animals more than real humans (not that you guys aren't real!).

I'm nearing thirty, and I'm still socially awkward and I feel like I don't fit in. Except with my husband.

Odd thing though - maybe it's normal for anti-social behavior - but people make me tired. I rarely crave being around other people, for fear of making a fool of myself. But when I do, I can't stand it for long without craving silence and solitude. People literally drain my energy, and I can only replenish it by being outside in nature, particularly on a sunny day.

You guys are alright though, at least we have common interests :)
 

demski

Member
from Canada
Pronouns: she/her
Posts: 7
The pandemic didn't affect me much either. I am an introvert with social anxiety, and I found great relief from my social obligations (from family and friends) even though I am comfortable with them. And now when I do have an opportunity to visit, I am relaxed and enjoy myself more thoroughly.
 

demski

Member
from Canada
Pronouns: she/her
Posts: 7
Odd thing though - maybe it's normal for anti-social behavior - but people make me tired. I rarely crave being around other people, for fear of making a fool of myself. But when I do, I can't stand it for long without craving silence and solitude. People literally drain my energy, and I can only replenish it by being outside in nature, particularly on a sunny day.
This is not anti-social behavior, this is how you get and receive energy. You might consider looking into the term introvert. Extroverted people get their energy from being with people. :)
 

SkorpionUK

Well-known member
Sorceress from Germany
Posts: 133
"Building good habits"
Thanks for this post! Like the previous commenters, I tend towards introversion, but even so, I am noticing more than usual anxiety and avoidance regarding leaving the house and meeting people. Yes, the pandemic very much continues here and it's sensible to minimise contact, but it feels like more than that.
 

koriandr

Well-known member
Heroine from Europe
Pronouns: she/her
Posts: 67
"Headbanging to classical music"
file-20200416-192703-1hak14x.jpg


We are not born with many instincts. The instincts we are born with, however, in keeping with the purpose of instincts in all creatures serve the need to help us survive. They do that by enhancing our ability to cope with vital environmental emergencies. Humans have three basic instincts: self-preservation, finding a mate and social behavior.

A pretty strong argument could be made that during the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and lockdowns across the globe the last one was severely circumscribed and, there was a majority of the global population for whom the last two were heavily impacted.

Our instinct for self-preservation allowed us to cope for a while. But not without side-effects. The rise in aggressive behavior, unfiltered social interactions, inappropriate social responses and generally poor decision making was not the result of the rise in perceived toxicity in newsfeeds or the use of social media or remote contact technology. All of this predated Covid-19 without our seeing a spike in anti-social behavior.

What we never had before this century was an experience of a restriction that starved our brain from the information it acquires during socializing in order to calibrate the norms within which it operates. The brain’s operational parameters guide choices and decisions that result in our everyday behavior.

Loneliness affects the brain the same way as trauma. But because we don't acknowledge it, it becomes even harder to deal with. As we are gradually coming out of the pandemic the question that should most consume us is how do we learn to behave socially again? So many of us are out of practice. Some of us are damaged either through personal loss, pandemic anxiety, isolation and loneliness, sudden changes in circumstances or, a combination of all of these. None of us are sure we can behave appropriately all the time, any more.

If you've been troubled by any of these questions, if you have been quietly thinking about them you can at least find some solace in that you're not alone. The answers are neither easy nor definitive, The problem is new and complex. There are ways, however, to make the transition into the post-pandemic world better.

If you are struggling here are some guidelines that will help:

1. Accept that things will feel weird. Much of our internal struggle comes from the mismatch of what we perceive and what we expected. The pandemic was a global stressor that stripped much of everyday reality from us. It will take time and perseverance to rebuild our understanding of what is emerging. It is key here to accept that things will feel weird for a while.

2. Be open about how you feel. We have all been bruised by what we've been through. Pretending we are OK is lying to our self and putting up a brave front that only makes others feel inadequate. If you are feeling uncomfortable about being social again. If you are experiencing anxiety about rejoining life. If the situations you encounter cause you stress. Speak to someone about it. Keep a journal, talk to a friend, start a thread. Just don't keep it to yourself, it only gets worse that way.

3. Be tolerant. While we are all supposed to be adults and polished and accomplished, accept that we have all been through a tough time regardless and none of us are sure how to behave any more. We are all trying but we will make mistakes. So if something triggers you, if you are not sure about something or you see behavior that feels odd, think that getting it right will take practice.

4. Be kind. The voice inside our head is more often a critic than a cheerleader. Right now we need the cheerleader more. So be kind to yourself first. Then be kind to those around you.

These are just four short steps that, applied, consistently, will make the entire experience of rejoining the external world feel better. I really hope this helps and a big thank you to the thoughtful Bee whose suggestion resulted in this post. You know who you are.
I'd say that the pandemic definitely did something to me, although I always found peace in loneliness, because well, I suppose I'm different. But on the other hand I enjoyed being social too. So I had this clash of opposites that tore me apart before the pandemic (I don't think it's over, I just think we'll build immunity with time so at one point it'll be like the flu, but we have years untill that happens) and now after we're able to go out I found out that my friend group is gone lol. Like, they just parted ways, so now I'm friendless. I have lone periods that feel okay and others that make me feel terrible. In general my psychological state, although not perfect before 2020, is in ruiness right now. I'm constantly living in a dream that I want to wake up from, but that's a talk for another time :)
 
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