The Psychological Effects of Loneliness Into the Wild
Loneliness is a state of solitude and causes people to feel on their own, empty, or unwanted (Beadle 4). Lonely people usually crave to have human contact but their state of mind makes it difficult for them to connect with other people (Hawkley and Cacioppo 98). Many experts find the concept of loneliness as not just being alone, but view it as the perception of being alone or isolated. This paper delineates on the psychological effects of loneness when isolated from other people by referring to Jon Krakauers book Into the Wild.
In this book, the protagonist is Christopher Johnson McCandless, a graduate from Emory University. Upon his graduation in 1991, the young man from a well-to-do family decided to hitchhike to Alaska. The man walks into the wilderness reaching the mountain of McKinley. Through private investigators, it is established that McCandless donated his $25,000 meant to sponsor him to pursue a law degree as a charity to Oxford (Jon 34). On his way to adventure, he abandons his Datsun car and burns his cash in the wallet as he invents a new life. The efforts of his parents search are futile and he is found decomposed in a bus by a moose hunter.
This story therefore demonstrates loneliness as well as elicits psychological feelings. One of the effects of psychological loneliness is that it makes a person experience chronic loneliness. This acute feeling is experienced regardless of the presence of family members or friends. What is happening in the surrounding environment does not in anyway matter as loneliness is always felt. McCandless is faced with this psychological effect of loneliness (Jon 23). Despite the fact that he is coming from a carrying family and has good friends who surround him, he is still lonely and feels that he can alleviate this. He therefore takes the drastic step to go to adventure to get rid of his loneliness. McCandless feels that he is isolated and secluded, and the only thing that could save him is to live according to his principles. This leads him to start his journey which culminates to his death. Therefore, this is one example of the psychological effects that people in real situations face in their lives.
Depression is yet another psychological effect of loneliness. Lonely people are usually depressed and stressed because of the emptiness they experience. They feel that something is missing or is not going well in their lives, and this becomes stressful to them, leading them to depression. For instance, when an individual is not appreciated and embraced by his colleagues or friends, he develops feelings of hatred, which culminates to depression. In this book, this psychological effect is experienced on the parents of McCandless. The parents are concerned about their sons whereabouts and when he fails to return home, they are suspicious and depressed, which triggers them to recruit a private investigator to help them trace their son. The parents were lonely because of the absence of their son, and felt that their lives were not the same again. Because of this, they became worried, which triggered them to commit themselves to find their son and bring him back home.
Loneliness also evokes sadness to people. Sadness is the feelings of lack of pleasure or absence of happiness. The people that knew McCandless are sad about his disappearance, especially when they learn that he was dead. They contemplate the life ahead without him. The friends and the parents are not happy. For instance, when the father visits the scene where his son died, he expresses emotions that Chris never experienced when he was alive. The sadness and emptiness in his heart are manifested through his bitterness of loss of a son. Chris actions disappointed those who loved him, including friends and parents who would never see him again. Therefore, it is this feeling that makes them to be angry and sad when they learn of his death.
Loneliness has psychological effects as it affects an individuals behaviors to an extend of leading one to commit suicide (Zhou, Sedikides, Wildschut and Gao 1023). Through the book Into the Wild, Krakauer explains how the life of McCandless came to an end due to his loneliness and excluding himself from other people. He goes to the wilderness to gain piece of mind and to explore the world and rediscover himself. However, through his explorations, he feels very lonely and this makes him write or send postcards to some of his friends. There comes a time when he feels that he actually needs to be in a company of someone and this compels him to try to reach to some of his allies. Life in the wilderness is also very harsh (for instance, when he kills moose and squirrels to feed on). As days go by, the situation becomes worse and he loses his strength to hunt and eventually collapses and dies. Therefore, this is a demonstration of a chronic effect of loneliness. He wanted to stay and be on his own just to feel and to discover himself, but this turns into a tragedy when he loses his own life. If he had asked for help or if he had been in company of other people, he would not have succumbed to lack of nutrition as he could have received support. Therefore, this death is closely related to the aspect of loneliness.
Loneliness also affects the mental health of an individual. The mind of an individual usually wallows in thoughts and because of the feelings and emotions, such individuals have higher chances of engaging in deviant behaviors. They are usually disturbed and not settled at any time because they fear the unknown. Take an example of a little child left at home alone at night. Such a child will not sleep comfortably because he/she will have fear of the unknown and therefore, this will likely affect his/her cognitive abilities. Loneliness is also associated with schizoid characteristics among individuals as they see the world in a different way and may also experience social alienation. In this respect, we can see how McCandless is experiencing and feeling about the world. He feels that life does not need to be consistent and structured in a certain manner. Even after having gone to school, he does not seem to find any gratification in life. He has the feeling that this is not what the world or life ought to be, and that is the reason he takes the different decisions or steps about life. With the risks involved in his adventures, he does not seem to take consideration about it, but he is focused on what he wants to achieve. Therefore, this makes him defy the parents and the system structures in place to do what he feels is fulfilling to his life.
Another psychological effect of loneliness is that it causes poor decision-making among people (Psychology Today 1). Decision-making is a process that depends on an individuals understanding of a situation and is determined by various aspects. A lonely person is somehow stressed and therefore might not make the right decisions at the time because of the circumstances. It therefore becomes essential to ensure that a decision made by a lonely person is re-evaluated before being relied upon (Tatlilioglu 101). McCandless wanted to travel and remove this loneliness but the decisions he made were outrageous. For instance, he defies his parents and begins a journey to the wilderness. He also donates $25,000 to Oxford as charity instead of using the funds to pay for his law degree studies. This shows that his decisions were made out of loneliness (Jon 34). Had he not been in this situation, he would have otherwise made a different decision. In this case, he ought to have paid the money and pursued the degree or consulted with his parents about the issue.
In conclusion, loneliness has numerous psychological effects ranging from mental problems, suicide, poor decision-making, and sadness among many others. This is depicted through the book Into the Wild by Krakauer. The protagonist in the book, McCandless, is a character who illustrates the consequences of loneliness. Apart from illustrating the effects of loneliness, this is also a good book that teaches people about life.
Beadle, Janelle et al. Trait empathy as a predictor of individual differences in perceived loneliness, Psychological Reports, 110.1(2012): 3-15. Print.
Hawkley, Louise and Cacioppo, John. Loneliness and pathways to disease, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 17.1(2003): 98105. Print.
Jon Krakauer. Into the Wild. United States; Villard Publisher, 1996. Print.
Zhou, Xinyue, Sedikides, Constantine, Wildschut, Tim and Gao, Ding-Guo. Counteracting Loneliness: On the Restorative Function of Nostalgia, Psychological Science 19.10(2008): 10239. Print.
Psychology Today. The dangers of loneliness. Web. Dec. 4, 2013. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200308/the-dangers-loneliness
Tatlilioglu, Kasim. The effect of cognitive behavioral oriented psycho education program on dealing with loneliness: an online psychological counseling approach, Education, 134.1(2013): 101-109. Print.
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