Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states
I receive an enourmous number of E. Mails like the following:
I feel the same way too – –
I am 21 years old and a jr. in college… iI have zero friends here. I talk to people, but no one seems to stick. I also feel that I have no one to talk to as well, I actually cried while reading some of the comments becuase I thought I was the only one with this problem. I feel a little better to know that I am not the only loser out there
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During the 1950’s and ’60’s, the U.S. government built huge housing projects for the poorest segment of urban America. While the intention of the projects was to provide good housing for the poor, it soon became apparent that these projects became the centers of the worst imaginable crime, including drug dealing and drive by killings.
Recently, it was decided to move people out of these projects, bull doze them and place residents in more user friendly communities that are smaller and more attractive.
Then, something surprising happened. Many of the dwellers complained that they did not want to move. How is this possible? While the protesters are few in number they make a valid point that families have now lived there for decades, formed close friendships, built a real sense of community cohesiveness, protected one another and came to feel fond of the environment. No one asked them if they wanted to move. Perhaps this is symptomatic of something that has gone wrong today, not only in the United States but all around the world.
It has been my observation that more individuals than ever before are coming to the office because of feelings of loneliness, isolation and desolation. Some of these patients report feeling they have an inner void numbness.
Judging From These Examples, Has the world become Schizoid?
We know that there is a psychiatric diagnosis called Schizoid Personality Disorder. Fundamentally, people with this disorder are emotionally cold, indifferent to others, experience inner emptiness, live solitary lives and are detached from others. In effect, they are people who feel anonymous and invisible.
According to Rollo May, more people than ever are coming to the office with these symptoms? He clearly states this in his book, Love and Will.
Here is a quote from that book:
“The schizoid person is the natural product of our technological age. Technology has a tendency to de-personalize, to value size, speed and efficiency at the expense of community, organic growth and human contact. In those areas where the growth of technology is out of hand, such as in the world’s major cities, personality problems are rife: depression, suicide and irrational violence are regular occurrences, and there is widespread apathy, listlessness, despair and vandalism. Apathy and violence seem to go hand in hand for…,
The human being cannot live in a condition of emptiness for very long: if he is not growing toward something, he does not merely stagnate; the pent-up potentialities turn into morbidity and despair, and eventually into destructive activities.”
In other words, people eventually explode into violence out of a sense of despair and hopelessness.
Anyone can see examples of this schizoid way of living by watching television or reading the newspapers. For example, we hear of the economic costs of hurricanes, earth quakes and other natural disasters. We hear of the numbers of people killed and injured as a result of these disasters. The same applies to the economic costs of war, and the numbers of soldiers killed in action. We are supposed to feel reassured by the number of casualties suffered by the enemy.
In the field of mental health, cognitive behavioral psychotherapy has proven to be an effective treatment for such problems as depression and anxiety disorders, among others. However, in the hands of poorly trained or uncaring therapist, the patient becomes only a fragment of a human being who is devoid of feeling. The focus, for some of these therapist, becomes an “automatic thought” or type of thinking that plagues the patient. Even the term, “automatic thought” reveals a mechanistic and dehumanizing view of human beings. The same can be said for psychoanalysis where someone has too much “id or superego.” This is also mechanistic and dehumanizing.
Modern technology, which has speeded world communication, has not done much for human interaction. We may talk to one another over the internet but we remain anonymous. In fact, it is much easier to “flame” or insult others over the internet because of its anonymity. It seems that we are closer and further away than ever before.
Despite all of the wonderful engineering, scientic and techological break througs of the twientiet and twenty first centuries, people feel depersonalized.
You and I cannot change the world. So, what can we do to protect ourselves from becoming schizoid? What can we do if we believe we are already schizoid? Instead of hiding out in our apartments, we need to reach out to others and make contact. It is true that those with schizoid personality disorder feel threatened by interpersonal closeness, but they can and do seek psychotherapy which is the first step towards forming an attachment. The rest of us need to talk to and help our neighbors.
When I had shoulder surgery last year, one of my neighbors, someone who I knew only in the most casual way possible, walked my do three times a day, something he volunteered to do without my wife or myself ever asking. Very soon, he and his wife became good friends. All of us need to knock on the door of our neighbors and ask to borrow some sugar, the old method of introduction to new people, and the first step towards forming a new attachment. While it is true that this may not work with everybody there are many other people who very much want to form new attachments.
In addition, people can form new relationships taking part in community volunteer activities.
Everyone needs to make the effort to reach out and end the social isolation and alienation that pervades modern life. Do not allow yourself to become just a number and do not allow your neighbors to remain something like strange aliens.
Does any of this sound of this sound familiar to you? What are your comments about this important issue.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD
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