By Mark R Demos
"Future Shock" Meets "The Virus"
Loneliness was at epidemic proportions prior to the “Virus” which sent the experience of feeling or even being alone, into the stratosphere. The Virus pushed us into dark corners, told us to keep our distance, self-isolate, hide behind masks, and stay away from work, play and social setting. All were discouraged if not forbidden. These activities were our natural anti-loneliness vaccines.
As human beings, we are designed for connection. When we are isolated--whether by choice or edict--our entire beings begin to wither, and over time, we simply fade away.
The Evening Standard Insider, recently interviewed Dr. Marta Ra, the founder of Paracelsus, which is the world’s most expensive treatment center. When she was asked what the prevailing reasons were for people seeking her out for treatment during the lockdown, she replied, “The biggest one is loneliness.”
In 1972, the brilliant and celebrated futurist, Alvin Tofler, broadcast his dire warning. He said that if social connection was diminished by, or didn’t keep pace with the advances of technology, shock would set in.
In 2020, "High Touch" lost the race as "High Tech" which went into warp speed and was launched into orbit by "The Virus". Like a runner's achilles tendon being slashed during a 100 meter sprint, "High Touch" slumped to the ground limp.
In “Future Shock”, Tofler described what he saw was the likelihood of certain psychological states that individuals and societies would encounter, as they walked into the “Brave New World” which is now where we all live.
He warned that as individuals and societies experienced break-neck change, it would leave people lonely, disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation".
Savor those words for a few moments; “shattering stress and disorientation”. We ARE “Future Shocked”.
Are you experiencing "shattering stress and disorientation?" Who do you know what that is? At what level do you rate your feelings of loneliness? Are you “Future Shocked?”
In less than 50 years, we find ourselves in this world Tofler so presciently described. This lethal combination propelled us into a world of shock, disorientation, hopelessness, death, destruction, despair and mayhem. Like two high-speed locomotives travelling towards each other on the same track, they collided.
How Do We Live in This Lonely Landscape of “Future Shock”?
Loneliness has been attacked in many ways. Even before the collision, The UK had a
Minister of Loneliness and there was "The Happiness Club of Palm Beach". “Cow Cuddling” or as the Dutch call it, “Koe Knuffelen” is in great demand by the lonely and those craving physical affection; either giving or receiving.
Medications prescribed for loneliness are keeping pace with liquor sales, which is reaching record highs. The few who can afford it are trying to combat their loneliness by spending $350,000 for 30 days at the world’s most exclusive rehab and wellness center. Death by self--suicide--has reached tragic levels.
What I want to challenge you to do today is to truly understand that you can face the conflagration of once imagined, now realized, science fiction and a worldwide pandemic. You can begin taking clear and deliberate action steps starting today! Walk with me through the “do’s” and the “don’ts” of loneliness.
1. DON’T use your wealth to distract, indulge or pamper yourself.
The purchase of a pleasure is not the same as happiness. Soothing or exciting our physical and sensory capacities can't erase isolation and pain. We take ourselves and inner world wherever we go. Some people have access to so much wealth that they can pursue a life of instant and grand gratification for an entire life-time. They never stop long enough to breathe. In the small space between breaths, there is a depth of loneliness that can be savage. This is the place where ultimate hopelessness dwells. But when we come to understand that no amount of wealth can touch the deepest parts of our souls and dispel the darkness of loneliness, we have just taken the first step in the right direction. Indulgence, distraction and pampering reach their saturation limits all too quickly. More, more and more; variety, variety and variety; drip, drip, drip. Each attempt moves us further away from hope.
2. DON’T buy the company of people to fill the emptiness that you feel surrounds you.
Remember the tragic story of Zappos founder and author of “Happiness” I shared recently. He surrounded himself with well paid “advisors” whose job it was to keep him company, create distractions, supply him with drugs and procure sexual partners. Maybe the loneliest place in the world is in the midst of a crowd. Simply having bodies surrounding you does not dispel the hollow you feel. It will almost assuredly increase it.
3. DON’T be around people whose friendship you question.
Think through who turns up only when you pay. Exclude them! Who has demonstrated that they go on vacation only when you foot the bill for everything? Exclude them! Who have you reached out to regularly when you believed they needed encouragement but you can’t recall when you last got a call or text from them? Exclude them! Selfish and self-indulged people increase loneliness, they never relieve it.
They are emotional leeches. It might be time to swat them away like the flies they really are. They live by the maxim, “When the weather is fair, I will be there” or in the words of King Solomon, “Wealth attracts friends as honey draws flies…” “Lots of people flock around a generous person; everyone’s a friend to the philanthropist.”
4. DO leave your island of solitude.
Reach out to others in your life who are lonely. You know who they are. Open your eyes, they are to your left, your right and under your nose.
Give you. Be with people who matter to you and who need what you have apart from your money. Reach out to others who could use some encouragement with your physical presence. Get out, protect yourself as you feel fit and as others feel the need. Put on ten masks and a visor with gloves if you must, but get out and give YOU to others.
Go incognito and sign up to volunteer in places of real need. Lose yourself in acts of giving, serving and connecting yourself with others. Try not to, but if you choose to give, set a very low limit on what you give financially and never use your name. Become anonymous and see a transformation in your “aloneness”. I guarantee it works 100% of the time.
What about charities you support? Make a list. Go to their websites and see where they need in-person help. Go!
5. Do take the time to ask some of the big questions of life.
As the saying goes, "Tough times don't last but tough people do". It does help to think more deeply about how people have navigated and have found the strength to sail the deep, dark waters of life.
Learn how great spiritual teachers and leaders have been inspired to endure times of abandonment, crisis and loneliness. What have they said to encourage or strengthen themselves in the times of great loneliness?
What spiritual traditions or beliefs do you hold sacred, that anchor you and give you a sense of not being alone when your emotions feel unhinged? Times like we are currently experiencing force us to test the power of such beliefs. Do we honestly believe them when the rubber meets the road? Have they delivered when our other options fell short?
“I will never leave you nor forsake you” and “I am with you always”. (Jesus Christ) These are probably the greatest words of enduring hope for me personally.
If you experience a surge of hope and lessening of your loneliness, share it with others. Ask them what they have been holding onto.
Ask friends that you know who are doing well and have seemed to be managing their emotional lives in this "Future Shock Meets Virus" world. Ask what they have done. How are they handling the stress and changes. This is a time to build relationships
The greatest secret of sourcing emotional strength, is to give what we need to someone who is suffering like we are. You focus on their needs. You give to others what you so desperately seek yourselves.
The Legacy Forum can help. It can take immense courage to reach out and engage with someone to talk about the pressure and isolation you are experiencing. It always begins with you reaching out with a call, text or email. It is up to you and you alone have to break the silence.
When you reach out, please know that confidentiality is a value we hold sacred. We understand that your position as a business owner, corporate executive, professional, public figure or high-profile family must be protected.
After we connect, we will discuss how to proceed. Some of our clients choose personal retreats and some want to meet in person or on Zoom. We come to you or meet in a venue where distractions are minimized or excluded.
Mark R Demos
Founder - The Legacy Forum
P.S. I hope you take time to share this blog with friends and family