ON THE SENSE OF LONELINESS(1963)
IN the present paper an attempt will be made to investigate the source of the sense of loneliness. By the sense of loneliness I am referring not to the objective situation of being deprived of external companionship. I am referring to the inner sense of loneliness-the sense of being alone regardless of external circumstances, of feeling lonely even when among friends or receiving love. This state of internal loneliness, I will suggest, is the result of a ubiquitous yearning for an unattainable perfect internal state. Such loneliness, which is experienced to some extent by everyone, springs from paranoid and depressive anxieties which are derivatives of the infant's psychotic anxieties. These anxieties exist in some measure in every individual but are excessively strong in illness, therefore loneliness is also part of illness, both of a schizophrenic and depressive nature.
In order to understand how the sense of loneliness arises we have——as with other attitudes and emotions——to go back to early infancy and trace its influence on later stages of life. As I have frequently described, the ego exists and operates from birth onwards. At first it is largely lacking in cohesion and dominated by splitting mechanisms. The danger of being destroyed by the death instinct directed against the self contributes to the splitting of impulses into good and bad; owing to the projection of these impulses on to the primal object, it too is split into good and bad. In consequence, in the earliest stages, the good part of the ego and the good object are in some measure protected, since aggression is directed away from them. These are the particular splitting processes which I have described as the basis of relative security in the very young infant, in so far as security can be achieved at this stage; whereas other splitting processes, such as those leading to fragmentation, are detrimental to the ego and its strength.
Together with the urge to split there is from the beginning of life a drive towards integration which increases with the growth of the ego. This process of integration is based on the introjection of the good object, primarily a part object-the mother's breast, although other aspects of the mother also enter into even the earliest relation.If the good internal object is established with relative security, it becomes the core of the developing ego.
A satisfactory early relation to the mother (not necessarily based on breast feeding since the bottle can also symbolically stand for the breast) implies a close contact between the unconscious of the mother and of the child. This is the foundation for the most complete experience of being understood and is essentially linked with the preverbal stage. However gratifying it is in later life to express thoughts and feelings to a congenial person, there remains an unsatisfied longing for an understanding without words～ultimately for the earliest relation with the mother. This longing contributes to the sense of loneliness and derives from the depressive feeling of an irretrievable loss.