Lack of Community + Selfishly Independent = Depression

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People working in a community garden --- Image by © Monalyn Gracia/Corbis
People working in a community garden — Image by © Monalyn Gracia/Corbis

Until 12,000 years ago, approximately 90 percent of human history functioned off of food foraging. Our communities were simple with simple tasks and roles. It seemed the simpler our society, the easier it was to live comfortably in supportive communities where people truly helped each other. Perhaps in communities, relationships are naturally cultivated and nurtured. The more advanced our civilization has evolved, the more competitive and autonomous we’ve all become.

We triple lock our doors, scoff as we wiz by the neighbor with the morning coffee in hand and hope that no one else interrupts our perfectly sculpted routine. Today, especially if you live in big cities, it almost seems impossible to say you live in a real community. Back in the day, we used to be able to knock on our neighbor’s doors to borrow a cup of sugar. We used to wave to familiar friends as we jogged down the street. While some people can genuinely say that they’ve managed to find the best and most friendly community to live in, I’m going to say most people have naturally become more shut off. It’s like the more you crave community, the more it shows that you are weak, needy, and even insecure?!

According to an [1]Applied Social Psychology (ASP) article there’s a difference between communities and the lack of physical sense of a community. The article defines community as the following:

“A community is defined as a usually small, social unit of any size that shares common values. The term can also refer to the national community or international community, and in biology, a community is a group of interacting living organisms sharing a populated environment.”

But then, it equally points out the flaw in this definition in that, “Most people, unless extremely lucky, do not live in areas that they would describe as a true community. They may live in the same area, but the sense of community is just not there.”

I have lived all over the country (former military brat) and will say that there are more welcoming places to live than others. But, you have to be willing to reach out and do your part. Even still, people can close the door on your attempt to foster a situation of mere acquaintance to graduating the interaction to a level of friendship.

Over time, religion, organizations, and other such commonalities might help build communities around very active members and participants. But, even still, I’ve gone to various places with their own spiritual practices and ways of worship only to experience people shuffling off after service, as fast as they can. I do not profess to be religious. Though, I am spiritual in my own way; and I do not belong to one organized religion; however, I do see the value in it for some, if not all, people.

Being mobile and flexible to change has always been a part of my former military brat life style. It has had both its ups and downs. I can say I’ve traveled and have seen more parts of the United States than most and can brag that I once lived in Spain when I was a youngster. But, I cannot say that I have found my community yet. I do not currently have one, though I have made numerous attempts to cultivate, foster and build relationships in an organic way. No one wants a fake or superficial partnership with any other human. We all to some degree prefer the real thing, and it ought to happen naturally rather than be forced upon someone. Unfortunately, from personal experience and in [2]researching depression and its direct link to [3]loneliness, this is not the case.

In a [4]UK article one out of ten (approximately 4.7 million people) reported that they lacked close friends and even felt unloved. Nowadays, people are told that having boundaries is imperative, that the more walls you erect the more you seem to demonstrate a sense of self, independence and autonomy. So, we become comfortable with those we choose to let in and closed off to everyone else. We’ve become a highly untrustworthy culture, one of which it’s better to run to your door and lock it quickly behind you than to take a moment and speak to a stranger.

I love speaking to strangers. I enjoy opening myself up to new experiences and welcoming new friendships. I have no bubble I live in but have found that this is not the case for most people. Depression has been a life long battle for me. But, I know now what has fueled and made mine much worse. I know that isolation can trigger loneliness, that lack of friends or those in close proximity can often make things worse. [5]Researchers have found that depression was reduced the more people immersed themselves socially and as they became more a part of a social group. Social groups have been known to encourage members, feed their need for human connection and reduce depression linked to loneliness and isolation.

I ran into a woman who didn’t live in the area, but was visiting from Florida. She and her daughter commented on my beautiful daughter, our little bundle of joy, and we talked about babies. She said, “We were afraid to approach you because we’ve had such bad run-ins with people here.” I asked them to elaborate and they went on to describe some of the cold, snooty behavior they’ve experienced. They looked concerned because the lady’s son was going to move into the area for school. She asked, “Is everyone like this in this area? So cold, shut off, snobby and unapproachable?” Unfortunately, I told her that, this had also been my experience in Los Angeles, Southern California and the South Bay.


The Bottom Line:

I’ve had some really good conversations with people and positive interactions, but many people are really closed off. The likelihood of forming real long-term friendships around you as a part of making you feel like you belong to a community is extremely challenging. It seems that if and when people are nice, they want to keep you at “hello” and file you away in their head and heart as only an “acquaintance.” But, if you’re anything like me you refuse to stop being open, approachable and kind hearted. You won’t let social cliques define your self worth. I refuse to give up on finding and forming my community of loving, approachable and genuine humans that really do want to bring you close to their hearts. And if you’re a loving person in search of your community, I hope you don’t give up and that you never stop being approachable or open to new experiences. You’ll find that one day your love and willingness to embrace the world around you, including strangers and people different from you, will reward you in the very end.



Anthony J. D'Angelo



[1] http://www.personal.psu.edu/bfr3/blogs/asp/2013/06/communities-and-the-lack-of-physical-sense-of-community.html

[2] http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-report/major-depression/depression-feeling-lonely.aspx

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/16/depression-disease-loneliness-friends

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/aug/12/one-in-ten-people-have-no-close-friends-relate?commentpage=1

[5] http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/03/20/social-connections-can-help-to-reduce-depression/67371.html

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8 thoughts on “Lack of Community + Selfishly Independent = Depression

    unanimouslove said:
    August 13, 2015 at 12:56 PM

    Lack of Community + Selfishly Independent = Depression” I THINK YOU ARE CORRECT.

    Liked by 1 person

      lilpickmeup responded:
      August 13, 2015 at 12:57 PM

      Thank you, if only we were less afraid of everyone and more able to trust each other. We’d see a whole lot more community. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        unanimouslove said:
        August 13, 2015 at 1:01 PM

        TRUE!!

        Liked by 1 person

    Diana said:
    February 11, 2016 at 9:48 AM

    I served in the Peace Corps in Indonesia for two years, and though my neighbors were of a different religion, had different values, and sometimes couldn’t understand me, they welcomed me with open arms. I could knock on the door and join anyone for tea, and they came to my home to rouse me out of my American bubble that I was trying to build. Now that I am back stateside, I have all the foods and indulgences and luxuries that I missed– but my community is missing. I have never really met my neighbors. I come home after work and find myself longing for human contact, even if only in passing.

    Yesterday, I found out that an acquaintance from work lives near me. She is from Brazil, and has lived all over the world. She openly invited me into her home for a coffee any time, despite barely knowing me. It hit me that I have been so depressed because of lack of community. And furthermore, I need to aspire to be like my new friend– being proactive and equally welcoming to new people in my life. We don’t need to be afraid of people like we are.

    Liked by 1 person

      lilpickmeup responded:
      February 11, 2016 at 8:01 PM

      Thank you Diana for your thoughtful response. Serving in the Peace Corp sounds great, I know a couple of people that have done so. Exposure to a variety of culture is healthy for us. But, not many people would like to step out of their comfort zone. From personal experience, depression does indeed get a whole lot worse when we lack community. I’m glad you met your neighbor and hope you continue to build on that one on one experience. 🙂

      Like

    George | It Will Come 🐾 said:
    January 7, 2017 at 4:09 AM

    Great piece. Agree with most of your sentiments. Military brats and Third Cultured Kids (TCKs, of which I am one) share a lot of similar experiences moving around. Easy to
    connect quickly into communities, but never really feeling like you fit into any ONE.

    So if isolation > loneliness > depression, and community helps bridge the isolation gap, would it be fair to say that bringing back a true sense of community to the world would be solving a world problem? Or is this just a “Western” problem, due to all the hyper-connectivity and globalisation?

    Liked by 1 person

    Noel said:
    May 17, 2017 at 12:01 AM

    Thank you for this. Honestly I have been suffering with severe depression and anxiety and I keep feeling that its something wrong with me. When I lived overseas i lived in a dormitory where my friends and I spent every waking moment together. People were generally very friendly and often became my friends quite quickly. I’ve always had issues with people in the US being very cold towards me. I know its easy to say if you’re lonely spend time with your family but fact is I have no family. My childhood friends have such a hard time just answering calls and texts and although we live in the same town it seems impossible to have a relationship with them unless we planned weeks ahead. I wanted my home to always be an open space for people and for myself to be a loyal and sincere friend to everyone around me but fact is many Americans are almost frightened if you become too friendly with them.

    Liked by 1 person

      Sonyo Estavillo responded:
      May 17, 2017 at 9:36 AM

      This is very true Noel, other countries behave differently. There is more community and less need for autonomy. It seems autonomy equals success. But independence and autonomy can get in the way of building bridges and being open to meeting new people. It’s as though community and leaning on others equates to “needy” which is something that American culture despises. Great insight and thank you for such a thoughtful comment. Have a great Wednesday! ❤

      Like

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