Awareness Education

The Psychology of Alienation


Do you remember a friend you were once close to suddenly stopped talking to you? Or did a neighbour you used to talk to every morning while going to school, suddenly stop coming out on his/her balcony to say good morning? How about, the cousin with whom you shared a great bond, who went to some other state to prepare for his/her competitive exam, who doesn’t contact you anymore? While all of these examples might not have the same reason, some cases truly are a case of Alienation.

Alienation is a condition often defined as isolation or estrangement of a person from family, society, work sometimes even themselves. The person no longer happens to be a part of a family, social, work, or other groups. It’s almost like rejecting the company of others, even their loved ones. It’s just them and their sense of detachment from the world and their own emotions, thoughts, and beliefs.

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It is a complicated state of being which is unfortunately very common these days. In the age of social media, people live more online than in their real life. It’s sad that social media, once designed to connect people who live far from each other, is now making people isolated. But social media is not the only cause. Alienation can be caused due to several things. It is a sign of declining mental health as alienation can be accompanied by symptoms of depression, stress-related issues, insomnia, substance use, anxiety or phobia, trauma, etc. Here are a few signs and symptoms related to alienation.

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Signs and Symptoms of Alienation

  • Helplessness.
  • Rejecting social norms.
  • Feeling left out and disconnected.
  • Lack of purpose or meaning in life.
  • A feeling of estrangement from others.
  • Struggle to approach and communicate with others.
  • Experience of fear, discomfort, and uneasiness while at a social event.

Types of Alienation

  1. Self-isolation or estrangement: This is a feeling of disconnection from one’s self, emotions, thoughts, and beliefs.
  2. Cultural alienation: This happens when a person feels alienated from the already established values and norms of their culture and feels detached from it.
  3. Powerlessness: When an individual feels he/she has no control over their life and surroundings and doesn’t make an impact on the world.
  4. Meaninglessness: When an individual struggles to find a purpose for his/her actions, behaviours, or overall life and the world around them. The lack of purpose leads to a detachment and sense of meaninglessness.

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Causes of Alienation

1. Alienation due to mental health issues:

Alienation is one of the many symptoms of several neuroses (mood disorders, anxiety, somatic symptoms, related disorders, stress, PTSD, etc.) and personality disorders or any other mental health issue that causes a person to become isolated or distant from society and himself/herself.

2. Alienation due to adjustment issues with the environment

Sometimes a change of environment, loss of a loved one, change of workplace, or lost connection to a friend can cause alienation. The sudden shift of a person’s surroundings can lead to issues with adjustment and the person might feel estranged.

3. Alienation due to stagnation

Any type of dissatisfaction and feeling of being stuck in a situation can cause such issues. For example, a person might become alienated if he/she is not able to productively work on his passion and is stuck in a workplace that he/she doesn’t desire to be in.

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4. Alienation due to adolescence

Adolescence is the time when a person goes through different physical and emotional changes. A person might feel a lack of confidence, purpose, power, and meaning in their life. This is the time when most teenagers go through issues regarding bullying, body image, attachment towards caregivers, etc. This phase of life, often known as adolescence, might cause alienation of an individual, as they might feel insecure about themselves and choose to isolate rather than deal with the world.

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5. Alienation due to parenting

It is often known as a negative or alienated behavior displayed by the parent which causes distress to the child. This type of alienation can have different forms, such as, not being present, not spending time with the child, silent treatment of the child, neglecting and abandoning the child, and being indifferent towards the child’s needs. These behaviours often condition the child to isolate him/herself rather than ask for help when in need.

How to Overcome Alienation?

  • Write a journal every day and practice mindfulness every day.
  • Prioritize your loved ones and strengthen your relationship with them.
  • Ask for help, seek help from a mental health professional when in need.
  • Identifying the source of your alienating behaviour and understanding the cause.
  • Practice active listening and engage in communication with like-minded people.
  • Talk to like-minded people, and engage in simple social activities to stay connected.
  • Engage in some creative activities such as painting, dancing, singing, playing an instrument, gardening, cooking, etc.

So, now it is your chance to get back to that long-lost friend and reconnect with them. Always remember, your problems are a part of your life and not your entire existence. Have faith and hope for betterment. Ask for help when in need. It’s our life, it’s all that we have. Embrace, nurture, and live your life to the fullest.

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