Why you should read this book

Posted by on Oct 4, 2009 in Books | No Comments

 Loneliness.large

Just re-read John Cacioppa's excellent Loneliness and think you should, too (if you're interested in the whole human beings as social creatures).

It's pretty clear from the start what kind of creature Cacioppa thinks we are

"If you asked a zookeeper to create a proper enclosure for the species Homo Sapiens, she would list at the top of her concerns 'obligatorily gregarious', meaning that you do not house a member of the human family in isolation, any more than you house a member of Aptenodytes forsteri (Emperor penguins) in hot desert sand. It simply makes no sense to put a creature in an environment that stretches its genetic leash so far"

Loneliness – the sense of not having appropriate levels of human connection – is (according to Caccioppa) like pain: an aversive adaptation. In other words, it helps tell us when something's wrong with the environment around us. And it hurts – really – and in fundamental ways. Loneliness can be as much a threat to your health as normally pathologised phenomena (such as obesity).

One of the things I love about this wise and humane book is the way it closes the loop – not only identifying the correlations between chronic loneliness and health (a strong negative connection) but it also  describes clearly the causal link at an individual level (5 different ways in which it impacts on individual health) and then goes on to work through how these things can affect the chances of any one of us achieving the human contact that we seek. 

And in the spirit he offers some practical wisdom for you, me and how we organise our lives, our organisations and our societies.

For example, he imagines how a cartoon guru might answer the Big Question of "What is the key to health, wealth, and happiness?":

"You are fundamentally a social being. The key to it all is to form strong social ties that are meaningful and satisfying, both to you and to those around you, near and far".

Go order it now.