Locked-Down Americans: Isolation & Loneliness in 21st Century

FRI, MAY 15, 2020 (57:03)

Social distancing has been especially hard on humans, as social animals we are wired for connection. But the coronavirus pandemic didn’t cause the isolation issue it just exacerbated it. In 2018, 28% of adult households in the U.S. were single person households and 63% of the adult population remained unmarried. But we are not happier, over 35% of adult Americans report themselves to be chronically lonely, up from 20% in 1990.

J. W. Freiberg’s latest book Surrounded by Others and Yet So Alone looks at the problem of chronic loneliness through his unique lens as a social psychologist (PhD, UCLA) turned lawyer (JD, Harvard). His case studies are infused with the latest brain science which reveals that loneliness is actually a sensation, like hunger or thirst, not an emotion like anger, which we can talk ourselves out of. So how do we surmount this current crisis and help to create healthy connections going forward, in our own lives and in the lives of our children?

Image: Book Cover

+ BIO: J. W. Freiberg

J. W. Freiberg holds a PhD from the University of California and a JD from Harvard Law School. He has been called “the Oliver Sacks of law,” given the story format in which he elects to address the topic of loneliness. His publications on the origins of the ever-growing chronic loneliness that plagues contemporary society consist of three books. Four Seasons of Loneliness: A Lawyer’s Case Stories (2016) presents four engaging case studies that exemplify how living disconnected and in isolation can terminate in chronic loneliness. Growing Up Lonely: Disconnection and Misconnection in the Lives of Our Children (2019) presents the written papers from the 2018 Symposium on Loneliness in Children organized by Freiberg and held at the Kennedy Center in Boston. Finally, in Surrounded By Others and Yet So Alone: A Lawyer’s Case Stories of Love, Loneliness and Litigation (2020) Freiberg switches back to a story format to present five more enchanting case stories that illustrate the different manners in which compromised and unrewarding relationships constitute another route by which misconnected individuals can end up chronically lonely.

He is also the author of two critically acclaimed earlier books: Critical Sociology and The French Press as well as over thirty-five articles, book introductions, and other scholarly works on social psychology and legal issues. Freiberg often contributes to radio commentary on the epidemic of loneliness that plagues contemporary society; links to his commentaries can be found on thelonelinessbooks.com. Freiberg, a member of both the Massachusetts bar and the bar of The Supreme Court of the United States, lives in the Boston area, and continues to both write and lecture about how to deal with the loneliness epidemic.

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