Greenberg left the hospital, went to college, became a writer, and immortalized her beloved analyst as “Dr. Among analysts, Fromm-Reichmann, who had come to the United States from Germany to escape Hitler, was known for insisting that no patient was too sick to be healed through trust and intimacy.
She figured that loneliness lay at the heart of nearly all mental illness and that the lonely person was just about the most terrifying spectacle in the world.
Fromm-Reichmann even distinguished “real loneliness” from mourning, since the well-adjusted eventually get over that, and from depression, which may be a symptom of loneliness but is rarely the cause.
Loneliness, she said—and this will surprise no one—is the want of intimacy.
She once chastised her fellow therapists for withdrawing from emotionally unreachable patients rather than risk being contaminated by them.
The uncanny specter of loneliness “touches on our own possibility of loneliness,” she said.Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking.A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer—tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.The less educated are lonelier than the better educated.The unemployed and the retired are lonelier than the employed.“We evade it and feel guilty.”Her 1959 essay, “On Loneliness,” is considered a founding document in a fast-growing area of scientific research you might call loneliness studies.Over the past half-century, academic psychologists have largely abandoned psychoanalysis and made themselves over as biologists.Nor is “real loneliness” the happy solitude of the productive artist or the passing irritation of being cooped up with the flu while all your friends go off on some adventure.It’s not being dissatisfied with your companion of the moment—your friend or lover or even spouse— unless you chronically find yourself in that situation, in which case you may in fact be a lonely person.Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack.They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you.