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Decolonise This IX: The Existential Loneliness of the Other

13th May 2024

Notes: On my morning power walk along the seafront, I passed a homeless man who was using a homemade slingshot to fire stones at one of the seawalls beneath the promenade.  I said hello, as usual, and he greeted me back.  A friendly man, I asked him if he did this every morning.  He replied that he did, and that it was a form of meditation for him as he started his day. 

In terms of the theme of this month’s blog, loneliness, got what that man needed from such an action.  With his bike and his bag in one of the nearby shelters which homeless people often sleep in, this man seemed to me content and contained, cheerful and kind, no matter his circumstances.  Although alone, he was not necessarily lonely.

There are many ways to consider loneliness, too many for these blogs, but perhaps the most pertinent one for today is emergent from the existential arena.  Existential loneliness speaks to a disconnect from everything outside of oneself.  From others, family, friends, and society, this is a phenomena which many endure, including at times the homeless (Gallagher, 2023).  With it though comes a darker side.  The pain of existential loneliness may well leave an individual or a group with difficult feelings which need to be cauterised, be it through drink or drugs, or via violence, meaning the mental and somatic pain of separation can often be unbearable.  In the readings of Kierkegaard, my sense was that this was someone who often carried a sense of loneliness with them, a loneliness though not just about the external, with his story being as much about separation from Self (Kierkegaard, 1989).

Loneliness is therefore a complex theme, a complex experience to consider and to turn around in my tiny hands.  Yet, it is something which we would have all felt at some point, have all endured or craved, loneliness and aloneness, solitude and separation.  And given my own family background where often isolation was the weapon of choice, it is something which has stayed with me ever since. 

13th of May 2024

Thoughts: That early meeting had me thinking about the times when I was alone.  In my own family, my father worked hard to split myself and my brother.  He was the accepted one, I was the outcast, he got whatever he wanted, I was refused even the most basic of requests point blank.  I learned to become self-sufficient from quite and early age, meaning that when I left home, I was more or less ready.  Being ready does not mean it was not difficult.

That it was not a lonely route to follow.

I have written before about how the coloniser needs to create an inside group and an outside group of the other in order to maintain control (Turner, 2023).  I have also considered in that same text the idea that psychologically, the superego colonises the egoic sense of self we all have from an early age, also creating an other, a stranger or the shadow (Homer, 2007; Stein, 2005).  Scapegoating, that process whereby the other is coated with the sins of a family, a culture, or some other grouping, is an ancient term, which also speaks of the separation and the loneliness of the other (Perera, 1986).  Just like the shadow within is cast into the unconscious wilderness to walk the Lonely Man Walk (nee The Incredible Hulk 1970s TV show), black people, nay, the other is often cast out and separated from the centre to manufacture their own way in the world, separate, alone, lonely. 

The coloniser’s need to maintain power, to create a barrier between them and that which might be a threat to their supremacy, was echoed in my home as a child.  My father, an immigrant from Jamaica, who came to the United Kingdom as part of the British Empire, yet often spoke about being treated as a second, if not third, class citizen, would often ‘punch down.’  Punching down here involves othering of another human (another group, gender, sexuality, or neurodiversity).  Then what we do is we make them our scapegoat.  We pin to their wool hide all of our fears, our most hated aspects of ourselves, our sins.  We make them wear that which we do not want to acknowledge about ourselves, and we send them away.  Much like my father would dismiss me, like when I left home and rarely spoke to him again.  Much like when enduring the abuses from my ex-wife, and I was left alone without even my daughter for solace.  We coat and we cast the other into the wilderness. 

14th of May 2024

Diary Note: I was out for my jog this morning, pondering my own loneliness, or aloneness.  I was weighing this all whilst smelling the salty sea air.  The drizzle on my face, the wind at my back.  The waves and nods of everyone out at so early o’clock as their dogs run past with balls in mouths. 

For all that I have endured at the hands of my parents and my ex-wife, for all the aloneness and loneliness I have experienced, there are moments like this one this morning when I am happy.

Are we ever really alone though?

I was sat in my local church recently, and during the sermon I found myself recalling first coming here during those dark times post the end of my marriage.  Aloneness back then meant a lack of hope, to me at least, and in delving back inwards, through therapy, through my dreams, and through the religious and spiritual connections built with that church and my ancestors, I found I was never really alone. 

My father was the real lonely man, I realised.  He was someone who came to this country looking to belong, to fit in, to be a part of project Empire.  Yet, the darkness of the racist reality he encountered was nothing like the colonisers’ dream of community and perfection he had been sold.  In his inability to stay with then he made us, my brother and myself, conduits for his pain, his loneliness.  So, whilst I use my father as an example, do not be fooled into thinking that other systems do not enact themselves out there in the world.  From the family, where one child appears troubled, whilst the rest of the family look on seemingly perfect in their ignorance of what they do not want to acknowledge of themselves; to the rights movement which punches down on another minority group whilst seeing out systemic support from those both in power and who they are subtly subservient to; both groups hold a hate which cant be contained and which needs to be exorcised/projected onto another other. 

In a way, loneliness is a social construct then.  It is something built out of a script which says that we should always be with people.  That as we belong to a gender, sexuality, age, or culture, that we should always act in accordance with said grouping.  That if we perform and are accepted by that group we will be accepted, and therefore that we wont be alone.  Yet, the reality with performativity, is in its social construction of a false sense, in our engagement with performative toxic masculinity, for example, we make ourselves lonely from the part of us which wants to be sensitive, to cry, to create, to listen to jazz, to live in the countryside, and walk by the sea. 

14th May 2024

Notes: The gift of being alone, and being used to being alone, is that I have the space to create.  My diary writing came from this space, my intuition, my hearing the ancestral voices in my dreams and synchronicities.  They all come out of this space.  Being alone now does not mean I am lonely.  It means I am alone existentially, but in relationship spiritually.  I am alone on this plane of existence, but within, within me I walk with an army.


Gallagher, S. (2023). A Critique of Existential Loneliness. Topoi, 42(5), 1165–1173.

Homer, S. (2007). Jacques Lacan: Routledge critical thinkers (Kindle Edition). Routledge.

Kierkegaard, S. (1989). The Sickness Unto Death. Penguin Classics.

Perera, S. B. (1986). The Scapegoat Complex: toward a mythology of shadow and guilt. Inner City Books.

Stein, M. (2005). Individuation: Inner Work. Journal of Jungian Theory and Practice, 7(2), 1–13.

Turner, D. D. L. (2023). The Psychology of Supremacy. Routledge.