Do we need people or shelter more to survive?
As humans, we need basic necessities to survive. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the most basic of needs everyone needs to survive are the biological and physiological needs i.e. air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex and sleep. Without these, one’s chance of survival is gravely limited; a fact most people would agree to.
Maslow again placed the need for love and belongingness third on the pyramid. This includes the need for friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love as well as affiliation to a group be it family, friends or colleagues. This follows the need for safety.
In theory, it makes perfect sense. But in reality, is it that clear cut? Let’s put aside the literal meaning of survival; and rather consider what it takes to have a meaningful life. Is it the physical space in which you occupy what fulfils you or the people in your life that adds some sort of purpose to your life?
People die of hunger or after being exposed to harsh cold weather due to homelessness. This isn’t news which is unfortunate but it is what it is. But being in isolation cannot by itself cause someone to die; other factors must be in play for that to pan out. But psychologically and emotionally, is it advisable for anyone to stay lonely for a long period of time?
Note that being alone doesn’t necessarily mean feeling lonely. One can be in the midst of family, friends and colleagues and still feel lonely. It’s not about the presence of other people that eliminates the sense of loneliness; the absence of feeling belonged to anyone or anything is what accounts for it.
Having a roof over your head keeps you safe physically; having people you can hang out with, confide in and seek support from is what keeps you sane psychologically and emotionally. Ever wonder why prisoners fear being in solitary confinement? Because loneliness is a dangerous emotion which can be overwhelming and delude you into doing something harmful.
Spending a year homeless is awful; spending the same amount of time lonely is miserable. If you have caring people in your life, they can offer you a place to crash until you are able to figure yourself out. If you have the plushest residence in town and yet have no one to interact with, you are bound to feel empty and sad at one point in time. Some things can’t be bought but they make all the difference.
We do need both people and shelter to survive. But can one be homeless and not lonely? Definitely. You can find yourself another homeless person to lament on your crisis to each other. On the other hand, is loneliness survivable? It is, but at what cost?
I’d rather spend a year homeless than lonely. We were not created to be islands but communities.
What about you? How would you rather spend a year and why? Kindly share your thoughts and thanks for reading.
© Josephine Amoako 2018