The power of loneliness

I’ve been interested in reading about George Sodini, the Pittsburgh area man who killed several people in at a gym two days ago. Media reports so far cite a blog Sodini wrote as providing powerful clues to his motivation for the murder suicide he carried out.

According to a blog the 48-year-old man wrote, he was missing something profound and essential from his life; the company of a woman.

“A man needs a woman for confidence. He gets a boost on the job, career, with other men, and everywhere else when he knows inside he has someone to spend the night with and who is also a friend. This type of life I see is a closed world with me specifically and totally excluded.”

Reading excerpts from this man’s blog, on which he allegedly wrote of his plan to carry out a mass murder, it is clear that Sodini suffered from profound mental illness, loneliness and insatiable rage. It’s easy to crack a joke that a man who hasn’t been laid in nearly two decades would go on a rampage, but it’s also hard to imagine just how miserable this man’s life must have been.

I’m not a psychologist or mental health professional, so I can’t claim to know how Sodini’s loneliness and experience of rejection influenced his decision to kill innocent people. My only guess is that coupled with poor brain chemistry and emotional issues, people who see the world rigidly seem far more likely to end their life and the lives of others.

Last week I watched Eric Steel’s 2006 documentary The Bridge, which tells the stories of at least a half-dozen folks who his camera crew had filmed jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge in 2004. Steel’s movie was obviously graphic, shocking and disturbing, but it was also powerful in that through the friends of the deceased, we are able to get a clearer picture of what contributed to their suicides. One of the central characters in the film is a man filmed walking about the firetruck red bridge. He wears a black leather jacket, dark pants, dark sunglasses and had long dark hair. He looks like someone you might find at a heavy metal bar or a record store. Quickly the viewer realizes that at the denouement of the documentary, he will leap to his death. His friends tell his story. In hid mid-thirties, he was a man who seemed to see the worst in the world and was unable to give himself a break. He claimed to only want the companionship of a nice woman, and went about seeking love through the Internet only to set himself up for a string of disappointment and rejection. At one point he even traveled to St. Louis to be with a woman he met online only to have that fall through. He called friends at one point from a span in that city, perhaps the Eads Bridge to tell them he was ready to jump. Months later, after returning to California, he did make the leap to his death, a very disturbing and effortless backwards 200 foot drop into the bay.

It seemed to me that this man had the expectation that if only he could find someone his life would have meaning. Perhaps approaching his forties, he felt there would be no way he could handle the indignity of life alone. I can’t be sure, but it seemed that his suicide was in part of his unbending expectation that things had to be a certain way or else life was not worth living.

A similar rigidity – coupled with obvious psychological and emotional issues – certainly contributed to the shooting rampage that George Sodini went on the other night before turning his gun on himself.

In no way am I justifying the actions of these men. I’m not sure, but I believe murder is a sin and suicide may be as well. Regardless, the emotions related with loneliness, particularly protracted loneliness are obviously very strong and can cloud the mind of the person who suffers. Most human beings feel a strong need to belong and to connect with others. Society in many ways indoctrinates us with the notion that we all must have someone in our lives. The proliferation of online dating sites attests to the need for companionship and relationship. Ironically, just as awkwardly approaching a potential mate at a coffee shop can yield little success and whittle down one’s interpersonal skills, so too can online dating. I know because I’ve been doing it for three years now with little success.

The easiest thing to do in dating and in searching for a partner is to beat the living crap out of oneself when it doesn’t work out. Rejection can be one of the most potent and vulnerable experiences a person can go through in their life. Coupled with loneliness, it can feed on itself. One needs more than anything the ability to acknowledge feelings of loneliness and the experience of rejection in their own life, accept the hurt it causes and then move on without holding on to feelings of self-hatred and anger towards the world.

It’s likely that Sodini had bigger more potent issues than simply being rejected by women. It’s unlikely we’ll ever be able to determine, despite any blog he may have had, his full motivation for ending others’ lives and then his own. Still, there are a lot of lonely people out there in this world; the great irony of a planet of 6 billion people.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi
    I enjoyed your post about Sodini. Very sad for all concerned.
    From what I know he didnt seek help did he? That is a choice that seemed to elude him.

    Lonliness can eat away at a person. I spent three years very lonely a long time ago but I remember well how I ached for someone or something to fill the void. The harsh reality was that I had to make it happen.

    In the thick of isolation and depression its difficult to fathom and I dont doubt he was depressed. Did he seek advice? Did he talk all this through with someone? To my knowledge he used a blog which proves how much he wanted ‘to tell’. One of the downfalls of the male sex is that the macho image portrayed in our media and through our upbringing tells us that we should have a pretty girl on our arm, be smart, successful…2 kids and a car in the garage.
    Damn the media. Damn society that brings pressure on people to perform in a certain way.

    I dont know why he took others with him. Thats the awful twist. To make others suffer knowingly is hard to understand. The man sounded pretty intelligent but intelligence means nothing in the depths of dperession ..if thats what he was. Reading his blog I found his words to be calling out for help.

    It is a crying shame that he didnt seek help.

  2. I think it was obviously awful what he did. Unfortunately, he had no positive coping mechanism for the loneliness that he was experiencing. It just became anger and hatred. Something tells me that it wasn’t in his makeup to see help. Your observation is right; there are a lot of expectations of being with someone. It’s tough. Thanks for the comment.

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