Isolation and Psychopathology

Let me share with you a popular rat experiment in the 1980s. In the experiment, a lonesome rat is put in a cage with 2 bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time they run the experiment, the rat becomes obsessed with the drugged water and keeps coming back for more and more. Until it kills itself ...

A well known psychology professor, Bruce Alexander, observed something odd about this experiment. He noted that the rat was put in the cage all alone. It had nothing to do but drink the drugged water. So, professor Bruce tried something different. He built a Rat Park with plenty of friends, colored balls, and best-rat food. The results were startling. The rats with positive environment for companionship and activity didn't like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it. None of them died.

Now, this I know, human beings are not rats! In my practice and in our life in general, no one is exempted from hidden psychological and spiritual roots that can keep us in bondage to unhealthy habits, addictions, or breakdowns even in a positive environment. Still, a significant factor is a healthy environment where there is community or social support such as loved ones and friends, in overcoming and avoiding addictions and mental disorders.

Therapeutic, purposive social recovery is part of psychotherapy. Isolation kills. When one simply reaches out and seek help, it breaks the cycle of isolation. When one tries to reach out to other people, it begins an important process of gaining freedom from a trap of something within one's self. Real human connection in our society is often minimal. For too long, we claim "I can figure this out by myself." We need now to talk about the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us. We need now to see the essence of social therapy if we are to survive life's ways and wounds.