Background: Adolescence is a crucial nexus for consolidation of either pathological defenses
against loneliness or the constructive and creative capacity for solitude. In order to become adults, adolescents
must make a transition to authentic autonomy.
Method: In this presentation the author discusses the life of the poet Leopardi and uses clinical material from
the psychotherapy of an adolescent to illustrate the complexity and importance of closer examination of the
phenomena of loneliness. The author examines various patterns in Anglo-American, European and Asian cultures
as they evolve normally and pathologically.
Discussion: Culture plays a large role in both external and internalized attitudes to aloneness, a fact that is reflected
linguistically and in defense styles in different countries. But this demand for acceptance and engagement
with the reality of separateness has been complicated by social factors, including lack of employment
opportunities, lengthy education and dependence, and ambiguity and ambivalence about what constitutes
separation from parents and family of origin in different cultures.