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Solitude vivifies; isolation kills.
-Joseph Roux, Meditations of a Parish Priest, 1886


Total Isolation Is Never
Healthy and Adaptive

With the possible exception of ascetics living on ledges at high altitudes, no one really wants to be cut off from everything.  "Leave me alone!" may be just another way of saying, "I only feel safe when I'm by myself."  Abusive childhoods, ghastly traumas, and other myriad shocks quake and sever individuals from their fundamental tools for love and, indeed, the hope for love.  Not only does the ability to love crumble, the pain can be so great that the very memory builds up a callused protective shell.  Damaged people toughen and retreat ever further into aloneness.  Their shield against intimacy grows by habit.

Solitary people come in many varieties.  They may seem shy.  They may seem curmudgeonly.  They may even appear totally normal, but continually withdraw into their self-imposed isolation rather than relate to others.  Even those who would like to overcome their solitude -- whatever its variety -- find it difficult to cease the behaviors that they have constructed to ward off intimacy.  Their solitary habits become the "known" and forays out are the "unknown."  The longer this continues the scarier and the less knowable the unknown seems.

I do not mean to suggest that everyone needs a husband or a wife or a lover.  I do not mean people should not live alone.  Some lone wolves get all the interaction they can handle through work and find they really require relative seclusion after hours, at least much of the time.  A few phone calls and an outing here and there are enough to sate their emotional demands.

In whatever amount, friends, family, and colleagues provide the close human contact that nurture and often challenge us to expand our emotional repertoire.  The reciprocity that loving relationships provide allows us to stretch our hearts and fortify our connection with mankind and with ourselves.  A loving circle of exchange that includes giving and taking is key to fulfillment.

Think Like a Shrink, by Emanuel H. Rosen, M.D.

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Close relationships, more than personal satisfaction or one's view of the world as a whole, are the most meaningful factors in happiness.  If you feel close to other people, you are four times as likely to feel good about yourself than if you do not feel close to anyone.

Magen, Birenbaum, and Pery 1996


Don't Face Your Problems Alone

Problems can appear to be unsolvable.  We are social creatures who need to discuss our problems with others, whether it be those who care about us most or those who have faced the same problems we have.  When we are alone, problems fester.  By sharing, we can get perspective and find solutions.  Here's an example:

It is a familiar story that the folks at Credit Counseling hear all too often.  It goes like this:  Sam missed a mortgage payment.  Then he missed a second.  Then he missed a third.  Then the bank came and took his house away.

When he missed the first payment, all kinds of things could have been done.  arrangements could have been made that would have protected Sam and his house.  Sam had friends who knew the rules, who could have helped.  Sam didn't ask.  He was embarrassed.  He got himself into trouble, and he was going to get himself out of trouble.

Problem was, Sam didn't know how to get himself out of trouble.  He didn't know what to do, and as days passed and his situation grew more grave, Sam only became more upset, more embarrassed.  As a consequence, he isolated himself even more from his friends.  Before they knew what hit Sam, he was out the door.  Credit Counseling's counselors tell people, "The only thing that hiding your problems accomplishes is making sure no one helps you with them."

Note from Vicky Jo:  this does not only relate to financial problems.  I know one INFJ who was verbally and physically abused by a freeloading live-in boyfriend, and she was so ashamed that she shut herself off from friends and family.  Thankfully the creep left her, but it took a long time before she bounced back from the downward spiral she was in.  In hindsight, all she had to do was reach out for help, and all her suffering could have been alleviated.  It's all too common for IN_Js to think they have to go it alone and can never ask for help.

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An experiment was conducted with a group of women having low life satisfaction.  Some of the women were introduced to others who shared their situation, and some of the women were left on their own to deal with their concerns.  Those who interacted with others saw a 55 percent reduction in their concerns over time, while those who were left on their own showed no improvement.

Hunter and Liao 1995
The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People, David Niven, Ph.D.

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Four Magical Personality Traits

According to the research of David Myers (a leading Positive Psychology therapist), people who are happier than average tend to exhibit four characteristics:

  1. high self-esteem

  2. a feeling of control over life

  3. optimism

  4. extroversion (surprising but true)

Our happiness will increase as we cultivate these personality traits.

I have to tell you that #4 rankled like hell with me when I first read it, since I have a preference for introversion.  Nevertheless, I admit that I am happier when I feel included and as though I am part of something that includes others.  I suspect there is something about this implicit in the type model, in that our auxiliary function activates our "parenting" archetype AND it is one of INFJ's highest values to be a "catalyst."  (It's hard to be a "catalyst" without other people!)  To reinforce this, the Evaluation Counseling school states that a basic human characteristic is craving natural relationship between any two humans.  This relationship seems to consist precisely of enjoying affection to another person, enjoying affection from another person, enjoying communication with another person, and enjoying cooperation with another person.

So, given all that and sitting with my resistance, I suppose it does make sense that "extroversion" is a source of happiness, since our extraversion is how we connect with others.

It does not need we must be extroverted All The Time.  What I make up is that for INFJs to feel truly happy, they must readily and freely express their extraverted Feeling and Sensing.

For some INFJs, perhaps this is something they must work on.


The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.
                              - Carl Jung

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Balance Alone Time and Time With Others

Some people love to be around others all the time; other people prefer to have more time to themselves.  Several research studies suggest that people who spend a lot of their time alone experience higher than average rates of depression.  People who live alone and introverts, for example, tend to be less happy.

However, spending all of your time with others can be unhealthy if it's used as an escape from yourself.  You should value your alone time as much as the time you spend with others.  Everyone needs  balance in these areas, so follow your instincts.  Though your head may be telling you to be alone, your heart might need company.

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