The three reasons I think INFPs are lonely are:
1. We separate ourselves.
2. We exclude ourselves.
3. We refuse to be compared to others.
Part One was about how we separate ourselves. Part Two is about exclusion.
In my early 20’s, I was looking for Us people who thought our problems were what made us individuals. What I attracted were depressed, angry and angsty people who blamed society for our woes. I saw myself in them and when realized that this wasn’t who I wanted to be, I felt more alienated and alone than ever.
My attitude changed when I started dancing. By some fluke, I was a good dancer and people would say hi. Over time it became easier to talk to people who I would have avoided before. In talking to Them, I realized that they weren’t this amorphous blob of shallow compromise that I had projected on to Them. They were individuals going through their own struggles and dealing the best they knew how.
That’s when I became “accepting” of other people or so I’d thought. I kept my eye out for potential friends. My friendship was an exclusive club and only the like-minded need apply.
Reason 2: Exclusivity (No-Compromise Syndrome)
The Problem with Exclusivity
I’ve never liked gated communities with their nitpicky rules. The Homeowner Association’s covenants are Russian novel thick and single spaced. The grass can only be so high. These are the only approved colors for your house. The rationale is that covenants keeps relationships orderly. Everyone has the same pages.
With the INFP gated community of friendship, we don’t pass out a rule book. Those rules are a set of expectations of how we feel we should be treated by a friend. Some rules are set in stone. Some we make up as we go along because we see that as being “flexible”. Friends have to call us back within X amount of time. Friends can only make plans without us under specific circumstances as defined in Appendix B subsection A of our mental manual of friendship. If anyone breaks the rules, we’ll keep a running tally until they go over some undefined limit and then we’ll stop talking to them without explanation.
When we start letting people into our gated community, we lavish attention on them since they’re one of the few. We go out of our way to make our newly minted friend feel special. But if we notice that they’re not returning our attention with the same amount of care, we feel taken for granted.
Next comes the small conversations like, I know you didn’t mean to do this on purpose, but you hurt my feelings doing these things and not doing these as stipulated in Addendum 1, 3, 4a and 666. Those small conversations become more frequent.
We feel better being so generous in our forgiveness of our friends’ little foibles, but our friends are wondering how many more Addendums there are. Friends start treading lightly so the don’t break another Rule that’s part of our value system. They can only be themselves as long it doesn’t break our rules. Is it any wonder our friends choose to move on to less restrictive relationships?
How Accepting Are We Really?
When INFPs say we’re open-minded and accepting of other peoples values, we’re talking about big ticket items like religion or politics. We hold up examples of how we’re friends with people of different world views. We hold up our live-and-let-live ideals. We say we don’t try to impose our values onto others. However, big tickets items don’t affect relationships in the day-to-day. What if the values of our friends affect us more personally? How easygoing and accepting would we really be?
Here are 2 examples:
Example 1. You have Good Friend A who you consider a close friend that you spend much of your time with. You meet New Person B who you think might become a good friend eventually. So you introduce New Person B to Good Friend A, they really connect. Good Friend A and New Person B start spending all their time together. They begin leaving you out of activities.
Would you consider Good Friend A disloyal or would you live and let live? You would never exclude a good friend from activities. But that’s just it, that’s your value not theirs. Maybe with their friendship values, Good Friend A doesn’t feel obligated to include you in everything especially in the getting to know each other period. How easy going and accepting would you be?
Example 2. You are good friends with Friend A. Friend A is good friends with Person B whom you don’t care for. You’ve been having a bad patch and you’ve been a downer lately. You hear through the grapevine that Friend A has been telling person B that you’ve been a real bummer and it’s getting to the point where it’s starting to be difficult being around you.
Friend A’s decision to tell Person B this comes from two of Friend’s A values: 1. You go to good friends when you need support. 2. Don’t crap on someone when they’re down. And that’s why Friend A didn’t go to you about your current behavior.
Would you feel betrayed? Or would you think, what goes on between Friend A and Person B is none of my business? If you feel betrayed, how can you be mad at someone for sticking to their values?
Open-minded and accepting also means accepting of other peoples values on loyalty, friendship and interpersonal relationships.
Our Rules Make Us Lonely
Of course we don’t want to be treated badly, to feel taken for granted or taken advantaged of. However, we have to ask ourselves if those rules are really about protecting ourselves or expecting friendship to be fair. Since INFPs tend towards fewer friendships, we have more expectation on each friend to fill our emotional needs. Our ideals of friendships creates expectations of behavior and reciprocation. We only want what’s fair.
In our mind’s we see ourselves as forgiving of possible wrongs that might occur someday. If someday, our friend crashed our car or ruined our favorite piece of clothing we lent them, we would forgive. At the very least in the present, we should be able to expect that they call us back in a timely matter. That horse-trading mentality makes us constant watchdogs waiting for the HOA of our friendship to be broken.
Our friends aren’t gifted in reading our minds to know what’s really important to us. So they tread lightly as not to hurt our feelings. Before they realize it, they’ve quit being themselves and have become this paranoid person who’s ever vigilant to getting on our bad side because they didn’t fuss over some gift that we spent weeks hand-making for their birthday. We feel our friend’s thoughtfulness should equal our efforts. That’s an expectation of fairness.
The quest of fairness always makes one person the rule enforcer and the other person the potential rule breaker. This attitude creates a barrier in relationships that keeps people from letting down their guard. It’s a reason why we feel disconnected and lonely because we can’t cross that barrier without lowering it and risk being hurt.
I think the most important thing that I’ve learned about relationships is that when you enter into them from a place of giving, you receive in return but usually not from the person you’re giving to and not in the form that you expected.
My issue with seeking fairness is that we will only get back what we put in. But being giving and open with no expectation of reciprocation opens up the possibility that universe will give us more then we had hoped.
My friendships have stopped being so exclusive and the guidelines have simplified.
1. Does knowing me help someone I know become a better person?
2. Am I becoming a better person knowing someone?
Here’s how I know a relationship is working. When I’m with that person, I am happy. I look forward to seeing that person. I’m not afraid that that person will hurt me intentionally. I’m not hesitant to speak up if I do feel hurt. Knowing that person, challenges me to grow. Being around that person gives me comfort when I feel sad. That person is someone I want to celebrate with when things are great.
I’ve let go of expecting people to behave a certain way or to treat me a certain way. However, I feel I’m more idealistic about my relationships than I’ve ever been. I want the most difficult thing you can ask a person and that is for them to be themselves, the good and the bad. I want authenticity where many find it hard to be authentic with themselves. It’s from our authentic selves where true connections are made.
It’s from those true connections where I finally feel understood.