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From what I've gathered reading these forums the past few months it seems common for INFPs to withdraw from society and have periods of isolation from time to time, especially when we're trying to figure out some major life decisions or are going through some kind of personal problem. My question for INFPs who withdraw into solitude is what, if anything, do you do to maintain your friendships when you're in these isolated periods?

I am at a point in my life right now where I'm having a really hard time figuring out what I want to do with my life and I'm just trying to put all my energy into getting to know myself better so that I can make the best decision about how to move forward. It also doesn't help that I'm an extreme introvert and don't really crave any social interaction even after extended periods of isolation. My best friend is also an introvert (ISFX) so it's not like she's constantly asking me to hang out, but she's definitely less introverted than me and every few weeks if we haven't spoken I get a text or email from her asking me what's new with life. And I love my friend but I dread these messages because honestly the answer is nothing. Nothing is new with life. I'm still in the process of trying to figure out what to do with my life and until I figure it out I feel like I die a little inside everytime someone asks me that question and I have nothing to share. And what makes it worse is that I don't feel like I can share these feelings with my friends because they either don't understand or don't care. (Another common INFP problem? I know the few times in my life I've tried to talk about a problem with my ISFX friend she gives me the deer-in-the-headlights look until I stop talking and then she just goes back to talking about what's going on in her life.)

I know I'm happiest now when I'm by myself working on myself, but I feel bad when I get messages from my friends saying that they miss me. (Particularly my ISFX friend. I'm the closest friend she has and though she has a boyfriend they don't really share any interests, so I get the feeling when she reaches out to me it's because she's really lonely. I know when I saw her last month she was pulling out music and movies and games and she was just so excited to have someone to share these things with.) What should I do? Should I hang out with her and just hope that it doesn't leave me feeling like a loser when I have no news to share or drain me too much?** Should I ignore the messages and risk hurting my friends? Should I try to explain why I need to be a recluse for a while even though I know none of my friends would understand and would probably still be offended that I don't want to see them? Should I just pack up my things and take that trip around the world I've been promising myself so that I actually have a good excuse to be absent for a while? I'm at a loss here - I'm sick of being nervous that there will be a message from one of my friends everytime I check my email. How do any of my fellow secluded INFPs out there handle this?





(**I should add that my ISFX friend is really a nice person and we share a similar sense of humor and can have a good time joking around, but beyond that we have almost nothing in common. I enjoy deep conversations and experiencing new things. I really want to spend this part of my life exploring what the world has to offer. My friend on the other hand is very traditional and is pretty much afraid of trying anything new. This all makes our friendship largely superficial and therefore draining for me whenever I see her. Not to mention that it kinda bums me out to see my friend and be reminded that I don't even feel close to my "best" friend.)
 

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Hmm, well, since I'm not even sure I am an INFP(INXP), and since I am currently in a similar situation, I'm not sure I am the best person to give advice, but I shall try anyway. In my case, yes, I maintain my friendships, but I NEVER ever initiate a plan to go out or anything of the kind. It's always them asking me to do something together. I beleive the last time I asked my friends to do something was four years ago. Honestly, the only thing I do to remain friends with them is saying "yes" to their invitations regularly enough. Well, that and always being there for them if they need me, being loyal to death to them,and interacting with them at University every day. (Though we don't have necessarly classes together, we arrange to study, a.k.a. procrastinate in our homework together at least once a week.)

Like you, I don't crave for any social interaction. Actually, and I'm quite ashamed to admit it, I am still in an overly long period of isolation, which will have lasted seven years this December. I just CANNOT crave anything but solitude when A) I have personal issues that need resolving or B) I am working on the matter of introspection; I happen to be stuck with both A and B so, thus, social schmocial. It's just a matter of personality trait; introverted folks could live happily ever after without human contact fot a log time, then coming out every here and then to socialize, and extroverted persons snap if they are alone too much.

"Nothing is new with my life". That, I can definitly relate to. We INFPs have actually a lot going on in our lives, but it usually happens all in our heads. It's quite the war zone up there, but unfortunately, nothing of interest to others. I long ago gave up on telling empty tales filled with....precisely nothing, so I am taking alternatives options. I take the role of the commenter, and if luck arrive and something noteworthy happens when I am there, I pass it on. Apart from that, to keep my friends from being bored, I engage in philosophical talks, or debates. I try to be the mistress of tangents in conversations and link everything to philosophy. It usually works, and my friends and I end up in a two-hour conversation on the same subject.

If I were you, before deciding anything, I would try to figure out how much those friends of yours mean to you. Do you have any fun at all when with them? Do you see the relationship continuing beyond (I don't know how old you are) school, college, university, or if you are working, then, for very long? Is it an equal relationship? Personnally, from what I've read so far, it doesn't seem like great friendships to me, since you stated that you aren't really close, and you said that she didn't listen to you when you tried to talk about problems. If the relationship is one-way(her talking only about herself and not listening to you), then it doesn't seem worth much, or more than a superficial one. Bonding through loneliness without being compatible to one other isn't a good basis for a friendship, or any relationship, for that matter.

However, I'm confused, because you also stated that you loved her, and had a great time joking around, so... Is it possible that said friend doesn't realize how selfish she's being(if that's the case) and that while caring a great deal for her, it's just one of those times when you can't stand her(or anyone else) being around? I got the feeling that your friendships aren't that good, but I also get the feeling that you appreciated her...Your post seem full of contradictions:happy:

Anyway, I would try to figure it all out, deciding how much do you value those friends before either taking action. I know you said that you didn't have anything in common with your best friend, but is the relationship still fulfilling your needs, or is it not? Because, contrary to popular beleif, people can be great friends without having much in common. For instance, my best friend and I are pretty much as similar as night and day... however, we still are able to have lots of fun together(even if I prefer to be alone) and our friendship is kept alive through debates(which is the one thing we both like, though we disagree on EVERYTHING). Also, I had a friend which was almost my twin in personality, and it ended up being boring because it was like talking to myself and agreeing with myself all day long... What I am trying to ask is: are you still compatible as friends in spite of your differences or are you not?

If you decide that you want to keep them as friends, then I would accept once a month(at least) to go out with them, if I were you. I would keep a minimum of interaction with them regularly enough(If at school, then merely eat dinner with them(and you don't always have to be part of conversation)), go out once a month with them, and that's it. Of course, if you feel you can do plans more often than that, you can, but less than that is probably going to destroy your relationship. I know that from experience, you get so distanced from your friends that you loose your bond, closeness, whatever, and bang-it's over.

If those friends ask you why you aren't being social, just state the truth: that you need lots of alone time, to figure out things, and that it's not because you don't like them. If they are genuine friends, they should understand. If not...well, do you really want to keep friends that don't try to understand you?

However, IF you decide that they aren't worth it...that the relationships are beyond improvment, then I would distance myself slowly and slowly, by not responding their texts, saying you are busy, blah blah blah...eventually, distance should do the trick. Important advice: If going out with them makes you anxious, then it's maybe best if you don't. Just two years ago, I was almost physically sick by dread because I didn't feel comfortable enough with my friends, I always worried about what to say. Those fake friends dropped me, and honestly, it was for the best, as it made me relaxed, free of this burden...I found better friends(though it took a while) and even if I am still an insecure, worrying-about-boring-them out person, I am still pretty much relaxed, detached from it all. So, I don't know...it all depends on how much anxious you get when they ask you what's up with you.

Hopefully, my post wasn't useless:crazy:
 

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When she asks what's new, it's okay to say, "Nothing much" and turn it around to ask her. "What's new?" I feel is one of those niceities of small talk necessary to get to where you want to be (making plans to do something together). That way, you can share what you have in common - your common sense of humor. It's okay to tell your friend, "I've just been trying to figure some stuff out."

One of the toughest things I've learned (or am trying to accept) as an INFP is that it's okay for close/"best" friends to change over time. As we get older and experience different things and make more overarching life choices, our priorities and situations change. Since INFPs let so few people in in the first place, it feels like part of us or our life is dying, or at least it always felt that way for me. It's like the ship is sinking and you can't figure out where the leak is coming from. In some cases, you can repair the small cracks in a relationship. But sometimes a huge rift is there for no reason and there's nothing you can do but get out before the situation drags you down. Umm...to explain that convoluted metaphor. Try not to spend time analyzing where a friendship is heading, figuring out why it's not the same as it used to be and what flaw you must have that caused it (which I would always do). Unfortunately, most people we meet, even some we consider close friends, will never understand the deep level of care and thought that goes into our friendships.

I think it would be helpful for you to find someone else to balance this friend out, one who you can talk to about deeper things. I would try to cultivate an existing friendship or seek one elsewhere, maybe through a special interest group/club, volunteer activity, museum tour, etc. With the latter, you will still be "working on yourself" by pursuing an interest of yours. I've gone to music shows before by myself and not spoken more than 5 words to anyone, so it's possible to have alone time in public settings.
 

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Eh, sometimes we have to except each others differences. If you both can let go of your tendencies youll get along just fine. My best friend is INFP, so we "disappear" from each other all the time, for long period times, with the assurance that our friendship wont be effected.

We always say what we are feeling. We usually say whats on our minds. Nothing is really hard to say to her or her to me. Its honestly a wonderful, wonderful friendship. Weve been friends 11 years now, and will continue to be until we are old and decrepit.

Maybe your friendship will progress. But from my experience maybe you should try and make more friends. Find someone more like you or whos accepting. I give the INFP a high recommendation though!
 

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I think a lot of people feel rejected by me, either because I don't look friendly enough or seem to disappear for too long, don't run over fast enough to yell out 'hello'...Then when I'm ready to socialize it's like they've already made up their mind about me and have formed better friends in some kind of social group and then I feel very left out. There's usually some resentment on their part too so they have a chip on their shoulder after that.

It's taken years to get to this point and maybe this sounds strange, but I tend to just keep my distance emotionally from very extroverted people. My best friends are all INXX and it is just so much easier.
 

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Honestly, I don't have much advice about how to keep friendships alive or whether they're worth keeping alive or anything like that. My life and the people in it are incredibly different now than what they were three years ago, and three years ago, my friends were vastly different from what my friends six years ago were. To say I don't develop long, lasting friendships easily would be an understatement. I also thought I had found several such last year, only six months later, those fell from being the people who meant the most to me to people who hurt me more than anyone else has. *shrugs* that's the nature of human interaction and chance and choice.

As for you taking a hiatus, now that I am intimately aware of. As a matter of fact, half the reason I'm so active here is that I've been taking a hiatus from all of my friends, most of whom I interact with online. The only people I am speaking with who are a part of that social network are my roommates (despite multiple attempts from several to get me to confide in them what was wrong...) and that's primarily out of necessity as it's hard to avoid ones roommates when they're /always/ home.

It's very common for me to get excited about a group of friends or an event or whatnot, and then after a few months, I start to drift away and pull back. Well, at least with more casual acquaintances. The people who care tend not to let me do that, but still respect my need for time away from people. It sounds like your friend is already doing that since she doesn't hound you with calls or texts. If you need to take more time, then let her know, but I would also make sure that you have some idea about whether it truly is only going to be for a short period of time or if it is going to be more permanent. Let her know so she won't be waiting for you to come back and you never quite make it. From personal experience, there are few things in life that are so frustrating and demoralizing as being told "wait, I'll be back" by a best friend and then not seeing/hearing from that person for months and then being told "nope, not coming back."

Sorry, don't know if any of that was helpful, but I do wish you luck on your journey and determining what you're going to do.
 
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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks to everyone for the reponses.

If I were you, before deciding anything, I would try to figure out how much those friends of yours mean to you. Do you have any fun at all when with them? Do you see the relationship continuing beyond (I don't know how old you are) school, college, university, or if you are working, then, for very long? Is it an equal relationship? Personnally, from what I've read so far, it doesn't seem like great friendships to me, since you stated that you aren't really close, and you said that she didn't listen to you when you tried to talk about problems. If the relationship is one-way(her talking only about herself and not listening to you), then it doesn't seem worth much, or more than a superficial one. Bonding through loneliness without being compatible to one other isn't a good basis for a friendship, or any relationship, for that matter.

However, I'm confused, because you also stated that you loved her, and had a great time joking around, so... Is it possible that said friend doesn't realize how selfish she's being(if that's the case) and that while caring a great deal for her, it's just one of those times when you can't stand her(or anyone else) being around? I got the feeling that your friendships aren't that good, but I also get the feeling that you appreciated her...Your post seem full of contradictions:happy:
I guess my own contradicted feelings kinda took over my post. I don't even know how I feel about my friends sometimes. All of my friends (the 3 that I have anyway) I've known since I was little so I think a lot of our connection to each other is because we grew up together. In my mind the two reasons to have friends are to share good times and to support each other in bad times, but I know some friendships only serve one function or the other. I do love my ISFX friend and she is a sweet person and I'm sure when she knows something is bothering me she feels bad, but she's not really the kind of friend who will be there to comfort me. She's a "joke around and have a good time" friend and I can enjoy her company for that, but I would never go to her with a problem. I should clarify that it's not because she doesn't care but really more she doesn't know how to cope with problems so she just ignores them. She's been pretty sheltered all her life and has always had people there to take care of her and because she's never really experienced any major hardships she doesn't know what to say to people going through a bad time - she can't handle it. It's not that she's a bad friend. It's more that she just can't offer me the kind of friendship I find most fulfilling - one based on a deeper connection.

One of the toughest things I've learned (or am trying to accept) as an INFP is that it's okay for close/"best" friends to change over time. As we get older and experience different things and make more overarching life choices, our priorities and situations change. Since INFPs let so few people in in the first place, it feels like part of us or our life is dying, or at least it always felt that way for me. It's like the ship is sinking and you can't figure out where the leak is coming from. In some cases, you can repair the small cracks in a relationship. But sometimes a huge rift is there for no reason and there's nothing you can do but get out before the situation drags you down. Umm...to explain that convoluted metaphor. Try not to spend time analyzing where a friendship is heading, figuring out why it's not the same as it used to be and what flaw you must have that caused it (which I would always do). Unfortunately, most people we meet, even some we consider close friends, will never understand the deep level of care and thought that goes into our friendships.

I think it would be helpful for you to find someone else to balance this friend out, one who you can talk to about deeper things. I would try to cultivate an existing friendship or seek one elsewhere, maybe through a special interest group/club, volunteer activity, museum tour, etc. With the latter, you will still be "working on yourself" by pursuing an interest of yours. I've gone to music shows before by myself and not spoken more than 5 words to anyone, so it's possible to have alone time in public settings.
I have definitely felt my relationships with my friends changing over the past few years as we've grown into different people. I think a big part of the problem is that I feel like I'm looking for something deeper out of my friendships than my friends are. My friends seems to be happy as long as their friends are loyal and fun enough, but as I've gotten older and learned more about myself I've realized that that if I'm going to invest time into a friendship I want my friend to be someone I can relate to, not just someone I can pass the time with. My friends are good people but the kind of interaction I get from them just doesn't fulfill my needs. I agree it would help to find another friend I'm more compatible with to balance things out... now if only I could find one! I'm definitely no stranger to going to concerts, movies, etc. alone so maybe I'll get lucky and meet a solitary stranger at one of these events.

Maybe your friendship will progress. But from my experience maybe you should try and make more friends. Find someone more like you or whos accepting. I give the INFP a high recommendation though!
It's taken years to get to this point and maybe this sounds strange, but I tend to just keep my distance emotionally from very extroverted people. My best friends are all INXX and it is just so much easier.
I agree on both counts. If only I could find an INFP friend, I'd be set for life.

It's very common for me to get excited about a group of friends or an event or whatnot, and then after a few months, I start to drift away and pull back. Well, at least with more casual acquaintances. The people who care tend not to let me do that, but still respect my need for time away from people. It sounds like your friend is already doing that since she doesn't hound you with calls or texts. If you need to take more time, then let her know, but I would also make sure that you have some idea about whether it truly is only going to be for a short period of time or if it is going to be more permanent. Let her know so she won't be waiting for you to come back and you never quite make it. From personal experience, there are few things in life that are so frustrating and demoralizing as being told "wait, I'll be back" by a best friend and then not seeing/hearing from that person for months and then being told "nope, not coming back."
This is the hardest part. I know it's my responsibility to let my friend know what's going on so she doesn't just think I don't care about her, but I'm not sure if it would make her feel any better if I told her I need to disappear for a while. I don't think she perceives any kind of rift in the friendship so if I tell her I can't hang out with her for a while I'm afraid it would be out of the blue and offend her. And don't even know how long I plan on being absent... that all depends on what I decide to do with myself. I guess my best option for now while I'm still figuring it out is to maintain some kind of casual contact with her and update her as I figure things out. If I plan on being truly unavailable for a while I'll definitely keep your comments in mind and let her know.
 

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Wow this was definitely an enlightening thread. I agree with everyone! :laughing:

I've contacted people sometimes to hang out and they get very offended, stating that it's odd that I'm reaching out after ignoring them for so long. It's very hard to put into words that I haven't been ignoring them, I've been lost in my head, daydreaming about life, figuring myself out, etc. It's nothing personal against them, but some people really take it that way.

The friends I feel the closest too are the ones who I probably see the least - they always seem to understand that I need my space and never seem offended or threatened by it. When we talk, it's like no time ever passed. Those are true friends, if you ask me. They are also mainly introverts like me.
 

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On occasion I do. Historically on the internet, despite my introversion I have found myself with a slowly increasing number of social contacts, emotional bonds etc. This occured previously on fb, where I would chat to someone for an hour, they would add me as a friend (probably because it was the logical next course of action) and we would never talk again. As such, my life became entagled with lapsed friendships which exist in name only, yet still managed to weigh down upon me. Usually I must leave for a very long time and try and center myself again, I attempt to maintain in contact with those closest to me but it can occasionally become too difficult. My mind seems to want to remove all traces and temptations. I was away from facebook for an entire year previously without logging on.

I find enjoyment from a few, close friendships but as I forget to manage them (or even forget to delete 'lapsed' friendships) they start to weigh down upon me. Connections with no perceived benefit start poking and prodding my consciousness and in time turn my attention away from finding happiness in my own inner world. They become more like chains. As a result, I need to get away from it all and retreat into my own inner life and have time with my own thoughts, this is difficult in the current day and age due to work commitments. Unfortunately, current friendships also suffer as the weight on me becomes a little indiscriminate. So I don't necessarily retreat completely from the internet, just from pre-existing arrangments which take a toll from me. I may still look for advice, either from here or from answers yahoo at times where there is unlikely to require continuous input on my part.

It's a debate of non-attachment compared to detachment. Do I forcibly remove them (by retiring from PerC, deleting FB or just not conversing with people anmore) and learn only how to run away and not to grow... or do I stand tall and try and find harmony with them by not fleeing from it; despite the potentially detrimental effects of excessive interpersonal relationships on an intrapersonal mind?

I spend a fair amount of time in chat, the people are wonderful and as of the moment there aren't excessive amount of social connections. There are moments where there are for me, but not usually. I only maintain correspondence or speak with a couple of people on here outside of PerC (you people know who you are, and I deeply thank you for putting the effort into me :happy:) but if the number of people and social connections became too high I would not be able to appreciate these anymore, which would make me feel like a terrible person. At times, I feel like leaving this place. Perhaps not retiring but leaving my account acting for a while and just overcoming the need to attend every day when my mind is focused on something other than understanding MBTI or enneagram theory which is what I would ideally like to focus on when here. It would have small consequences at best so I'll see how it goes and how it works out for me.

Hope the long post wasn't too off topic! I only just realised that I thought a completely different question was being asked! Oops.
 
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