A reader expresses his doubts: “Invariably I always decide that it is better to do without many people, although I try to have company and I am afraid of loneliness. But I apply such strict selection criteria that people in general seem harmful to me and I try to push them away. I do not make any effort to have friends or friends and acquaintances think I am serious and reserved. I do not go to social gatherings, I make excuses. I avoid meeting. Could this behavior be pathological?”
Decades ago, JB Rotter, a psychologist and professor at the University of Connecticut, postulated that there are two poles in the way we understand what happens to us. And that dichotomy affects our relationships decisively. The difference comes from the ‘locus’ of control, the “place” in which we locate the cause of what is happening to us. The people of ‘locus’ of internal control tend to think that the events occur by their own actions. They feel comfortable taking the reins and have a hard time delegating their decisions and letting themselves be carried away by others. The individuals of ‘locus’ of external control, on the contrary, usually blame what happens to something external. That is why they can be comfortable putting their lives in the hands of other people.
Like any vital strategy, both have advantages and disadvantages. The internal control, for example, learns more from their mistakes, because they tend to analyze what they can do to change. Those of external control, on the other hand, usually take better the situations in which there is nothing to do: it is easier for them to flow with the current, “to be water “, as Bruce Lee required in that famous phrase.
In human relationships the same thing happens: both factors minimize certain vital risks. Your internal control, for example, makes you little prone to codependence. In her well-known book on the subject, Pia Mellody, Andrea Miller and Keith Miller characterize this love dynamic from the “need of the other” that the person feels. When we live in a codependent relationship we are unable to imagine our life without the other and end up focusing compulsively on their needs. People like you are immune to this risk, because any sense of dependence repels them.
What you tell us in your email does not describe pathology, but a life option that channels your personality traits. Basing your vital architecture on internal control and independence motivation is perfectly viable. “I never found a companion more sociable than loneliness,” said the writer Henry D. Thoreau. And there are investigations that confirm the possibility of leading a life more isolated than the one that promotes the social “mainstream”.
The investigations of Dr. David Weeks, for example, demystify the drama of life with a certain hermit touch. Their data contradict the old idea that those who apply selective criteria to relate suffer more. Despite what is said, the extravagant, the most isolated people enjoy great health. For example: they go to the doctor once every nine years on average, while the general population does it twice a year. Moreover, according to this neurologist, his good physical health comes from “his insulting happiness.” Weeks are not a deluded person: his research associates these hermit patterns with “positive” and “negative” personality traits, such as nonconformity, self-sufficiency and self-sufficiency. Obsession with hobbies, but know that any of these variables produces as many advantages as disadvantages, for example: eccentrics usually have a greater degree of tolerance to frustration, explore new paths with less fear of failures because they do not care so much the opinion of others. “In each field, the eccentrics accept any challenge, but quality is not their motto, they can be great or bad,” says Weeks.
His project includes an approach to the life of certain historical figures. The conclusion is that the motivation for independence is perfectly channeled as a vital motor. Many of the great creators and artists of history would fall into this category. The cases of Benjamin Franklin, to whom the opinion of others mattered so little as to walk often naked (“I am taking air baths”, say he argued), or Oscar Wilde, who affirmed that “when people are agree with me I always feel that I must be wrong.” But they also fall into that category, according to this scientist, characters of the stature of Galileo, Darwin or Albert Einstein.
Another researcher on this subject is the psychologist Jonathan Check. His conclusions are that the high level of demand at the time of relating is not any kind of pathology. The search for existential autonomy is not associated either with depression or with social phobia, disorders that lead to isolation due to forced, unchosen solitude. The demanding ones become so because of the need for independent criteria. In fact Check thinks that it is a personality trait that is appreciated since childhood. From children, those guided by the motivation of autonomy prefer to be free although in return they have to take responsibility for their mistakes.
You live in a world in which this way of life is increasingly plausible. The current series, for example, are full of characters like Dr. House or Walter White who have assumed the advantages and disadvantages of this way of life. Psychologist Dustin Wood states that the environment is no longer so hostile to independent living. It is true that until recently the expression of our traits was regulated by a kind of barometer that told us how to act “following the flock”. But today, the motivation for independence and clear selection criteria when interacting with each other are increasingly being seen. Autonomy of thought is valued to the point that, as Wood says, “The collective imaginary begins to associate normality with neurosis”.
Of course, if you choose this vital architecture, you have to know your risks and try to smooth the friction with the environment. There will be a lot of “chosen solitude” in your life (which will be nice to you) but also a certain degree of “forced solitude”. Trying to take care of the few people that really are nutritious is essential to ward off that risk. With those that do not provide, perhaps you can serve as a reflection a paragraph created by psychotherapist Fritz Perls. He asked his patients to repeat themselves: “I am me and you are you. I am not in this world to fulfill your expectations and you are not in this world to fulfill mine. If at any time or at some point we meet and agree it will be beautiful. If not, few things we can do together. Because you are you and I am me…”