On The Solitary

“A Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence; because he has no Identity – he is continually in for – and filling some other Body – The Sun, the Moon, the Sea and Men and Women who are creatures of impulse are poetical and have about them an unchangeable attribute – the poet has none; no identity – he is certainly the most unpoetical of all God’s Creatures… not one word I ever utter can be taken for granted as an opinion growing out of my identical nature – how can it, when I have no nature?”
John Keats

There is an expression I sometimes hear: ‘Can you meet my needs?’ I feel this very question is false and cannot be asked. Needs cannot be met by another. Another can only meet transient wants, desires. Others can only meet you where they are, which will leave you wanting. Needs that can be met by others are not true needs.

The single need of the solitary is to become unified in solitude, with the help of all the other solitaries of the ages.

One characteristic of the solitary, and one reason he remains alone, is because he knows how quickly he can attach to others. Do not suppose he always loves his solitude. He experiences both the joys of solitude and the pains of loneliness with greater intensity than the outward directed man. Unlike the outward directed man, who typically attaches to one person and remains with that person, a choice that alleviates loneliness as well as passion, the solitary attaches quickly and detaches just as quickly. He has had past experiences of falling for those who he felt understood him, though he could not know beyond doubt. But the solitary is without fail a deeply intuitive person in the sense that Carl Jung defined it when he wrote,

“In intuition a content presents itself whole and complete, without our being able to explain or discover how this content came into existence. Intuition is a kind of instinctive apprehension, no matter of what contents…Intuitive knowledge possesses an intrinsic certainty and conviction.”

So the solitary has felt understood intuitively, not knowing why he feels this way but knowing it is so. He also intuitively understands that the vast majority of people who he meets do not understand him, and this is why he attaches to those very few who do. However, knowing he is not yet unified and knowing he can only become so in solitude, the detachment comes not long after the attachment, and the solitary keeps within himself the one who is gone. He introjects the other, in psychological jargon.

We had a falling-out, like lovers often will
And to think of how she left that night, it still brings me a chill
And though our separation, it pierced me to the heart
She still lives inside of me, we’ve never been apart

The solitary needs to be intuitive and intellectual, emotional and physical. Only if he is balanced in these ways can he maintain his sanity while being alone. Only by being balanced can he become unified. Having a balanced array of strengths allows the solitary to stave off excessive loneliness and do the necessary work which must be done alone, the work of creation, of ecstatic vigil, of maintaining and strengthening a private love that has the unified strength of being undistorted by object, that is not lost to unloving institutions or diminished by a constant search for someone who will receive it and return it in whole. Love cannot be returned in whole because it cannot be given to another as a whole. To be kept whole it must not be revealed directly. To attempt to reveal it directly is to split it.

At the same time, there is a way of not revealing it that does not leave it whole, when the not revealing is not chosen, when the love is held in out of fear while the person desires to find an object for it. In the solitary poet, this holding in of love can exist with the desire to keep it whole. He understands that his very self, what Keats calls his unpoetical character, his lack of identity, makes a long-term love relationship where he keeps his love whole impossible. He is not nearly consistent enough, not at all certain enough in himself, far too doubtful of any possibility of happiness with another. The solitary would need to be given the opportunity to spend months at a time out of sight of the other. If this is not possible, he will probably make both his and the others’ life a misery. He will look for some way to feel in a more intense way than it’s possible to feel in a day-to-day relationship, at the expense of the relationship itself. In a life of routine where passion must necessarily be deadened in order that work can be done, the solitary feels himself deadened and can do no work, for his work is the work of passion.

The solitary is nothing if not a passionate person. One reason he remains solitary is because his passion is so deep down, so invisible to the eyes of others. The only way he can express it is through nonverbal forms, through music and dance and art. It is not possible through conversation, so he tends to be silent because he desires to be authentic more than he wants to be on good terms with superficial relations, if good terms are synonymous with inauthenticity. What are good terms? Usually terms that lack passion. Unspoken terms that everything will be out on the surface and spoken, except for the terms of course, which remain unspoken. When all is ‘open communication,’ then communication opens no doors to the unseen. Doors remain closed and people remain divided.

Even if the solitary believed in being on good terms, if he could not speak to the other of his terms — that there are things that must remain unspoken — it would not be worth his effort. For one thing, he could not help but become aware that he is going against his own essence by doing so, moving away from unification by attempting to be on good terms with other divided people. Though he does not know who he is, he knows he acts as someone he is not when he tries to be on good terms.

And the solitary draws a line here. In art, it is acceptable to speak out of character, in the voice of another real or created person, for in that case he is empathizing in a deep way with another, he is actually becoming that other — “filling some other Body”— taking the form of another for the sake of expressing a truth beyond himself. But what truth is he expressing by being someone else in everyday relationship? He is only exposing himself to the untruths necessary to be on good terms — unspoken terms of repressed passion — in society. In society, the solitary must be another, as he can only be himself when alone, though who he is remains in a constant state of change and flux. What does not change is this: Who he is only reveals itself when he is alone.

But let the solitary be careful not to create an identity out of his solitariness, for the creation of identity is the work of the social world. In creating an identity out of being solitary, the solitary will not be a solitary — in fact, he will be renouncing who he is by saying he is that — because identity and solitude are opposed. The solitary is such as he is because he lives with the tension of having no identity, of being no one to others, so he can discover who he truly is. Being ‘unpoetical,’ having no ‘unchangeable attribute,’ he writes poetry until he is what he writes and no longer needs to write himself into Being.

It is also crucial that the solitary not avoid others solely because it is with them that he feels most alone. In that way he would be like the other-directed or outer-directed man who does not want to be alone because that is when he feels most alone. Whereas the solitary feels least alone when alone, in solitude.

Either the solitary will make an identity out of his solitariness, which is actually a renunciation — though it may be meant to be a celebration — of true solitariness, or he will renounce being a solitary with the knowledge he is doing so, go against his identity-less nature to try and find some niche where he can be someone, using some talent or other he might possess and being rewarded for that talent. But that talent will only come from what solitariness remains in his compromise. There can be no compromise in the solitary. Having an identity as a part of the social world is a compromise, and compromise itself belongs to the social world. Therefore, the solitary cannot compromise. He can write as long as he does not call himself a writer. He can dance as long as he does not call himself a dancer. He can teach as long as he does not call himself a teacher.

Instead, he must aim to accept his own solitariness. One way to do this is to learn to be comfortable with his silence, to refrain from speaking unless he feels compelled from within to do so. There have been and will continue to be many times when others try to compel him to speak, or gently push him to do so. That others will feel uncomfortable with his silence cannot be denied, and whether their approach is forceful or gentle is due to their own personality and makes no real difference. It is still an effort to coerce no matter how gentle.

The solitary must maintain his silence until the words are compelled out of him from within rather than from without. Maintaining his silence will also increase the tension in him. What is in him will strive with more desperation to find its way out. Unable or unwilling to turn to relations, he will be forced to find another outlet. His creative work will begin to take on the aspects of the solitary — passionate, intense longings unable to be communicated in any other way.

Carl Jung’s Personality Types, the MBTI, and the INFP Type

This is an essay I wrote for the Interpersonal Communication class I’m taking.



The wealth of material on the Myers-Briggs typology test is exhaustive and reading through it, though often stimulating and interesting, can be exhausting as well. But the test immediately intrigued me, especially after I read the description of my type, and was struck by a few sentences that told me things about myself I had never told anyone, and I knew I would end up writing the essay on the test. More than the test itself, and the actual questions that were on it, it was the differences in orientation that interested me. I asked friends and siblings to take the test, curious to see what type they would be. I took out every book from the library on the subject, though I knew I wouldn’t be able to get around to reading all of them in the week before the essay was due. Still, I was interested in the study of personality not because of extroverted reasons, because I had to write an essay and personality was as good a topic as any other, or because I needed to get a good grade on the essay. In typically introverted fashion, I took out the books because they interested me, stimulated me; in short, I checked them out for myself alone, for the internal enjoyment I would receive from them, with little regard for the observable, practical, external benefits that might be gained by reading them. I spent much of my time reading the book that inspired Myers-Briggs to create the test: Psychological Types, by Carl Jung. Although in the essay criteria it is mentioned that the first-person should be reserved for the conclusion, I will probably have to disregard that warning, as it is difficult to write on personality in a way other than a first person narrative. However, this essay will not consist solely of subjective feelings and thoughts, as I will quote and reference the books I read in my research on the topic, the authors of which have more authority than I do on the subject and more time spent in investigating it. As this essay is meant to be an exploration on the topic of personality, I will not limit it unnecessarily by starting with a thesis and going about proving that thesis. By the end of the essay I may have come to some sort of conclusion on the Myers-Briggs test and on personality differences and typology generally. But there is also the possibility that I will not come to any conclusion at all but instead explore to the end, exploring with no end in sight, wandering with no destination in mind.

Carl Jung came out with Psychological Types in 1921. In it, he laid out the descriptions for the extroverted and introverted types, and he broke up each type into intuitive, sensation, feeling, or thinking. Later, Myers-Briggs would go further and say that Intuition and Sensation were opposed, as were Feeling and Thinking. She also added the category of Judging vs. Perception. But originally Jung came up with eight types: extroverted or introverted intuitive, extraverted or introverted sensation, extroverted or introverted feeling, and extroverted or introverted thinking. Jung probably would not have thought Myers-Briggs’ test the ideal outlet for the expression of his ideas. In the foreword to the Argentine Edition of Psychological Types, he writes that the kind of classification of people, the dividing into types, was “nothing but a childish parlor game” (xiv). He hopes “to avoid possible misunderstandings” (3) about his descriptions of types, writing that his intention is not to “stick labels on people at first sight” (xiv), a “totally useless desire” (xv), but rather to at least partially organize the infinite extent of individual differences in psychological complexity into helpful if limited groups.

Most of the book focuses on the history of typing, in classical and medieval thought, in the Apollonian and Dionysian characters, in poetry, in psychopathology, in aesthetics, in philosophy and in biography. Only then does Jung go into his actual descriptions of the types. Although the main focus of the book is not on the descriptions, still it will be the descriptions that I focus on, as that is the connecting link with the Myers-Briggs test and thus the course itself. Although Jung writes that it would be “unjustifiable to maintain that one type is in any respect more valuable than the other,” he does seem to be a certain bias towards the introverted type. I almost certain he would identify himself with the introverted thinking type. As I identify more with the introverted feeling type, I will focus on his description of that type, comparing it to the INFP type from the MBTI.

In Please Understand Me II, David Keirsey calls the INFP The Healer, and groups it with the other three types who share Intuition and Feeling. This group he calls The Idealists, and writes that they “are very sensitive to how they are seen by others, and care a great deal about meeting others’ expectations” (Keirsey 139). This sensitivity, writing now specifically about the INFP’s, comes from an acute understanding of division, and an intense desire to heal “those divisions that plague one’s private life and one’s relationships.” (Keirsey 158). Both Keirsey and Jung remark on the imbalance between how this type appears on the outside, and what they feel on the inside. Jung, who mentions that he finds the type “principally in women,” (Jung 388) says they are “mostly silent, inaccessible, hard to understand…guided by their subjective feelings, their true motives generally remain hidden” (Jung 389). Marie-Louise von Franz, in Lectures on Jung’s Typology, writes, “Introverted feeling, even if it is the main function, is very difficult to understand…feeling is very strong, but it does not flow towards the object. It is rather like a state of being in love with one’s self. Naturally, this kind of feeling is very much misunderstood, and such people are considered very cold” (von Franz 39) But though the type might outwardly calm and stoic, even cold “on the inside they are anything but serene” (Keirsey 158), and anything but cold. Myers-Briggs, who was an INFP herself, said her type needed to find meaning in life. Loren E. Pederson, in his book Sixteen Men: Understanding Masculine Personality Types, writes that without meaning the INFP man feels “lost, depressed, and forlorn, as though he has been deserted by life.” (Pederson 169).  

To find meaning, to understand internal divisions, to find an outlet, a means to let out what they feel but cannot easily express, “to bring peace to the world,” (Keirsey 158). This is idealism in its purest form. Franz makes the point that introverted feeling is “rather like a state of being in love with oneself.” In trying to understand the type, she is doing a good job only of promoting more misunderstanding, more division between the extraverted type, who, in Jung’s words, “subordinates the subject to the object, so that the object has the higher value,” and the introverted type who “sets the ego and the subjective process above the object and the objective process, or at any rate seeks to hold its ground against the object” (Jung 5). It is true that, in types with an especial emphasis on either tendency, there seems to be a gap too wide to bridge. The introvert may always see the extravert as superficial, without depth, while the latter may always regard the former as egotistical, self-loving and other-hating. But perhaps the introverted man with a feeling emphasis, not wanting to limit the power and depth and breadth of his love by exclusive focus on one object, keeps it inside him, a midnight sun in the depths of darkest Arctic winter, a tender and delicate flower that can never be torn, an inner wild passion that is necessary for the soulful, sensitive man to live with the pain he feels at destruction of the outer wilderness and the construction of a material, soulless, technological civilization. To express the love to another is to dilute and domesticate it, to verbalize the love is to lose some of its power, its mystery. Better to stay silent than to speak. Better to wander alone and slowly cultivate the love in your heart until it cannot help but rush out from you in some form uniquely your own, perhaps in dancing or writing or music, likely not in verbal utterances.

The INFP type is rare. Pederson writes that the INFP type “is probably the most difficult type for a man to be” (Pederson 168). Extroversion accounts for 75% of the male population, he says, thinking for 65-70%, and sensation for 70% of the entire population. This can leave the introverted feeling male feeling very much in the minority. Lenore Thomson in her book Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual, writes that “types that are uncommon may have to work harder to be understood, but they are less likely to be seduced by a collective illusion” (Thomson 8). Because the strengths of the INFP type are often antithetical to the purposes of most social institutions, he can feel lost and isolated, misunderstood. But he also has the intuitive knowledge that his identity is not to be found in any social institution, in any profession; in short, in anything outside himself, in any role which he does not himself mold. His identity can only be found in the outward expression of an inner truth. It is because his potential is so great that he becomes disillusioned when unable to find meaning. When he is able to express that inner truth, he leaves behind disillusionment, he dismisses despair as an immature mindset towards life, he is released from a burden he had felt as intolerable. He becomes light, joyful, free.

To conclude, in taking the Myers-Briggs typology test, I learned to some extent why I had always felt strange growing up in the competitive, political, extroverted capital of the United States, where thinking and rationality and practicality were placed above feeling and irrationality and originality. I now know some of the reasons behind the strangeness, but the strangeness will likely remain. David Keirsey writes that it is typical of the Idealist temperament to “wander, sometimes intellectually, sometimes spiritually, sometimes physically, looking to actualize all their inborn possibilities, and so become completely themselves, even though the paths in search of identity are never clearly marked.” (Keirsey 143). So, born a stranger, I will wander the pathless lands of inner and outer in a rambling and unplanned way in order to understand the strangeness, to identify and express that strangeness in a way that makes me feel less strange, less apart, more a part of something greater than myself and in conformity with my true self.