Isolation Versus Introversion

When reading my “assigned” bible reading the other day, I came across this passage:

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.

Proverbs 18:1 (ESV)

My first thought was, “wait a minute, I’m not seeking my own desire!” In truth, however, I am. My desire to maintain my sanity. For all the extroverts out there, introverts such as myself don’t “isolate” ourselves from people, it is just that people are exhausting.

What is being spoken of here is that peculiar form of isolation where a person sets himself away from others, so as to not interact, but yet make decisions that impact the isolationist and those “others”. The isolation that Proverbs 18:1 speaks against, versus the isolation of an introvert, takes the form of being against someone. The Hebrew sense is more akin to division/confrontation, rather than the removing of oneself that occurs with introverts. It is often difficult to differentiate the isolation of introverts from isolationists, as the external behavior is much the same, especially to an extrovert.

How is an extrovert (or even another introvert) supposed to tell the difference? I think the end result (or what comes after the period of isolation) is the key. An introvert who has isolated himself, will come out of isolation better able to interact with others, and have more energetic interactions with others. Some introverts (like me, but not all) will have better emotional health, as well. At least for me, I find that if I drawn down the tank (so-to-speak) too much, I struggle with depression more (if I haven’t already fallen headlong into it), and the isolation puts me back on my feet.

However, despite the defense of isolation for the introvert, there is a danger when the introvert isolates himself when depressed. The depression may then take a life on its own, and the introvert may not be able to break free. Obviously, I’m speaking from experience. Again, how are you supposed to know when this is occurring? That is different from person to person (I know, not much of an answer). And here’s the real kicker, sometimes the introvert has to claw the way out of depression on his own, so actually be successful in recharging the introversion tanks.

It’s not easy living with us extreme introverts. A lot of what goes on in our heads never comes out. We don’t talk about the internal dialog, nor do we want to.

Determining the balance between healthy and unhealthy isolation for an introvert is a balancing act.