We’re told that EVERYONE needs friends. Humans are social animals, after all. But what about those who like being loners? Is there something wrong with us, or is it society’s understanding of human nature that needs to change?
I don’t have any friends.
And I’m perfectly okay with that.
I genuinely don’t have any desire to form close relationships with other people.
A lack of interest in social relationships is a defining characteristic of the schizoid personality/schizoid personality disorder.
But to what extent are schizoids truly indifferent to forming relationships with others?
Nancy McWilliams, in her paper, Some Thoughts About Schizoid Dynamics, points out that: “I have never seen a person, among mental health patients or otherwise, whose reclusiveness was not originally conflictual.”
In other words, someone can claim all they damn well like that they are happy with their loner life, but they probably only became a loner in the first place because something terrible happened that made them want to retreat from others.
She also says that a patient’s claim that they don’t need close relationships, “shouldn’t be taken at face value” i.e. they must be in some sort of denial, or it’s a defence mechanism talking.
This insistence that no one could possibly prefer to be alone – not really – speaks to that cast-iron assumption that reigns supreme in our society – that humans are inherently social beings. Psychologists and biologists are adamant that interpersonal connection, and having close relationships, are essential to human health and happiness, because that’s just the way we’re wired.
It therefore must follow that if someone winds up distancing themselves from others – as the schizoid does – then it must be because they’ve experienced trauma or some other adverse life event:
“Schizoid personality disorder is believed to begin in early childhood as an adaptation to a major lack of attunement by the child’s caregivers. Instead of feeling safe, understood, and loved, the child experiences some combination of abuse, neglect, and intrusiveness. This leads the child to believe that other people cannot be trusted.”Elinor Greenberg – What Everyone Ought To Know About Schizoid Personality Disorder
This is why the schizoid seeks solitude: not because they want to be alone; but because they need to be alone so as to feel safe. The underlying assumption here is that the schizoid would have turned out more social (i.e as they were meant to), had their parents been more attuned, had they not been abused when they were young.
And I actually kind of agree with this.
I admit I do have issues when it comes to forming and maintaining relationships with people. The thought of getting close to someone gives rise to all sorts of anxious/icky/uncomfortable feelings in me. And I recognise this could be the result of what I experienced in my youth.
I was a quiet/shy kid, who didn’t talk a lot at school. At secondary school, the friends I’d had since I was 5 began to bully me because of this. I experienced emotional abuse, ostracisation; that sort of thing. There came a point when I decided to stop hanging around with them, and so became a ‘loner’. I probably made this decision because being by myself felt safer than continuing to hang out with ‘friends’ that made it very clear they didn’t like me? On top of that, I received no support from my parents. All I got from them was the same message my former-friends-now-bullies were sending me: I need to be less quiet, more social, i.e. more normal.
So, yes, when I say I don’t want friends, I acknowledge there is some ‘trauma’ talking there. I admit my solitude does serve as a defence mechanism; that a big part of why I prefer being myself is because it feels safer than being connected to others. Had I not been bullied the way I was, maybe I would have wound up more sociable, maybe I would have wanted friends (although I doubt I would have become anything resembling a social butterfly – as I said, I’ve always been quiet and somewhat socially distant; but under a different set of circumstances, maybe the schizoid gun wouldn’t have been fired, and I’d now be one of those ‘healthy’ introverts, the sort who wields her ‘quiet strength’ to make it the top of the corporate career ladder, and insists she’s not ‘asocial’ just ‘differently social’. Or something).
However, even though it could be surmised that my billy-no-mates state came about because of what I went through when I was young, that’s not to say it causes me any great trouble today. I’m not inclined to seek help to ‘fix’ my ‘issues’, because those ‘issues’ aren’t having a negative impact on my life.
I can honestly say that I don’t want friends. I like being alone. Not having friends doesn’t make me sad and it doesn’t make me lonely.
(It’s important to note here that some schizoids do want to be able to connect with others and have relationships, but their fear of getting close to people prevents them from doing so. This is what’s known as the ‘schizoid dilemma’, and is often what leads the schizoid to seek out therapy. It’s not the intention of this article to dismiss or deny this – pretty central – aspect of the schizoid experience, but rather to make the point that not every schizoid individual experiences such a conflict, or at least not to the extent that it causes them distress.)
We are led to believe that to want to be alone runs contrary to human nature.
Linked to this, we are also led to believe that everyone wants sex and everyone is searching for ‘The One’ to settle down with.
And yet the existence of asexual people (those who don’t experience sexual attraction) and aromantic people (those who don’t experience romantic attraction) prove that’s simply not the case. There’s still a way to go, but, thanks to the asexual and aromantic communities, the idea that someone might be sick/strange/not-human because they don’t want sex or a romantic relationship is gradually losing sway.
So, if we can dismantle the notion that sexual attraction and romantic coupling are essential to the human condition, why can’t we also question our ‘need’ for other types of connection – such as friendship? If we can acknowledge that not everyone has an innate, inborn desire for a lover, why can’t we also acknowledge that not everyone has an innate, inborn desire for friends?
There are people in the world who don’t want sex, and that’s ok, and there are people in the world who don’t want romantic love, and that’s ok. So, can it not also be the case that some people don’t want friends – and that can be okay too? Even when their friendlessness can be traced back to some past trauma or other adverse life event?
If a schizoid – or other asocial type – is getting on just fine on their lonesome, and their lack of friends isn’t causing them any distress, can we not simply let that be? Or, heck, maybe even go so far as to affirm that?
I’d like to think so. I feel quite strongly that one can lead a life quite contentedly without friends. And that includes schizoids, who are told that their lack of interest in relationships is an ‘adaptation’, a ‘defence mechanism’, that can be – should be? – worked on.
I believe there is a positive case to be made for being an asocial person, as there is for being an asexual/aromantic person. I believe someone can be happy and fulfilled, ‘despite’ not having any friends, just as it’s possible for someone to be happy and fulfilled sans sex or a spouse.