Why I Need a “Safe Space”

So, as I mentioned in my first (and previous) post, I’m an INFJ. Again, not a label I use as an excuse or a way to box myself in, but rather something I use as a tool to understanding myself better (thus allowing me to improve myself). The other day, I was pondering something that I noticed was a trend among INFJs I knew. Every INFJ I know seems to be insistent on having their own “space”, often used as a “safe space”. This can look very different for each INFJ (e.g. my mom’s is a barn – mine is a room with my TV, laptop, and gaming consoles, as well as some craft stuff), but we all seem to have one. The only common factor among all is that we all retreat to it when overwhelmed, and only feel comfortable allowing certain people in it – if those we don’t know well enter it, it feels like a violation.

INFJ’s are known for their rich inner worlds. So, why is there such an emphasis on having this “safe space” in an outer world? I think it’s to do with balance. Balance between our inner and outer worlds.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s hit a point where they genuinely feel like their brain’s mental train is steering itself, and you’ve been shot down to the role of passenger on the ride. We feel like we have little to no control over our thoughts (sometimes this is a relief, other times, a bother). This can often lead to us becoming emotional without explanation (when we start crying and genuinely don’t know why, for example), be that good or bad. Regardless, our minds become chaotic. Which means they’re no longer our safe haven to retreat to if we’re drained – they’re more like a warzone for a while.

That’s where our “safe space” comes in. If we can’t retreat inside ourselves to recharge, we need some sort of external world to retreat to. A place we know like the back of our hands, where we feel safe and comfortable. Somewhere we know has no threats, and where we can let our guards down. Somewhere where we can let ourselves go into auto-pilot and genuinely take a break to recharge. Thus, we each build our own little external world somewhere, sort of like the mirror of our ideal inner world.

So yes, INFJ’s tend to mostly live internally – caught up in their own heads. However, no, that doesn’t mean we place no value on the external world. Since most of the external world becomes a drain on us (e.g. ANY place with people, especially large crowds and/or strangers), we need an external world where we AREN’T being drained. One where we’re genuinely JUST recharging – not trying to recharge while still being drained minorly.

Imagine it like a laptop or a phone. If you leave it on for too long, it dies. Even if you leave it plugged in and in “sleep” mode to recharge, after a while, it stops working as well. It’ll overheat, or maybe just crash entirely. You can also kill the battery life that way. However, if you make sure you regularly turn the device completely off, then recharge it, it’ll probably run a lot better. INFJs work the same way. Sometimes, we need to just be able to completely shut down – no guards up, no worrying about being socially proper, no fear of judgement from those around us, no hypersensitivity to our own actions. So, we create our “safe space” and retreat to it so we can “shut down” and recharge.

The purpose of that safe space is also why we are very particular about who else can share in it. If those we don’t know well (or at all) invade it, we feel like our space is being violated – it’s no longer safe to just “shut down” and recharge. Only those who are closest to us are allowed to enter. Since we feel safe with those few inner-circle people, we still feel safe to “shut down” even if they’re in our safe space.

I feel this is also partially why we INFJs always feel strange bringing someone to our house, or showing someone our room (or other safe space, if neither of the previous is yours) for the first time. Since our “safe space” is usually a reflection of our inner world, showing it to people feels like baring our souls in front of them. Especially because we know they likely will not truly understand the depth or meaning of each thing in the space, and where it is, and why it’s there, we fear being misunderstood. And if we feel that if we are misunderstood, we will also be rejected. This is especially painful at this point, because someone even being allowed to enter this “safe space” must be close, so their possible rejection or misunderstanding hurts even more.

I could go on for a lot longer, but I think you get the point. If you’re an INFJ (or a similar type who understands needing a “safe space”), please remember to take care of that “safe space”. If it’s important to you, you need to make sure you treat it that way. If you’re not an INFJ (or a similar type who understands needing a “safe space”), then please remember to respect INFJs’ “safe spaces”. What may just look like an outdated, junky, childish, or perhaps borderline-hoarder room to someone else may very well be a “safe space” for us.

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