Isolated Pattern

Interpersonal Behavior

Avoids relationship, contact, or commitment

May be in a love relationship but not allow much intimacy

May avoid commitment to a love relationship

May avoid all relationships or keep them shallow

May react negatively to any perceived violation of his boundaries

May react negatively to increasing closeness in a relationship or being needed by the other

Distant, cold, withdrawn

May not feel much need for human connection

Tends to focus more on an inner life

Need for privacy and separateness

Tendency toward compartmentalization, both internally and with relationships

Assumes that he has no impact on others

A tendency to only relate to certain people

May avoid contact with a person, or temporarily withdraw rather than engaging.


Group, Community, Organizational, and Work Behavior

A tendency to exclude certain people from the group

May drop out of a group or situation to avoid engaging emotionally

May drop out of a group or organization when it is becoming more intimate or committed

Tendency to be a loner, to prefer to work alone



1.   Afraid of being controlled, violated, attacked, or otherwise harmed in a close relationship, especially violation. 

2.  Afraid of not being able to be himself in a relationship

3. Can also be afraid of abandonment 

4. Can also be afraid of feeling deep needs because of extreme deprivation or neglect

5. Can be in service of insecure pattern: If he stays withdrawn or avoids trying to related to others, he can’t be rejected.

6. Can also be afraid of being obligated to others


Core Issues/Origins

Harm issues where harm came from parent or sibling

Can also come from extreme neglect, abandonment, or obligation (see motivation above)



I don’t need anyone.

Don’t intrude on me.


Underlying Thought

If I am close to someone, I will be harmed.


Healthy Patterns Blocked

Connectedness, caring, vulnerability 



More common in men


Activating Conditions

Love relationships; closeness, being needed

People of same gender as parent who harmed the person

Perception of the type of harm that originated the pattern



The need-denying person is afraid of being shamed for having needs, not of being close

The defiant person is also afraid of being harmed, but he defends through fighting back rather than by avoiding closeness

Healthy autonomy involves being able to enjoy being alone but doesn’t involve avoiding relationship or closeness


Combinations of Isolated Pattern with Other Patterns

Compliant: Isolation is a defense against being compliant in relationships

Codependent: Cares for others from a distance 

Controlling: Only allows closeness if person can be completely in control of other

Prideful: Doesn’t need anything from others because he is above them

Defiant: Creates distance by rebelling 

Suspicious: Creates distance by suspicion and provocation


Related Technical Concepts

In the extreme, schizoid or schizotypal personality disorders

Intellectualization is a common defense




Clients who have been violated or exploited may be attracted to people with an isolated pattern because they have good boundaries

An isolated client can get into a defense cycle with a client who is needy and blaming or a victim. The other client will demand caring in a judgmental way and this will trigger the isolated client’s fears of closeness, causing him to pull away. This will inflame the abandonment fears of the other person. 

As a codependent or compliant client is improving he may go through an isolated phase in order to develop his boundaries

An isolated parent is likely to produce deprivation, abandonment, or rejection in a child.


Distortions of Perception

Sees self (and others who are isolated) as having healthy autonomy

Sees people who are connected, caring, or vulnerable as dangerous


Dynamics with Other Patterns and Capacities

An isolated person may be attracted to people who are also isolated. After a while they will be bored with each other. 

An isolated person may also be attracted to people who are connected, caring, or vulnerable but then run when they begin to get close.


How to Relate to Isolated People

Circumventing and Disconfirming: Don’t make demands for closeness or show need. Don’t do anything that can be interpreted as whatever kind of harm originated the pattern.

Protection: Don’t depend on them for closeness or getting needs met.

Using Their Strength: Give them work that can be done alone. 

Healing response to an isolated person becoming connected: Don’t move in too fast. Don’t do anything that can be interpreted as harmful. Go very gradually.


How to Experiment with Healthy Behavior and Attitude

Allow yourself to feel your needs for closeness and connection.

Stay in a relationship instead of running when its becomes intimate.

Pay attention to the emotional aspects of a relationship you are in.

Take the risk to ask for nurturing or connection when you need it.

Take the risk to open your heart and really love.

Allow yourself to depend on a love relationship.

Allow yourself to feel and show vulnerability when it is there.

Experiment with being yourself or protecting yourself in a relationship rather than closing down or leaving.

See yourself as part of a pair (or group) rather than a totally separate person.



Choose people who want closeness but can go gradually

Choose people who won’t harm you if you are close or vulnerable

Choose people who will appreciate your opening up and connecting

Choose people who aren’t too needy



Possible Symptoms 

Schizophrenia, dissociative disorders, depersonalization



Treats therapist as purely an expert. Blocks awareness of feelings or personal relationship between client and therapist. 

Becomes frightened if therapist moves toward intimacy, but not necessarily conscious of this


Countertransference toward Isolated Client

Desire to break through and connect with client; ignorance of the degree of his need for protection and distance

Boredom because of remoteness of client


Countertransference of Isolated Therapist

Difficulty in connecting with clients in a warm and personal way

Too intellectual in approach to therapy

Can’t nurture or form intimate relationships with clients who need this

Subtly discourages clients from dealing with positive feelings toward therapist


Group Roles/Positions

Silent member

If lower functioning than the rest of group, can become group mascot

If attractive and unavailable, can become object of pursuit for some members




Forming the Alliance

Don’t move too quickly toward closeness with client. Let him keep as much distance as he needs.


Understanding of Pattern Needed by Client

Realizing that the client’s lack of desire for connection is a defense against closeness. Becoming aware of other behaviors that serve to distance people. Feeling the underlying motivation to avoid closeness and the fears behind it. Becoming aware of the fear of harm, abandonment, etc.


Disconfirming the Core Issue

The client will be afraid of being controlled, violated, attacked, or shamed (also abandoned or obligated) depending on the underlying issues. Be careful to avoid acting in a way that can be intepreted by the client as such.


Accessing Core Issues and Origins

The harm or abuse, or abandonment, etc. 

This brings up vulnerability, which can also be difficult for an isolated person. Approach carefully.



Protection from harm, both protected by self and by others

If group members move toward client too fast, interpret client’s distance as fear of harm so they understand his need for it

Acknowledging any actions that may have felt harmful to client, such as intrusion, and being more careful in future


Modeling Health

Introduce idea of therapeutic relationship as personal

When the client seems ready, move toward him in a personal way, being careful to go slowly and process his reactions, watching for his fears and defenses


Accessing Healthy Capacities 

Need for connection, vulnerability 


Experimenting with Healthy Behavior

Reaching out for connection

Showing needs or pain

Allowing closeness and vulnerability 



Appreciation for reacting out or vulnerability.

Responding with respectful caring and connecting


Healing Relationship

Closeness in which person is not harmed


Potential Problems 

Isolated client quits group or becomes very judgmental in inclusion stage because of fear of commitment

  • Predict this at beginning and help him to see that his desire to quit comes from this pattern, so he stays to work on it