Profiles of the Emotionally Unavailable: The Intellectualizer

bones-temperance-brennan

Emily Deschanel as Dr. Temperance Brennan on TV drama "Bones"

This isn’t your ordinary analytical partner.

The Intellectualizer is one form of the emotionally unavailable partner. The Intellectualizer has to analyze, quantify, and categorize anything in order to understand and experience it. In the love and romance realm, this includes emotions.

Emotions aren’t easily categorized — they are shapeless and unpredictable. So the Intellectualizer ignores them when possible. If you attempt to emotionally engage the Intellectualizer, they will freeze up and back off, or express their thoughts, instead of their feelings.

The Intellectualizer isn’t always a bad choice of partner. If you’re satisfied with an intellectual, unemotional relationship (perhaps if you are an Intellectualizer yourself), then you’ll have no issues with the Intellectualizer. But if you expect your partner to show emotion at certain times and to feel rather than think, you’ll be in it alone. The Intellectualizer will try but they are so emotionally unavailable that they can only simulate true emotional involvement through practice and study.

The Intellectualizer usually won’t see their emotional distance as a problem. They tend to view themselves as rational and steady, and one who makes wise, well thought out decisions. Other, more emotionally expressive people –everyone else– are the ones with problems. Why can’t they get in control of themselves and their emotions?

Such unevolved, troubled beings!

What the Intellectualizer doesn’t realize is that they are far from untroubled and certainly not more evolved. Life and relationships in particular require emotional involvement. By rationalizing their feelings they are blocking themselves from truly experiencing life. Intellectualizing creates distance between themselves and their emotions, so they don’t actually feel them. This prevents real connections from being made with other people, including their significant other.

What can an Intellectualizer do about this? Usually they won’t do anything, since they don’t see a problem. But if the Intellectualizer can make a commitment to feeling their feelings, and not thinking them, they can improve over time. If your partner is an Intellectualizer you can help in small ways, like reminding them to begin sentences with “I feel” or “I believe” instead of always with, “I think”. But the Intellectualizer has to connect themselves with the emotions they are always leaving behind.

Have you ever been involved with an Intellectualizer? Are you one?

See also:

  • Profiles of the Emotionally Unavailable:
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30 thoughts on “Profiles of the Emotionally Unavailable: The Intellectualizer

  1. Well, I’m definitely not a psychologist but it sounds like the intellectualizer developed this type of personality at an early age as a protection from….. Maybe he/she hasn’t been hurt personally but witnessed trauma at an early age and decided that emotions were too messy. I’ve only worked with people like this in my business classes for projects but I’ve never dealt with it in a relationship. I will never forget this guy Aaron, I swear dude spoke and operated like a freaking robot, no emotions whatsoever. But he was extremely effective in classwork and you guessed it, we scored an ‘A’ in that class. You might be a robot but I love you Aaron. Lmao.

    Alee, what’s up? Long time.

  2. Hi Udara,

    “Maybe he/she hasn’t been hurt personally but witnessed trauma at an early age and decided that emotions were too messy.”

    Yes, they learned not to trust emotions, for whatever reason. Could’ve been trauma, could’ve been surroundings that encouraged a rational approach to everything (which could be considered traumatic, ha).

    Or that’s how the theory goes. 🙂

    I’ve known guys like Aaron. And yup, you do want them working with you on projects. That’s when their constant rationalizing comes in handy.

    “Alee, what’s up? Long time.”

    I know. You should stop by more often. A Lofty Existence is open 24 hours (even when I’m not around).

  3. I’ve never met anybody like this.

    People who don’t know me well describe me as cold, so maybe they think I’m one?

  4. Mira,

    “I’ve never met anybody like this.”

    Really?… Interesting.

    “People who don’t know me well describe me as cold, so maybe they think I’m one?”

    They might, but intellectualizing doesn’t have much to do with being cold. Actually, Intellectualizers can come across as warm, if they studied interpersonal skills well and long enough. I’d say a good portion of the people I’ve worked with in labs and hospitals are Intellectualizers. They are really nice and “fun”, but there is something very studied about the way they interact.

  5. Seriously, never. Well, it’s probably due to my relative inability to read people and not because I’ve never met one.

    But seriously, most of the science types don’t fit this description. And I know many scientists.

  6. I don’t think i’ve met a person like this as well (not that I know atleast).

    Hah I learn so much on your blog 🙂

  7. Mira,

    “But seriously, most of the science types don’t fit this description. And I know many scientists.”

    How are they?

    Nkosazana,

    “I don’t think i’ve met a person like this as well (not that I know atleast).”

    With an engineer husband? Huh, I’ll be the judge of that. 😉

    “Hah I learn so much on your blog”

    Yay. That’s a great side-effect. (The main purpose being to talk about random, yet pertinent, crap of course. :D)

  8. Well I’m terrible at judging people as I said before lol. People tend to take advantage of that 😦

  9. All of you people who don’t understand people… how did you get here? I write about people and their quirks most/all of the time. Perhaps you’re looking to know [more]?… Yup, I’ll go with that idea. 🙂

  10. Can crap be pertinent?.

    Am pleased you made a distinction between an emotionally cold person and one who intellectualises emotions. Know plenty of the latter and they make for some of the most endearing people. Cold or emotional people can be right pains (looking at myself in the mirror and giggling). I don’t agree though that such people develop this from trauma. I’d rather think it’s a learned behaviour, ie stemming from family and not negative. An emotionally cold person is more, imo, a traumatised person.

  11. foosrock,

    “Can crap be pertinent?”

    Yes, very much so. 😉

    “I don’t agree though that such people develop this from trauma. I’d rather think it’s a learned behaviour, ie stemming from family and not negative.”

    It can be learned from family. But it isn’t always. Sometimes it is from just having bad experiences with emotional expression. That was the case with an ex of mine (the ultra-avoidant Southern one I’ve mentioned in the past). He grew up with a chronically sick brother and his parents didn’t have as much time to spend on him and didn’t need the extra “burden”. He felt that expressing emotions was bothering them, so he learn to think them away.

    “An emotionally cold person is more, imo, a traumatised person.”

    Well, an Intellectualizer can be cold, and vice versa. Just not necessarily so. A cold person could be very emotional but they’ve trained themselves not to show it and “stuff” them.

  12. The Intellectualizer is not a cold person. It is not a result of trauma. It is a personality type. I am one.The personality types fall under the Rational catergory.(I can’t remember the name of the personality profiler test). I have never been comfortable displaying excess emotion . I am by no means a cold or unfriendly person. I just feel that all of that display takes away from whatever goal I’m trying to accomplish.

  13. Hi Olivia,

    I knew someone would disagree with that characterization. But I’m just the messenger; you’ll have to take grievances to psychologist Bryn Collins — she created these profiles based on her years in practice.

    And yes I can see some overlap with the “Rational” NT types or any strong T type.

  14. I am an Intellectualizer when it comes to other people’s relationships. 🙂

    When I was younger, a lot of my friends came to me for advice (true story: that’s why I majored in Psychology in college) on their relationships, and I was going through this phase where I read a lot of non-fiction books on common teenage experiences (dating violence, racism, being excluded, etc.), so I got into the habit of looking at things through a “rational” lens. Even in my own relationships, I tend to intellectualize when I feel like someone’s trying to manipulate me emotionally.

  15. Alee,

    How are they?

    The scientists I know are of various types. But the most common type I know is the rock music fan (or a musician) why tries to be both casual, coll and intellectual at the same time, so that often ends up being snobbish and hipster. Or maybe just “hipster” would describe the type?

    For example, Brian Cox:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Cox_%28physicist%29

    All of you people who don’t understand people… how did you get here? I write about people and their quirks most/all of the time.

    I find people fascinating, because I don’t know much about them. It’s some sort of an “exotic” subject. 😀

    I can judge their behavior intellectually (ha!), when someone talks about them and describes what they do, but when I’m around people I can’t read them and I can’t understand them.

  16. Intellectualizing creates distance between themselves and their emotions, so they don’t actually feel them.

    Seems to me this is describing a lot humans, ie, too many of us are not empathetic beings. (See most things related to race or gender!)

    As well: what does “unemotional” mean?. As, I’m submitting that being rational and stable are emotions. Or am I not understanding this theory?!.

    Am agreeing with Olivia-Marie on this, Alee.

    Lol @ Mira and this: I find people fascinating, because I don’t know much about them. It’s some sort of an “exotic” subject.

    You and Nkosazana are sooooooooooo sweet!. I feel tons of pleasure, like it runs right through my body, whenever I read either of your comments. How is it possible to have this innocence at your ages?. There is hope yet for your generation!!!.

  17. Sigh…so here is my disclaimer first, I think my boyfriend is perfect but…he is a bit of an intellectualizer. I had an issue with this in the very beginning because I am highly emotional and have a high emotional intelligence. I believe it was a learned behavior because his dad is that way. But being in a relationship with me he has grown so much in this area of connecting with and expressing emotions more. I am so happy this wasn’t a permanent dilemma because he has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I often think sometimes that because I can be so emotional that he evens me out and I don’t have an over dramatic relationship like the ones I use to have in the past. He is far from cold though, he is the sweetest most giving man I know :). I agree with Olivia Marie, because my boyfriend grew up in a conservative family with no trauma, he just expresses himself the way he saw emotions expressed in his family life. I on the other hand I had trauma and grew up very dysfunctional and in an over dramatic home, hence I am more of a liberal because of it. I hope he doesn’t mind that I shared this ….eeeek! :-/

  18. Jasmin,

    Yes, you’re probably a good example of a “rational” person who isn’t an Intellectualizer. Well, you, Mira, and Bunny. It’s important not to conflate the two — the Intellectualizer is always twenty feet away from their emotions; the rational simply takes a balanced approach but realizes when emotional involvement is helpful.

    foosrock,

    Empathy is a separate subject — you can be an emotional person, but not care about the emotions of others. And stability is a state of mind, not an emotion as much; it’s a lack of strong emotions. Again a rational person is not necessarily an Intellectualizer, even if most Intellectualizers are rational types.

  19. Ok, Alee, paint me very confused. I AM listening to AC/DC’s “Back In Black” rather loudly in the background while reading your blog, so it could me distracting………

  20. Nikisha,

    Glad to hear your relationship is more comfortable for you now. And yes, the Intellectualizer doesn’t always arise from trauma; sometimes it results from surroundings which encouraged a more distant approach.

    He’ll be fine with you sharing — he’s a steady and controlled being, remember? 😉

  21. Alee,

    I think you read me correctly! (But that’s not a surprise, lol)

    I consider myself a rational person, but I’m not separated from emotion either. Sometimes my responses ARE emotional because they’re coming from a place of experience… and I realize that all human behavior can’t be tied up in a neat little intellectual box!

    The boyfriend I had right before I met my husband was an intellectualizer. Actually, he was more passive-aggressive than anything, and he admitted as much. He said he grew up that way and grew up believing that was the best way to behave. He said it really worked well for business, because you would have to work with people whose guts you hated, but if you told them exactly how you felt, the business deal wouldn’t get done.

    I would tell him that a relationship was not a business though.

    I thought an intellectualizer was a good match for me at first, because I had dealt with too many guys who didn’t seem to put much thought into why they behaved and thought a certain way at all. The Intellectualizer at least seemed to be in touch with his thought and action patterns, and my naive belief was that with a bit of healthy discussion, we were smart and intellectual enough to handle any conflicts we would have.

    Boy was I wrong! It was even worse because he wasn’t at all in touch with his emotional side… and it was just as bad. My mom said he would be the type to just one day leave his wife and family because he would use reason and “intellect” to decide that if a particular issue was causing a problem in the marriage, it would simply be better for him not to be stuck in a strife-filled emotional situation and walk away. I bet my mom would have been right too, but luckily, I never had to see for myself! We didn’t last past the six-month mark.

  22. Alee,
    Yeah, and I already read this article to him this morning and we discussed it…lol, and he knows how I love to comment on things like this. He knows I love your blog so I’m always sharing things from here with him and my friends 🙂

  23. Hi Bunny,

    Your mother would have been so right about that. Learning about the Intellectualizer, that sounds exactly like something they would do. Exactly. Actually, I’m sure I’ve heard that reasoning from one before.

    Nikisha,

    I love your blog too. I stopped emailing posts to myself because I found I was emailing every other post.

    Your boyfriend is great for openly discussing these sort of things with you. 🙂

  24. Alee,

    Yes, you’re probably a good example of a “rational” person who isn’t an Intellectualizer. Well, you, Mira, and Bunny.

    Huh? I don’t think I’m rational. Well, part of me tries to be, and I guess I appear as such sometimes. But I’m not particularly rational in so many things.

  25. To me, the Intellectualizer wants to do nothing more than talk about ideas to intellectualize instead of working to know himself better. The Intellectualizer, instead of getting into himself, tries to stay as far away from others as possible.

  26. Mira, you are. Being semi-connected to your emotions doesn’t make you irrational. Your level-headedness is clear to anyone who has spoken with you extensively.


    Hi hemp,

    That’s a blunt way of putting it. But there might be a lot of truth there. 🙂

  27. I just left a three year relationship with an intellectualizer. He is a ‘good’ person but has no connection to his emotional life and consequently any understanding or empathy for others in that area. It’s so frustrating because everything else was really good, but I couldn’t stand constantly being analyzed by him or offering his analysis of everyone else. Augh!

    He did suffer some serious emotional trauma as a child, and I’m sure that is at least part of the reason he is this way. In fact I can really empathize. I, too, had some serious trauma as a child and young adult and definitely tended to intellectualize just about everything. Getting help to get in touch with my feelings is finally bearing fruit after years of therapy. Being in therapy gave him an excuse to blame me for any problems of course.

    It’s funny, I used to wish someone would follow me around with a video camera so I could see it later to try and figure out what the heck I was doing to put people off. All I can say is be careful what you wish for! I got a real live person rather than a video.

  28. Hi Delere,

    “I just left a three year relationship with an intellectualizer. He is a ‘good’ person but has no connection to his emotional life and consequently any understanding or empathy for others in that area.”

    Yup. Sounds like an intellectualizer.

    Well, glad you got out, if the relationship wasn’t fulfilling to you. Hopefully, he’ll find someone who doesn’t mind his intellectualizing.

    “It’s funny, I used to wish someone would follow me around with a video camera so I could see it later to try and figure out what the heck I was doing to put people off. All I can say is be careful what you wish for! I got a real live person rather than a video.”

    Lol. That’s better, actually. You might be able to deny and dismiss video, but you can’t dismiss your real-time interactions.

  29. My husband is definitely this intellectualizer emotionally unavailable personality. At first I thought he was narcisstic which comes into play in our relationship. But after reading this I find the intellectualizer to be most accurate of him. I have longed for him to be more emotional. He just cannot do it. Yes, he is methodical and robotic. However, he is the best problem solver and provider that anyone could have on their team. It’s been twenty years now and I just learned the trueness of his personality. I am learning to accept the love he offers. Do I want and deserve more from him? YES! It will take a miracle.

  30. I used to be more of an intellectualizer but I’ve come very far into knowing that I have to let myself feel feelings and be emotionally vulnerable in order to live fully and happily. Being sensitive is a triumph!
    I’ve been dating a guy who I consider to be a robot. Who is the intellectualizer type and it is.killing me! I cry a lot.on my own when I think about it. I’ve been trying to get myself to break up with him but I haven’t been able to do it. I love his other qualities but being emotionally open and accepting of whatever I say in a loving, comforting and supportive way is number one. Hindsight is always 20/20 but I should have left him when there were big red flags at the beginning.
    Why do we stay in these relationships that cause us such distress?
    I haven’t read the comments to this blog but just needed a little vent/sharing.

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