Monthly Archives: August 2010

Society was never meant for introverts

For some reason I have been doing pondering on introversion. I think the thing that surprises me the most is how dead-on descriptions of introversion can be. Most personality trait descriptions usually leave me going, “Mmm, kinda. Sorta. Not really. I guess I suppose you could put it that way.” Not so descriptions of introversion.

Introverts (Extraverts)

Get energy from inside themselves. (Get energy from interaction outside.)

Real world is the inner world of ideas, understanding and meaning. (Real world is the outer world of people and things.)

People of ideas and abstract invention,difficult to understand, often shy. (People of action and practical achievement, easy to understand, often sociable.)

Have a public and private self. (Are the same in public and in private.)

Intense and passionate, tend to bottle up emotions. (Expansive and less impassioned, unload emotions as they go along.)

Feel drained by people, need privacy. (Feel energised by people; feel drained by being alone.)

Have a few close friends. (Make lots of friends easily.)

Quiet in large groups, fear humiliation. (Outspoken in groups, take risks.)

Can concentrate intensely. (Can be distracted easily.)

Mentally rehearse before speaking, need time to make decisions. (Think out loud, make decisions quickly.)

Learn by observing, live life only when they understand it. (Learn by doing, understand life after they have lived it.)

Go from considering, to doing and back to considering. (Go from doing to considering and back to doing.)

(found here.) Actually, the article begins by saying: “Western civilisation today is dominated by the extravert viewpoint. This is because extraverts outnumber introverts 3 to 1, are more vocal than introverts and are more understandable than introverts.

However, while introverts are a minority group in society, they form the majority of gifted people. Moreover, it appears that introversion increases with intelligence so that more than 75% of people with an IQ above 160 are introverted.”

This is in some ways amusing to me, because the majority of people that I know are most definitely introverted, so I can only surmise I hang out in an exceptionally gifted crowd. It was actually a good article, and while there was occasionally a few things I didn’t 100% agree upon, I would really recommend reading it. You’ll likely either have an eerie sense of someone describing you, or you’ll have your mind blown that someone could really be that different.

It’s just that it kinda amazes me how some introverted lists seem like they were written up by someone watching me. Like this one:

About Introverts:

10) Party Poopers

9) Unfriendly

8) Nerds

7) Lacking Social Skills

6) Won’t Talk

5) Don’t Like People

4) Withdrawn

3) Loner

2) Shy

1) Hermit

Introverts Possess:

10) Work Well With Others, Especially In One-to-One Relationships

9) Maintain Long-Term Friendships

8) Flexible

7) Independent

6) Strong Ability To Concentrate

5) Self-Reflective

4) Responsible

3) Creative, Out-of-the-Box thinking

2) Analytical Skills That Integrate Complexity

1) Studious and Smart

It’s interesting how it is said that Introverts “Consider only deep relationships as friends” whereas extroverts “Know lots of people, considers lots of people friends.” It makes me wonder if some of the difference between “lots of friends” vs. “a few friends” is taken up by a huge difference in what we consider friends. You extroverted people out there may only have a few friends, too, if only we were using the same definition of friends.

This article was a good deal more flighty, but I thought it was interesting that they noted physiological differences. “Introverts’ personality traits include increased blood flow in the frontal lobes, anterior thalamus, and other regions associated with remembering events, making plans, and problem-solving. An introvert’s brain is literally wired differently than an extrovert’s!” Der. . . you think? Gee, gosh. To put it in a much less flighty way, check out this article linking introvertedness to sensitivity.

“Sensory perception sensitivity (SPS), a personality trait characterized by sensitivity to internal and external stimuli, including social and emotional ones, is found in over one hundred other species, from fruit flies and fish to canines and primates. Biologists are beginning to agree that within one species there can be two equally successful “personalities.” The sensitive type, always a minority, chooses to observe longer before acting, as if doing their exploring with their brains rather than their limbs. The other type “boldly goes where no one has gone before. . .”

. . .Stony Brook researchers Elaine and Arthur Aron had already found that those with a highly sensitive temperament are, compared to others, more bothered by noise and crowds, more affected by caffeine, and more easily startled. That is, the trait is about sensitivity. Further, they proposed that this is all part of a “sensory processing sensitivity.” In other words, the simple sensory sensitivity to noise, pain, or caffeine is a side effect of an inborn preference to pay more attention to experiences. . .

. . .For example, a number of researchers are finding that children who are highly sensitive and raised in a stressful environment are prone to anxiety and depression, which are the components of neuroticism, and to shyness, which is sometimes the cause of introversion. However, when raised in an enriched, supportive environment, those with this “differential susceptibility” are actually happier, healthier, and more socially skilled than others. In both outcomes, it seems that sensitive children are paying more attention to subtle cues indicating, for better or worse, what others are thinking and feeling.”

There are various “self-affirming” introverted sites out there. . . the one thing that is hard not to share with them is the desire to make everyone read the “proof” that we are fundamentally different creatures and can we all please be okay with that? But the majority of published introversion is also rather hostile to extroversion, which is NOT something I share. Extroverts crack me up. Extroverts sometimes drag me out of my shell. Yes, extroverts can be very muchly accustomed to making noise for the sake of making noise, but I can tune them out when they’re being moving-air-machines and I figure they have as much right to make noise as I have right to go hide away in a corner. I’m not hugely annoyed by meaningless chit-chat, and I don’t really think the world would be suddenly be a better place if it were ruled by introverts instead of extroverts.

I actually made “friends” with a grade-A, pure, undiluted extrovert (she, being extroverted, would say friend. I, being introverted, would say we’re on friendly terms), simply because I stuck up for her right to be extroverted, to think out-loud, to be silly and sociable. I think my introvertedness scared her. I think it was a bit of a shock to her that I, the penultimate introvert, didn’t have any issues whatsoever with her extrovertedness. Once she no longer felt like I was disapproving of her personality with my own quietness, seriousness, studiousness and withdrawn nature, she was a million times more relaxed around me. I don’t think she “gets” my introvertedness, but I think that she’s willing to accept me on my terms the way I take her on hers.

And I guess that’s why I wanted to write this post. I think there should be introverted voices out there sticking up for extroverts. Extroverts can be some pretty awesome people sometimes, and sometimes extroverted people can really help to balance out my introversion. Yes, I’m a party-phobe. Yes, I’ll smile quietly in my corner while you all make a ruckus. And, no, I’m not going to tell you all to shut up and be like me. I get that you’re a fundamentally different creature than me. And I’m sorry if you find me confusing, hard to understand or rude, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the majority of extroverts don’t have anything against introverts–besides the fact that they really don’t understand introverts. They have so much fun being extroverted, all they can think is that introverted people don’t like to have fun. Meanwhile, us introverts see the lives of extroverts, and think living like that must be some kind of living hell, and how can they stand living like that?

I suspect that introverts, being those thoughtful, analytical type people, are more able to sit there and deconstruct the personality of extroverts and say, “okay, these people are different beings than I am; good for them.” I suspect that extroverts, not being as inclined to lay awake at night pondering these things, are wildly confused by introverts. Since they can’t be introverts, they can’t really understand them.

They say that extroverts like practical applications, not ideas. I can’t give you much advice, except:

1. Visit with me one on one. You’ll be shocked at how much more I open up.

2. Be patient. If you are the most wonderful, fantastic person I’ve ever met. . .it could still easily take me a year or so to start really opening up. Sorry. I know it’s hard to wait that long, but you should at least know that it’s me, not you. It’s not that I don’t like you, it just that it takes me a long time to open up. Don’t give up.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask me serious questions, but be prepared to wait longer for answers the more serious the question is.

4. Stop asking me what I did. I know you’re trying to be friendly and find common ground, but most likely, I didn’t do. Most likely, being part of society for 8 hours wore me out, and I went home and hid in a quiet spot to re-coup and get ready to face another day. If I did do something, it was probably something you would call boring. Don’t feel sorry that I did “nothing;” I like doing nothing. Doing nothing makes me feel better.

I doubt that this will be read by anyone anyway, but it is interesting to me to try to see it from the other side. If I was extroverted, introverts would seriously weird me out.

Is there something wrong with my head?

So there is this guy and his son coming in for therapy right now. They both got run over by a rototiller. The son got the tines chewing up his calf, and the dad got the frame smashed into his lower leg, breaking it. (The leg, not the frame.)

So. . . .is there something wrong with me that all I want to do is ask them “Forward-rotating or rear-rotating? What brand? What model? Were you happy with it before it ran you over?”

I really think the patients would be perfectly happy to discuss such details, but I think I would get some really funny looks from the therapists. Which might make it all that much more fun to do, come to think of it.

On the downside, one of the therapists wants to play match-making between me and the son. . .so maybe asking about the machine that ran him over would only be used as ammo to her cause. Hm.

What does it mean?

Last night I dreamed. . .

There was a single mom and her (tween) daughter, facing ruins. They had both become seriously addicted to large amounts of expensive, coffee-house coffee. Like most addictions, this had left them in both financial and health ruins. Unable to quit cold turkey (but in dire money straights and seriously warned by the doctor of their health problems), they were resorting to making large amounts of their own fancy coffee drinks. The daughter threw a bit of a mopey fit because it “wasn’t the same,” but she wasn’t so much referring to the coffee as the experience of the fancy coffee places. Somehow, coffee at home seemed so demeaning and empty compared to that experience.

Then I woke up.

Der. . .what?

Jeremiah 17:9

When I was (much) younger, I had a good deal of mockery those claiming existential angst. In the wisdomful words of one my brothers, “I’m me.” How much more complicated can it possibly be? Self-discovery? Hello!! You are you. Who’d you think you’d be? Duh!

Also while I was much younger, I figured once you “grew-up,” you pretty much had life figured out. I mean, yes, things could be worrisome, and certainly and of course things were much more weighty. But confusion and the inability to understand was pretty much, in my mind, relegated to the time of childhood. You didn’t “get” life when you were a child, because you were still growing up. But you’d know you were a grown-up when you “got” life.

(I try very hard to remember what life was like inside the mind of a child. It has many applications to existence.)

Anyway, one can see how those two beliefs went hand in hand. (1) When you grow up, you know a lot more than I do now, and (2), I know who I am right now, even before I’ve grown up. Ergo, obviously, you must have a lot of room in your head for packing peanuts if you are a grown-up and claiming to know even less than I, an ignorant child, know.

As with many things in life that we mock, we are often doomed to become the things we mocked. Regardless of words used to describe the phenomenon, at some point one begins to become aware of “nature vs. nurture”–which is to say, you realize that you act differently in different situations and different circumstances. And it doesn’t take long to have enough imagination to wonder how you would live–who you would be–in other situations, ones you haven’t been in and likely never will be. Who would I be if I was rich? Who would I be if I was an only child? Who would I be if I was suddenly dropped into the middle of a third-world country speaking a language I did not know? How would I live if I was raised in the city instead of the country? What would I be like if I’d went to public school?

This realization–that our circumstances do affect our existence–invariably leads to other questions. What parts of my being are being dictated by my current situations? What stuff am I doing or not doing simply because “that’s the way it’s always been”—not because I honestly feel strongly about the matter myself, but just because an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion stays in motion (unless acted on by outside forces, and all that).

And therefore, if I am who I am because of my circumstances. . .is that really me? Or is that just a reflection of where I am? Who is me? This invariably (for me, anyway) loops back to imagining myself in all sorts of different situations, because somehow it seems that only the pieces of me that I would take every where are really me, and not just cultural habit. Sometimes there are fine lines that I don’t know how to split. . .I strongly suspect I would do many more sociable things if I didn’t have a bunch of people to come home to, but on the other hand, I begin to realize how deeply and strongly my introvertedness runs. Socializing is exhausting; parties make me uncomfortable. I prefer to visit one-on-one. Being the center of attention makes me break out in hives, or something very close to that.

But as difficult as it is to (for lack of better words, as horrible as they might be) to find oneself–and it is hard; one likes to be in denial about many different things, and find all sorts of things one is guilty of regardless of past mockings, and generally find one self to be a different person then one tells oneself they are. There is a harder thing, though; who are you supposed be?

And here the waters get oh so very muddy.

There is, modernly speaking, a lot of talking about “acceptance”. To “accept” who you are, to be “accepted” for who you are, etc., etc. I will be the first admit that there is a great need for self-honesty (if nothing else!), which requires not being in denial, which I suppose you could phrase as “accepting who you are”. But “accepting” also seems to imply saying everything is just peachy-okay-fine the way it is. Maybe I’m just a weird twisted sort of person, but generally speaking, anytime I find myself telling myself that everything is just peach-okay-fine, I’m generally lying to myself. Being aware of my shortfallings, and honestly titling them as such, while uncomfortable, is better. I can “spin” just as well as anyone, but “spin” isn’t helpful.

But, even supposing one can begin to find oneself, if one is willing to admit that one’s life is supposed to be a process of change rather than “accepting” ourselves as perfectly sufficient as we are–finding ourselves is only half the battle. I’m not talking about the whole “change your insides and your outside circumstances don’t matter,” which is akin to saying, “why are you complaining about the condition of the road? Just flap your arms and fly!” That’s a whole ‘nother conversation right there. I’m merely pointing out that things are not as black and white as I liked to think; it’s all muddled and confusing. You may be looking the fact squarely in the face and not know if that particular shade of gray is more white or more black. You see it, but what is it? It’s very hard to even know where one needs to be pruned or challenged, and what things are worth fighting for and what things should be let go. What things are simply parts of my personality and what things fall too far. When I need to learn to say “no” no matter how much guilt or duty is implied, and when I should say “yes” no matter how much all I want to do is crawl up in a ball and hide. And further more, which times and places are right for which battle–another uncomfortable reality being that mere mortals cannot do everything at once. “There is a time for everything under the sun” says the teacher, but not “everything should be done at the same time.”

Excuses, explanations and rationalizations all blend together into one big hairy mess. Rules, laws, regulations, guidelines and rules-of-thumb and general principles will not save you from that mess. Inward reflection is murky at best, more likely to be churning, and quite likely to be so stormy and tumultuous that you envy the guy who’s able to sleep through the whole disaster without a care in the world.

And here’s another chestnut: “Be angry and do not sin.” I suspect it may have cousins, like “Be hurt, but do not judge,” or “Be grieved, but do not be uncontent.” And if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it count? And which was the better son, the one who said “I go, sir” and stayed home, or the one who said “Forget it! Not over my dead body!” and then went anyway? Some people say “fake it till you make it” and some people say “you can’t stop trying,” and sometimes I sit there and wonder what’s the difference. Sometimes people want to know what you want out of life, and I wonder which is worse: having an answer or not having an answer? And sometimes it’s just plain easier to say what you DON’T want out of life than what you do.

Who am I? Who should I be? Who cares?


The first time I got vomiting sick in years and years and years, and I–still new to my job–do all over myself and the waiting room. You cleaned up both. That shouldn’t really count as good memory, but somehow it does. You took care of me. And laughed about it afterward.

You cried with me when my grandfather died. It was kinda maybe too soon after your father died. Maybe that shouldn’t really count as a good memory either, but it does. I wasn’t alone.

You always looked after me. You were there when I walked in on someone who looked like my grandfather the week he died. I was dreading that day–I knew it would come, some day, but I just didn’t know when. I was glad I was with you the day it did.

You tried to pass on your love of Occupational Therapy; you never did win me over. But you did share your love of taking care of patients; it’s how I always knew you were a great COTA even though I didn’t know beans about OT.

I’m sorry I won’t walk around a corner and here you say “Hey, TT,” any more. I wish I could be there for you the way you’ve been there for me.

Best wishes on your new job. Don’t be like me and puke all over the place!

Matters of Great Importance

1. tub of sour cream + garlic + lemon juice + fresh dill leaf + salt + pepper + cayenne = very good on vegetables and crackers, especially wheat thins or equivalent.

2. The simplest solution is probably the truest. When it looks like a brother is holding something in his mouth, he probably is. Why pretend when you can do the real thing.

3. Question: why would 4 of your brothers decide to cram cherries in their mouths right before going blueberry picking, just so that as soon as you got there they could all crowd around you and offer you their shiny, spitty cherries? The mind boggles.

4. Have you have heard of flash mobbing?

5. Re-fashioning objects is intriguing. We shall see how it turns out.

6. Sometimes you just have to do it anyway, even though you know you can’t do it well.

7. It doesn’t do you any good to know that attitude is 78% of the issue if you don’t know how to change your attitude.

8. It sounds like late summer, like its-almost-going-to-frost late. Don’t ask me why it sounds late, it just does. Maybe it’s the bugs. Maybe it’s the way the sound travels through the air.

9. Keys for new cars are expensive

10. God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes it makes my head hurt trying to comprehend it. But sometimes I think that maybe I should never stop trying to do so anyway.