Better Judgment

Judgment card from Goddess Tarot deck, showing Queen Gwenhwyfar extending a short sword above the head of a kneeling manEver since a youthful epiphany, during which it occurred to me that someone else’s internal experience might be notably different from my own, I have believed I had an above-average consciousness of that insight.

Lately, I’m not so sure. As I explore the 42 personality traits of the Clifton Strengths system, I become increasingly aware of just how broad and deep the variation in personal perception and reaction is. And the more aware of it I become, the more I realize just how judgmental I am. Too often, I assume everyone thinks and feels as I do, and if their behavior is not what I think should be consistent with that, I disapprove.

Why do I do this, I asked myself? After pondering, I came to see that judgment is a form of whistling in the dark. There’s probably a better way to make peace with the perpetual unknowability of everybody else’s private landscape, but I haven’t found it yet.

HSPs are often credited with a gift for perceptiveness. Well, maybe. There have been many occasions throughout my life when feelings and motivations that were glaringly obvious to me were completely invisible to others (sometimes even to the people who were having them).

Thought bubble with blurry words insideBut there have also been times when I was wildly, completely wrong about what was going on (like thinking I was an extrovert for the first 53 years of my life). Deep engagement may show us more, but it also means stronger reactions, and strong reactions are not necessarily a friend to accurate perception.

Maybe the intermittent nature of this gift is part of the problem. Because some people are transparent to me some of the time, it’s more threatening when someone isn’t.

But maybe it’s just my particular history that makes me nervous around people who are opaque. I saw what my family didn’t want to admit, so I was told I was crazy at regular intervals throughout my childhood. As a result, I’m never quite sure how much to trust my own perceptions.

That’s damned uncomfortable for me, but since I am, in fact, NOT 100% accurate in my perceptions (or even close) it keeps me humble (relatively), which probably makes me a more pleasant person to be around!

There’s another factor, which I’m becoming more conscious of lately. My preference to hang out with myself alone most of the time inevitably restricts the amount of feedback that is available to me about other people’s thoughts and feelings. Now that I have a better understanding of who I am most compatible with and why, maybe that will evolve over time.

I’ve had occasions lately to discover who my friends are (and aren’t), details of which I’ll save for another post. Maybe having more interactions with people who are demonstrably in my corner will one day make me braver in the face of those whose intentions are unknown.

I Don’t Mind Being Famous as Long as Nobody Knows Who I Am

These days, I am always running into things that scream “introvert.” The work of Korean artist, Jee-Young Lee is a perfect example. First of all, she has created her own artform. She builds the installations in her tiny studio, and then photographs them. The photograph, a step removed, becomes the art, not the original installation. Ingeniously introverted, no?
If that isn’t enough to convince you, click on the picture to see more of her work. She is in her own scenes, but always in the background, facing away from the viewer (and always alone). She reveals herself on her own terms, sans interaction.

Then I stumbled across this artist on SNL:
I had never heard of Sia before, and I couldn’t even tell what language she was speaking (Australian English, as it turned out). The contrast between the visceral creative force expressed through her voice, and her withdrawn physical presence was most intriguing. I felt like I was watching an avant garde performance straight out of the 60s.

What do you think? Am I just seeing introverts everywhere because I am one, or am I on to something?

My Favorite Housemates are Feline

I was recently struck by a sub-heading in Holly Klassen’s Huffington Post blog piece on parenting as an introvert: “They are with you ALL THE TIME.”

I don’t know whether it’s an introvert thing or an HSP thing, or both, but that sentence neatly encapsulates my experience of other human presences. They don’t have to be doing anything, or saying anything. They don’t even have to be awake. Just the awareness of their presence in some way engages a portion of my energy, rendering it unavailable for other purposes. It’s like a computer process that runs in the background and eats up all your RAM, slowing down normal tasks, and making high-resource tasks impossible.

A dozing cat lies on a desktop shelfThis doesn’t happen with animal companions, however. I have often contemplated why I prefer to live with animals, but was never able to pinpoint it – until I read that sentence. The cats I share a home with are also with me, literally, all the time, not just somewhere in the house, but often in the same room I am in.  Yet somehow, my attention is not engaged in the same energy-consumptive way. If this is true for other HSPs, it may explain why HSPs are more likely than average to have a strong affinity with animals. Continue reading

Is “down time” really down?

One of the first things that caught my attention in Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, was her quotes from people she described as “introverts pretending to be extroverts.” One man said “I need a lot of down time.” That resonated through me like some enchanted gong, growing louder and louder the more I thought about it, and then I realized…

I’m exactly the same way. Continue reading