Yes, there is a day just for us!
Yes, there is a day just for us!
Jenna, my comrade in bloggery over at The Wishing Well, just published a post about Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. To my great surprise, her reaction to it was very different from mine. Since I had recommended it to her enthusiastically, I started out writing a reply in a comment, but it became way too long, so I’m publishing it here.
Wow, did we read the same book? Before I read Quiet, it had literally never crossed my mind that I was an introvert, much less an HSP (which Elaine Aron believes Susan Cain also is). I thought I was an extrovert inhibited by a tendency to isolate. I defended this, extolling the joys of solitude, as I still do. However, before I read Quiet, those joys were seriously undermined by my secret fear that solitude was an unhealthy indulgence, an escape from my shameful inability to interact “normally.” Whether it was my failure to produce extroverted bubble and bounce on command, or my persistent inclination towards behavior I had been taught was dysfunctional, I was coming up short no matter what I did. Continue reading
Ever 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).
But 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.
In this commentary (The solitary bliss of life as an introvert) from the early days right after Quiet was published, Michael Deacon ponders whether the supreme being is an introvert or an extrovert, and adds his 2¢ on aging into introversion. Don’t miss the comments.
As for me, I’ve been performing job searches on the keyword “alone.” When I find it, it’s usually preceded by “looking for someone who works well…” and I get all excited. That’s me! But no. In every single post, it’s also followed by “or in a group.” Sheesh. Flip-floppers.
In case you haven’t heard, Elaine Aron has revamped her website, and is fundraising for a film on HSPs. She has already exceeded her goal, but has promised to apply any additional funds to making a better documentary. Only 3 days to go, so visit soon.
Would anyone like to pay me to spend my time researching whatever I feel curious about today, and then writing about it in multiple blogs? That’s what I really want to do with my life, but all this annoying need-to-pay-rent crap keeps getting in the way :(
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.
This 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
It’s so annoying to have to leave a job just when you’re getting good at it. I’d like to at least know what happened with my boss. I have the distinct impression our conflict was about something other than it appeared to be. Unfortunately, Mr. Not So Nice After All Guy isn’t owning up. Is that fair? Yeah, yeah, life ain’t. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Supposedly, HSPs have superior intuitive and empathetic perception. I’m not entirely convinced on that point. I have been told more than once that I discerned things a person didn’t even recognize about him/herself, usually long after the fact (and mostly by water signs, but that’s another post). On the other hand, I seem to be singularly blind to red flags in an employment context. Continue reading
I’ve been busy with my new job (which is, happily, working out), so I haven’t had time to do more than think about being an HSP/introvert lately. Nevertheless, I can feel my understanding of both evolving. I’m beginning to see probable HSPs and introverts in my daily environment, as well as to identify them in the memories of my past interactions. It gives me a better understanding of other peoples’ motivations and responses, as well as of my own. I don’t know if I necessarily feel better about people I had conflicts with, but those conflicts feel less personal. I realize that they really didn’t comprehend how I experience things at all. And I didn’t understand that they didn’t understand.
I’m also beginning to perceive at least a little about how introversion and high sensory processing sensitivity are different, especially in the area of interactions. Continue reading