Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More introverted than I think

Noah and I tend to read different things.  Sometimes he sends me a link that I find really interesting.  Today's link is about Introvert/Extrovert stuff.  I'm shocked by the fact that according to his definitions:

  1. require a minimum period of isolation every day to survive psychologically
  2. are energized by weak-link social fields, such as coffee shops, where little interaction is expected
  3. are energized by occasional, deeper 1:1 interactions, but still at arm’s length; no soul-baring
  4. are energized by such 1:1 encounters with anyone, whether or not a prior relationship exists
  5. are drained by strong-link social fields such as family gatherings
  6. are reduced to near-panic by huddles: extremely close many-many encounters such as group hugs
  7. have depth-limited relationships that reach their maximum depth very fast
  1. need a minimum amount of physical contact everyday, even if it is just laying around with a pet
  2. are energized by strong-link social fields such as family gatherings
  3. like soul-baring 1:1 relationships characterized by swings between extreme intimacy and murderous enmity
  4. are not willing to have 1:1 encounters with anyone unless they’ve been properly introduced into their social fields
  5. are made restless and anxious by weak-link social fields such as coffee shops unless they go with a friend
  6. are reduced to near panic by extended episodes of solitude
  7. have relationships that gradually deepen over time to extreme levels
From the Introvert list I have: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6.  From the Extrovert list I have: 3, 6, 7.

What does that make me?  I have always thought of myself as an extrovert and yet, I tend to feel like larger groups don't like me.  I don't feel safe when I have to figure out how to relate to more than one person at once.  I used to love big groups.  I was good at them.  Not anymore.  Anxiety has pushed me towards isolation and it really sucks.  I often feel better connecting briefly with a stranger because I don't have to worry about offending them.  I don't have to worry about them learning to be disgusted by me.  I'm trying to cobble together a mental support team without overly depending on any one person.  Because if I depend too much on one (or three) people I will exhaust them, they will get sick of me, they will move on.  If I can get bits and pieces from many, many people, I can pretend that is enough.  

I think that a lot of my conflict with Noah is because I swing hard between the sort of energetic transactionalism this essay talks about.  What an interesting thing to consider.  I can't decide if we should have one "bank account" or separate accounts.  I suppose it makes sense that I gravitate heavily towards folks with Aspergers and I am absolutely terrified of being codependent.  I would rather learn Aspie coping mechanisms because they make me feel safe.  They make me feel less vulnerable.  I wish every single day that I could take my extrovert needs and burn them out of me with a poker.  It has been the work of a lifetime to stop being an extrovert.  Being an extrovert is dangerous.  It's not safe.  I can't depend on people.

I can go weeks without talking to people I don't live with.  Most of the people I depend on heavily rotate in and out of my life.  My friends all have their own mental health issues and they will go radio silence for months or years.  I poke at them every so often to see if they are still around, but almost none of them come back to me.  I'm too hard.  When I lose contact with people it is because *I* stop forcing a relationship.  That hurts.  That hurts a lot.  I don't have many people who reach out to me unless I post excessively on the internet about how I may not make it to tomorrow.  Otherwise people just don't have room for me in their lives.  I've never been able to figure out what to do about that. 


  1. me: introvert 1-5 absolutely. 6 no way. i love 6, as long as it's a group i feel safe in, and i can't think of a situation where it's an unsafe group and that happens. but actual group hugs and bodies smooshed together at a concert? yes, please. even being in a crowded mass transit situation is appealing to me. i'm on the fence with 7. gut reaction was that's bs. however, it might be true.

    extrovert, i wanna say 5 is true in big spaces like malls or stadiums, but coffee shops are comfortable to me. i want to claim 7 is true. i just don't know if i'm kidding myself.

    i've known i'm an introvert for 10-12 years? but as a teenager i thought i was an extrovert because i was an attention whore, to borrow your very handy terminology. maybe that's also why you thought you were an extrovert.

  2. i kind of relate to the last paragraph too, except i don't have a relationship with people who don't pursue one with me, because i suck ass at keeping in touch and am even worse at making social plans. so i'm the other half of that. the shitty friend half.

  3. Int: 1, 3, 4, 5, 7ish.
    Ext: 1, 5ish.

    I can handle coffee-shop levels of social interaction, in small doses, but I am not energized positively by default. That relates to the extroversion #5; I tend to do better when I am with a friend in these situations.

    The thing about group hugs is that the touch is okay; other forms of social interaction with that many people at once wear me the fuck out. Sometimes with rapid and panicky results. I seem to have a number of emotional/social spoons (which will vary day to day), and when I am down to 2, I notice -- and have become better about removing myself for self-care, because when they are gone, they are GONE. If I take breaks before then to recharge, I can build them back up a little, usually.

    I embrace my introverted identity (INTJ, pretty much down to every nitpicky detail), AND I need physical contact/attention/affection. This is one major reason I have cats. And stuffed animals. :)

    I feel about my poly relationships a bit like you say you feel about your mental support network. Mine are selected for maximum snuggle; I joke about being high-maintenance, but if I were to demand all the physical attention from one person that I regularly get from 2 or 3, I could expect to burn out my one and only pretty soon. It's much better to spread my neediness around and give the people I like occasional breaks.

    I feel kinda bad about being the friend that falls off the radar, 'cause I do. Almost always it's not because of the other person; it's because my social spoons are low and I am using them for day-to-day stuff. 3 or 4 times a year, I'll get to a point where I feel like that stuff is managed and safe, and I poke my head up and realize that a)I have time and energy to spare just now and b) I miss people. Then you get posts like http://voyeurprincess.livejournal.com/204882.html. Then I start getting busy, and it starts over again.

  4. "Introverts are transactional in their approach to social interactions; they are likely to walk away with their “share” of the energy generated by any exchange, leaving little or nothing invested in the relationship itself. This is like a deposit split between two individually held bank accounts. This means introverts can enjoy interactions while they are happening, without missing the relationships much when they are inactive. In fact, the relationship doesn’t really exist when it is inactive."

    Um. That kinda stung a little, because it doesn't seem very nice. But the last part is pretty true, for me.

  5. Go through and think about the categories considering only people you trust.

    To me, you're more like an extrovert who has been repeatedly attacked when you try to make/maintain the sorts of relationships that fuel you.

  6. It's actually very true of me. "In fact, the relationship doesn’t really exist when it is inactive" This bit. If I haven't seen someone recently it feels like they must hate me and I build this whole ridiculous narrative about how they never want to see me again. It's pretty ridiculous.

    Geez Liz, what is logic doing here?

    Uhh... sorry for the delay. I'm not punctual.