Anti-Social, But In a Good Way

Credit: Manoj Vasanth, Flickr via Creative Commons

Credit: Manoj Vasanth, Flickr via Creative Commons

In my late high school and early college years I was known as the social coordinator in my groups of friends. There was always a movie to see, a game to play, or some other reason for us to all jump on the phone and congregate. We tried to keep it mixed up and sometimes would jump into a van to head to a border state where a band would be playing a last-minute concert, or just stay up all night at someone’s place playing music ourselves. I loved the feel of being in the center of a warm, amiable group of people.

As a psych major my first few years of college, I took a lot of personality tests. Whenever there was a measure of introvertedness/extrovertedness I always scored off the charts as an extrovert, which was never a surprise. However there was always this lurking confusion, though, about the handful of introvert-based questions that seemed to resonate deep in my core. It was easy to brush this off as coincidental at first, but as I got older I found that those questions often stoked a deep longing in my psyche. On the other hand the extrovert-based questions often stirred anxiety and a slight sense of suffocation.

Part of what maturity has meant for me has been to recognize the places in my life where unmet needs have driven behaviors that were easily masked as something healthier. The truth is that I am an introvert. All that time spent with other people became a buffer against my inner world, where all the struggles and confusion and memories of abuse were festering. I ran from that inner world because I didn’t realize that past all the grossness and dysfunction lied a source of energy and creativity and peace I had never experienced. As more of those issues have been identified I’ve been able to creep into the waters of true introversion and find refreshing there.

I’ve also discovered that there are other aspects of my wiring that drive me to connect deeply in relationship. I gather my information about the world through intuition, and I process that information emotionally. This intensity for connection with people is what I often misidentified as extraversion. The truth, though, is that I thrive when connecting with two or three people; any more than that and I feel overstimulated and anxious. This is why I always want to go to parties, am always miserable once I get there, and regret going or abstaining every time.

I’m realizing of late that simply wading into that inner world isn’t enough. Even my light week is overly busy from most people’s perspectives. Bubbling up I feel this longing to create things, tell stories, bring beauty into the world. But if I never make deposits of fresh water into that well it all comes up sludge.

So I am revisiting the practice of solitude. Not isolation or hiding, which are sadly common practices for me. Not just falling into the Netflix coma after way too much time with people. But intentionally devoting time to activities that done alone, that re-create energy and refill my well. As a person who longs for balance yet lives in the extremes, this term “practice” is most apt. But I hope to find in the experimentations a steady stream from which I can offer something beautiful or refreshing to the people in my world.

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