Thursday, September 06, 2012

Your version, my version, introversion

There's a corner of blogdom for introverts. I discovered Kingdom of Introversion by accident. Its blogroll lists related sites: "A Keen Introvert Observer," "A Mother's Insightful Observations of Her Introverted Child," "How Not to Annoy an Introvert," "Introverts Are Not Mentally Ill," etc.

It's probably unnecessary to explain introversion to Reflecting Light readers, but in case anyone needs a quick refresher, here goes:

The term comes from the psychological typology of Carl Jung, which includes the extroversion-introversion scale. Extroverts' consciousness is centered in the outside world and other people. They crave company, activity, sense stimulation. Introverts are attuned to their inner selves, preferring solitude or a few close and familiar relationships. They are uncomfortable with strangers, crowds, and noise. (Most people are at neither extreme.)
It looks like Kingdom of Introversion may be on hiatus: the most recent posting is dated January 3. But it's an interesting one. Its author, whose nom de blog is Gluon the Ferengi -- that no doubt means something to the in-group, but I have no idea what -- offers his or her thoughts on "Introvert Survival: Basic Protection from Ostracism."

Some of the suggested self-protections:
-Always eat meals with the people you’re living/working with if possible.
Humans instinctually form communal bonds when they eat together. Eat what they’re eating, even if it tastes horrible, at least for the first few months. This is the easiest and most effective way not to get ostracized.

-If you are offered some food, a ride, whatever—never refuse, even if you don’t want or need it. Even if the one who offers isn’t your favorite person. To accept is to become a person in their eyes and a member of the community.

-With members of the opposite sex who are close to your age, never, ever try to ignore them. Both males and females will subconsciously feel rejected, even if there’s no attraction.

Keep divergent interests in sci-fi/fantasy, computer games, any unusual hobbies concealed until you’ve known people for a few months. Anything nerdly or out of the ordinary that’s put fragrantly on display right away will cause people to judge you quickly.

-Show familiarity with their favorite brands, TV shows, bands, etc. Go on wikipedia if necessary.
I offered the following comment (which the site says is "still awaiting moderation" -- maybe there's nobody home there):

"Sounds to me like a recipe for a pretty miserable life. Spending time with people you don’t like, talking about stuff you aren’t interested in, eating foods you don’t like … man, that’s quite a price for avoiding rejection by people who probably don’t think about you much one way or another."

Lest it be thought that I am ignorant of, or unsympathetic with, the problems of being an introvert I assure you that I am one -- an asocial, mopey bookworm. Years ago when I applied to be analyzed at the Jungian training institute in San Francisco they first gave me the Gray-Wheelwright typology test. I was almost off the map for introversion (intuitive-feeling breed). I'm never comfortable at parties, or wasn't back when I was invited to them.
Our American culture seems designed to plague introverts. A high value is assigned to being a joiner, talker, enthusiast. To be quiet and inward is thought, by many, unusual. (When I saw a tray at my office labeled "Outgoing Mail," I asked, "Is there one for introverted mail?")

Not having a lot of social contact, introverts brood too much. They imagine being rejected, true or not. So it's useful for introverts to have a support network, to feel less alone and misfit.

Support networks have positive and negative poles. The emotional uplift, the welcome understanding, are positive. But paradoxically, too much fixation on differences with the rest of humanity can also reinforce alienation.
Introversion actually isn't as rare as introverts imagine. Peter Whybrow, M.D. (in A Mood Apart: The Thinker's Guide to Emotion and Its Disorders) says, "Probably 20 to 30 percent of the population meet criteria for a general notion of shyness -- reluctance to start a conversation, few spontaneous gestures to strangers, finding new social situations uncomfortable ... ." Since most people fall between the extremes of introversion and extroversion, probably a majority of people have moods of introversion. Introverts needn't feel like freaks.

In any case, the recommendations by Gluon the Ferengi -- can anybody tell me what the name is about? -- strike me, a card-carrying introvert, as nonsense.

First, I don't think it's possible to be a pseudo-extrovert. Who has time to study up on popular TV shows, movies, sports, etc. to present a facade of knowledge about them? Besides, it won't sound convincing to extroverts, even if they can't point to why not.

Second, it's an act of surrender, an acknowledgement that introverts are inferior and must (for "survival"!) pretend to be something they're not. It's as if the introvert not only believes himself an outcast, but that he deserves it.
Many of the commenters at Kingdom of Introversion and other sites I've sampled sound like they are genuinely suffering. But here's the thing: in most cases, they're not suffering because they're introverts. They're suffering because they're depressed.

Depression, a persistent emotional barrenness coupled with low self-respect and other symptoms, is widely believed today to result from a combination of innate temperament, genetically inherited, in combination with life experiences. Some are born with a tendency to melancholy, but few if any are inherently depressed regardless of circumstances.

Introverts do face special challenges. They get no pleasure from many of the things the culture holds up to them as fun and exciting. The world seems to get noisier all the time -- I myself have come to dislike eating in restaurants because so many now play loud music. When things are tough, many introverts lack the comforts of a large group of friends and companions.

But the worst is that too many make themselves depressed by believing there's something wrong with them, that like Gluon the Whatever they must act an unnatural role to be accepted. I can't say I didn't have this syndrome when I was younger.

Being inward doesn't have to be associated with depression. Dr. Whybrow says, "Even the most expansive of surveys classify no more than 10 to 15 percent of the population as seriously depressed. To be shy does not mean that one is destined for major depression." To avoid clinical depression, however, you have to avoid falling into the trap of regressively feeling bad because of feeling different, then feeling bad about feeling bad, then feeling bad about feeling bad about feeling different.

As for others' acceptance ... introverts, lost in self-awareness, mistakenly assume that extroverts are analyzing them all the time. But it's rarely overt analysis -- more often, just picking up unconscious impressions.

I'll share something a counselor said to me once, casually, but I think one of the most valuable things I've ever heard. It was this: "People aren't looking for ways to judge you negatively because of differences, but they are acutely sensitive to your discomfort about being different. If you can accept your uniqueness, so will they." All right, my fellow introverts? All right.


Thanks to a couple of readers, now I know what "Gluon the Ferengi" means. I had speculated it was some kind of adhesive fern. No. It is a character from Star Trek.

Blimey O'Reilly, I don't half feel old and out of it.

I thought introverts read books and listened to Chopin. Not, apparently, in GluonWorld. He follows Star Trek, a TV series from the 1970s that Hollywood picked up on.

So let me get this straight. Young Goodman Gluon (I don't know for sure that he's a man -- scratch that; I know for sure that he's not a man, but I strongly suspect he's not a woman) imagines himself a deeply sensitive, hothouse flower because, wait for it, he's immersed in an old and immensely popular TV series. You could get a million Trekkies together for a  Star Trek convention, but Gluon considers himself burdened with a love that dares not speak its name, the cross he must bear for being a Star Trek fanboy.

I'll bet he (I'll call this entity he out of courtesy) raves on classical music. Led Zeppelin? ("Well, you know, they're like classic rock, you know.")

Introversion should be made of sterner stuff. This time it's his turn to not get the reference.


Anonymous said...

Just so you know a Ferengi is a race in the Star Trek universe. Most likely the blogger has sever social anxiety and feels the need to "act" a certain way to be accepted due to feeling picked on for his "unusual hobbies". Which probably include collecting Star Trek memorabilia or LARPing. It's hard to fight against feeling like an outsider when so few share your interests and most others look down on you for them if you are past a certain age. Think of the steriotype of the "fat 40yr old virgin living in his moms basement." That is most likely what this gentleman is fighting feeling like. Truly it makes me sad because there are plenty of nerdy intoverts out there.

YIH said...

''Keep divergent interests in sci-fi/fantasy'' That's where the ''Gluon the Ferengi'' came from. An alien species (race) introduced in Star Trek The Next Generation where literally every aspect of their lives (including spirituality, military, and governance) revolves around commerce.
Ayn Rand would have loved them. If you're curious just do a YouTube search for ''Star Trek The Next Generation/Star Trek Deep Space Nine Ferengi''
That should help clear up that aspect of the mystery.
That this person would even want to 'fake' extroversion is rather dismal indeed.

Rick Darby said...

Thanks, both of you. I guess by not knowing about Gluon the Ferengi from Star Trek I've proved that I don't force feed myself on popular culture to fit in!

YIH said...

Although both of us have been wrong before playing 'guess the gender' I also suspect 'Gluon' is male. In sf/fantasy fandom the M/F ratio is about 50:1.
You've mentioned in the past Ann Barnhardt and like you I've learned quite a bit about the pervasive fraud and outright theft in financial markets. As well as enjoyed seeing her give a well-deserved middle finger to Islam.
Although in the past year she has decided to also take on a much more serious foe: the IRS.
I wish her well but being familiar with the story of someone else that chose that path she likely bit off more than she or anyone else could ever possibly chew.

Rami Porek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rami Porek said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rami Porek said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.