February 9th, 2013 by Karen
Tonight as I was attempting a little self-distraction, a post by a friend on Facebook caught my eye. It was a cartoon about introverts and I found the comments incredibly interesting. The cartoon’s explanation of how introverts interact with others was apparently a revelation, not only to those friends in the comments, but also to a fair number of folks at the original source post. It had some excellent insights into how I feel a lot of the time.
Over the years, I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs personality tests on multiple occasions and my results have consistently been INFP:
Introversion – I tend to be quiet and reserved. Others have called me a ‘wallflower’ in the past and I don’t find it particularly incorrect, though sometimes they actually have meant it unkindly. I’m an observer, preferring to watch the interactions of others with unobtrusive curiosity.
Intuition – I also rely heavily on my intuition. While as a scientist, I love my numbers and cold hard concrete facts are easily defensible, I have learned that to ignore that intangible ‘rightness’ of my intuition is at my own peril. My biggest life mistakes have occurred when I didn’t listen to my own hunches.
Feeling – Hand in hand with that is ‘feeling’. Having been accused of being illogical in the past, I’ve struggled to explain to others that the Ockham’s razor approach (simplicity is preferable to complexity) isn’t always the best course of action in my opinion. For me, the best choice in any given situation is the one that makes the most people happy or satisfied. I’ve always had this overwhelming feeling of empathy for others and there have been times when others’ emotions and situations have been so distressing to me that I’ve had to withdraw as the emotional expense was simply too great to bear.
Perception – Finally, I am perceptive. I tend to reserve judgement in any given situation until the last possible moment, preferring to continue to collect and reflect on data until a decision must absolutely be made. This goes for -everything- in life and can sometimes be crippling as it also feeds into perfectionism. I can’t tell you the number of times I have doubted myself or gone back through past work with a critical eye to correct or polish something. It’s been nearly 14 years since I graduated college and just a few months ago, I found myself with one of my thesis (yes, I had two) in hand actually considering redoing my research and rewriting the entire thing. I’m still considering it.
I abhor conflict. I delight in the unique. I find deep pleasure in the company of my friends. I am far more expressive in my writing than I feel I can ever be in person. Symbolism and alliteration enchant me. I write copious amounts of soul-baring poetry and fanciful fiction. Crowds kinda freak me out, though this doesn’t mean I don’t crave touch and affection. I hate calling for pizza because I don’t know who will pick up the phone on the other end. I married an extrovert. I love singing and have spent hours on stage in the theater, but it’s a mask. It’s the same mask I wear at parties and conferences and parent meetings. Few know the person behind it.
For me, respite and renewal is found in my hobbies. My friend Lisa has often commented that she rarely sees me without some sort of yarn in hand or at least close by and crocheting is often my go-to stress relief and a quick way to find my center. The fact that I end up with something beautiful at the end is a bonus. It’s the same reason I spin (yes, I have a spinning wheel), volunteer to trim the roses at my children’s school, and devour books. I regain something of myself in each of these activities. To not do them is to spiral into despair and depression.
In college, I had the great pleasure of having several roommates that were exchange students from Japan. In the initial packet we received with cultural information was a simple statement that culturally, they do not feel the need to fill every moment with chatter. Silence is a comfortable thing. There were whole weeks that Megumi and I barely spoke aloud to one another…not out of anger or perceived slights, but simply because it wasn’t necessary. We kept each other company in our quiet ways, a collegiate version of monastic life perhaps, living out our day to day duties in the confines of a whitewashed room with minimal furniture and simple needs. This isn’t to say we didn’t have our moments of riotous joy…we had our fair share of giggling and jokes (usually involving pizza and tormenting another exchange student named Yo with aforementioned pizza), but it wasn’t an everyday occurrence. Perhaps that’s why I find such happiness in the memories as they stand out from the myriad of conversational exchanges I had with others in my life at that time.
As Thomas Carlyle once wrote, “Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the daylight of Life, which they are thenceforth to rule.”
My silent introverted ways are simply thus…my way of processing and then reshaping the world into something more beautiful than I found it initially.