Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

3.02.2012

Loving My Headphones

She's making conversation. That's what you do at parties.

I never thought of conversation as something you have to "make," which maybe explains why it's so hard for me to actually talk out loud.


-----

That favorite reference source, The Compleat Idiot’s Guide to the INTJ, says:

We live inside our heads.
We frequently zone out. We get lost in thought and spend much of our time inside our heads. If our immediate reality becomes boring, we will retreat into our minds, and you might have to shout our names repeatedly to get our attention so we will come out again. And no, sorry, but you can’t come into our heads with us. You wouldn’t last five minutes there. You’d be driven insane by the nonstop cacophony of overlapping voices madly free-associating from one idea to the next.


and

We are aloof.
Because we are somewhat detached from reality, because we are introverted (we find interacting with people to be tiring and tiresome), because we are very private, and because we are impassive, we tend to come across as rather reserved and aloof. Okay, we actually are reserved and aloof.


I quote this, of course, because I can relate. I find it a helpful way of describing and understanding myself. Disappearing into my head is how I recharge, where I find renewed energy for interacting with people. That's typical of all introverts.

The thing I find particularly apt about this characterization of INTJs specifically is that it says we disappear into our heads when others are around. I not only do so, often I prefer it that way; being alone in a quiet environment can make it too hard to submerge myself in my internal world and having some external noise and chaos actually makes it easier to concentrate. I read the bulk of one of my favorite books in a noisy, chaotic bar while checking out a friend's band, and will often go out when I want to read or at least turn the TV on at home for background noise. I can't sit to be meditative, I have to move (Trail Running Is My Favorite Form of Meditation). I'd rather catch up on email and write book reviews at the public service desk at work than back in an office.

I find this becomes even more extreme in times of stress and weariness. The louder my internal noise, the more external noise I need to help me tune it out and focus on my thoughts. My dad's memorial service was Sunday and he passed about a month ago. I'm trying to get back into the swing of work and the responsibilities of life, and am finding the best strategy for doing so is massive quantities of reading, music, and individual pursuits in the times I'm not interacting with people; that's keeping me charged enough to keep moving forward.

Something I've noticed during the process--and recognize as a pattern from the past now that I think about it--is that I want to leave my headphones in as much as possible right now. At the gym, driving, walking/jogging, working around the house, napping, even sitting here right now. I could having music playing throughout the room or car, but I want it piped directly into my brain. In some instances, such as at the gym, it gives me an excuse to avoid the social niceties of having to interact with as many people, but it's not really about that since much of it happens when I'm alone. It's almost like being alone isn't isolated enough, and having the noise coming directly into my ears creates a more complete blanket of solitude, an extra layer of protection from the external so I can burrow even deeper into that wellspring of internal renewal.

I was up early and at the park yesterday enjoying the sunrise over the lake, and put in an audiobook for the journey. I ended up listening to it until I had to go to work, until the book was finished, about six hours later.

As a side note, I think much of our reaction to books and other experiences is dependent on where we are in our lives at the time we experience them. Even though I was very engaged in listening to the book and didn't want to stop, in some ways it was just a tool and I wasn't fully absorbed by it. I think my review reflects that, and if I'd read it at another time I think I would have found it even more compelling and affecting.

The book I'm currently reading, on the other hand, the source for the quote at the top of this post, seems to be just the right one for the moment. I'm still a bit detached from it and not as focused on it as I should be, but that doesn't seem to be detracting from my ability to experience it. You see, it's about a kid who lost his mom a couple years earlier and who's trying to recover from the fog of withdrawal and isolation he's been living in ever since. So even though I'm not absorbing every word, I'm right there with him emotionally and the journey is a good one. And it wasn't planned or an intentional choice, this just happened to be the next one on my pile of books to read.

Anyway, since we're on the subject of introverts, I wanted to share a few things from a site that a good friend found recently, The IntrovertZCoach. There's a good bit of reading available there, so a few choice things that particularly resonate with me. From Lesson Four:

The way introverts' brains work is different from extroverts. . . .

It means that introverts operate heavily in long-term memory. It means that when we speak, we may pause or speak more slowly than most extroverts because we are accessing our information from long-term memory storage. Another way to say this is that we can't speak "off the top of our heads" like those rambly, loquacious, pesky extroverts who are never at a loss for words. . . . On the other hand, we never forget something we've learned.

This also explains why we sometimes feel humiliated about our "failures", particularly when they are in public. Extroverts will quickly forget what they did at a wild party the night before (what party? what drinks? whose girlfriend?) whereas introverts will remember every excruciating detail intensely as if it were all going on again right now. . . . Introverts learn more quickly from their mistakes because of this as well. Sometimes we can learn just by watching someone else or hearing about their failure.

Our speech and communication patterns are neurologically different as well. This is not a behavior which can be changed, such as shyness, but rather a physiological fact of life.

Other habits of introverts are rooted in physiology as well. The following characteristics of introverts are the result of different brain physiology. They are not behavioral. Therefore, they cannot be readily changed. Learn to know these things about yourself and accept them for their advantages. It also helps to be able to explain yourself to others who might otherwise label you "slow" or "anti-social".

  • When speaking, introverts reduce eye contact to focus on collecting words and to reduce external stimulation and not because of low self esteem!!! Eye contact increases when introverts listen. Introverts are excellent listeners.
  • Introverts start talking in what seems like the middle of a thought to extroverts.
  • Introverts have good memories but may take a long time to access their memory especially if doing it in front of someone else.
  • Introverts can mistake telepathic communication for verbal communication since they live in their own inner world ... i.e., they may think they told you something when they just thought it.
  • Introverts may not really know what they think or feel unless they write it down or tell someone else.
  • Introverts like to "sleep on it" for clarity of ideas, thoughts, feelings and in making decisions. They do not like to be put on the spot for decision making, invitations or for opinions.
  • Introverts tend to immerse themselves thoroughly in a very few subjects, enjoying the intensity of this and not being comfortable "spread too thin". . . .
From Lesson Five:

Many times people use the words introversion and shyness interchangeably. This is inaccurate. These words are not synonyms. Introverts enjoy their solitude and are usually very happy by themselves . . .

America is an extroverted culture . . . I think our culture damages people by making them want to become more and more extroverted. . . .

Intensity, to me, is one of the keynotes or signatures of introversion. I know as a woman, I can always spot an introverted man because of his intensity, which I find extremely attractive. It correlates positively with intelligence, just like introversion does. . . .

I use the amazon.com LISTMANIA approach so you can easily click through and buy the book if you're interested. It saves time and introverts love to "shop" on the internet. We have the time we need to browse, compare and contrast, and privacy to make our decisions and choices. Most introverts really dislike the intervention of salespeople and complain about this vividly on forums. . . .


From Lesson Six:

Whereas extroverts tend toward high blood pressure, alcoholism, drug abuse, smoking and arthritis, the kinds of misery introverts are prone to could include most of the "designer diseases" which are being identified almost annually now, such as fibromyalgia, or conditions usually referred to as "psychosomatic". Like us, these conditions are more subtle. . . .

What is the problem that most of the mental and physical disabilities, conditions, even diseases that introverts are prone to is designed to solve? Space. Time alone. Alonetime as the author of Solitude coined the phrase. These common conditions give introverts more time alone. . . .

When schedules get crowded, when people get crowded, asthma and allergies result. . . .

Allergies are a problem for introverts who are on overload. . . .

Introverts who don't allow themselves the prerogatives of introversion: territoriality (a room of the their own with a door that closes, even their own ball-point pen and as young as preschool, their mittens or cap), the ability to set boundaries and say NO, downtime/ alonetime -- up to half your time should be spent alone for optimal mental health -- have often developed allergies that almost seem like a phobia to life itself. They are allergic to synthetic material, cats, dogs (almost impossible ... everyone is allergic to cats to some degree but dog fur doesn't contain the same noxious ingredient), pollen, smoke, inhalants, nail polish, flour, powder, smells (perfumes), laundry detergent, food additives, preservatives, the list goes on and on and on, to the point where you begin to suspect they can't stand anything in their environment. Well, this is true in a manner of speaking.

No, they aren't making it up. They are literally crying out for a reason to have a systems failure and be given the time alone that they need for a socially acceptable reason, sometimes time alone in bed in a room with the lights out and the door closed. Indeed, they are totally overwhelmed by stimuli from the environment and doing the only thing they can think of to get relief. It is a matter of environmental stimulation overload. It is as though to ask for privacy and reflective time is so embarrassing, shameful and impossible, that they would rather take on a physical condition because our culture of extroverts immediately rewards physical symptoms with tolerance, sympathy and support. Whereas, today there is in our society, an almost universal rush of sympathy for the person who has a physical problem , there is little or no understanding for someone who has a mental or psychosomatic condition. Perhaps this is because the majority of extroverts can't relate to something "inner" or "invisible" (like allergies) without thinking it is "made up" or "just get over it". This actually increases the sense of suffering and isolation experienced by the introvert with these issues. Better to come up with something clearly physical and get the support and sympathy you need that way. But now instead of one problem, the introvert has two: an inner and an outer "condition" that now make it almost impossible to cope. The fact that the root of the problem is mental rather than physical, perhaps even psychosomatic, doesn't diminish the suffering of the introvert. The psycho in psychosomatic refers to the psyche and soma refers to the physical body. We understand as intuitive healers that these are actually two forms of the same thing. That is why they respond so readily to one another. In some sense all illness is psychosomatic, so we make no distinctions. . . .


Yeah. My allergies have been particularly, inexplicably severe for the past month. Reading this was quite the epiphany.

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