Monday, January 19, 2015

Introversion, Insecurity, Exhaustion

Introverts get exhausted by interaction.


There are people who are otherwise energetic in life, they accomplish things, but they avoid interaction with other people.  They do fine at functional interactions: going to the bank, making purchases at the store, dealing with the plumber.  They generally also do fine doing business with people when the hierarchy is clearly defined: when it is clear who is supposed to be respected or followed.  They are able to take orders, and they are able to direct their subordinates.

But when it comes to interacting with friends, relatives or peers, introverts find it very hard to have "fun" or to feel energized by the socialization.  They find it taxing and exhausting.


Let me make the claim here that introversion is essentially a symptom of feeling inadequate.  This inadequacy might be the result of not having received enough love as a child, of early social rejection as an adolescent, of one's social class, or of a deep-rooted inferiority about one's physical attributes.

Introversion lends itself to poetry, literature, intellection and to similar solitary activities.  An introvert is, justifiably in my opinion, regarded as less attractive than an extrovert.  An introvert feels flawed.  Usually people go by one's evaluation of oneself.  If you don't feel good about yourself, neither will others.

Introverts might give the impression that they are good listeners, but they are usually listening to narratives inside their own head, thinking of what to say or how to respond.  Others' words bounce off their heads, rarely generating passion, feeling or interest, unless the conversation is about them.

It is not much fun being around an introvert, because he, sooner or later, wants to be left alone.  Hence, a cycle of introversion might quickly become self-perpetuating.  Introverts don't like being with others, others detect this and therefore are not attracted to introverts, introverts see this as rejection and retreat further into their shells.

Why is interaction exhausting for an introvert?  Due to the feelings of inadequacy, the introvert is usually playing a role when with others.  When alone, the introvert can be himself, without any judge or witness.  But with others, the introvert is trying to protect his fragile ego.  This means that the introvert is being on his guard, careful about what he says or how he comes across.  He sees interaction as a battle.  He already feels inadequate and in need of approval and validation, and to be asked to interact is to be again put at risk.  In conversations, he is self-effacing, generally agreeable, slightly opaque, somewhat stressed.

The introvert rarely disagrees with others in a way that puts his ego on the stake.  He keeps the conversation mundane and inconsequential.  He is most comfortable with impersonal topics which do not require any movement or activity in his emotional core.  It is hard to have a heart-to-heart with an introvert because the introvert will quickly put on his shields and deflect.  When a conversation turns to personal topics, the introvert starts to take a principled stand and to thinking and talking in proverbs and quotable quotes rather than have a nuanced understanding of the individuals involved.  It is hard to criticize a principle, so the introvert remains safe and immune.

Due to this defensiveness and enactment and "performance" during an interaction, it drains the introvert.  Non-introverts are relatively more accepting of themselves, and they can be more spontaneous.  Interaction is not as much of a chore for them, because they are not having an agenda.  The introvert, on the other hand, has an agenda: to protect himself, to come across as agreeable, to find a way to get out of the interaction before too long, etc.

The introvert also is usually very judgmental.  He secretly judges everybody as inferior and shallow.  In a way, it is another tactic of his ego trying to protect itself.  He might find others charming and engaging in cheerfulness and frivolity, and he might secretly want to as well.  But because he is unable, due to his fear of rejection, he finds it easier to denounce them as less evolved than him.  This secret denouncement makes him feel good about himself.  It might even be said that he needs to be constantly judging others for his ego to have some nourishment.  He cannot just be in a conversation and be engaged in the subject.  He compulsively focuses on the people and what flaws he can find in them.

The interactions then become even more fake and tiresome for him.  He is being pleasant and even witty while inwardly looking down on others.  The others detect this, sooner or later, and want to get away from the introvert.  The introvert sees this as evidence of his evolution: in his mind, the reason other people avoid him is because they feel unworthy of him.

With peers, the introvert is generally ill-at-ease.  He looks forward to the comfort and safety of his solitude.  He doesn't like to be the subject of others' observation.  An introvert is usually very hesitant and embarrassed to have his photograph taken.  He feels awkward when someone gives him a gift, or tries to emotionally reach out to him.  In a way, he doesn't want to exist emotionally for others.  An "exposure" (photographic or emotional) gives rise to the possibility of others looking at and evaluating him.  He is not comfortable with that.

In short: an introvert does not want to be evaluated.  Because he evaluates others constantly, he imagines interactions as evaluations of himself in the eyes of others. And therefore finds them taxing.

An introvert can open up only when he has complete trust that he will not be rejected.  Most introverts do not have such a trustworthy person in their lives.  Their prognosis is bleak because they push people away very quickly, and only a rather persistent individual can break through to them.  Even therapy might not help them much, because though the therapist will expose their private self and accept it, that is scant guarantee that someone else will.

I believe the first experience of acceptance for a child is from its parents.  If that acceptance is inadequate, various neuroses can develop and no subsequent acceptance will be found good enough.


I have tried to analyze the "introvert" as an archetype.  In most of us, the attributes of introversion exist to some degree.  And the above analysis is therefore probably applicable to us to that limited degree.

Introversion is not a death-sentence.  It can be, however, quite difficult to overcome.  Starting from an awareness of one's fragility, one can slowly come to accept oneself as lovable.  One must not emphasize only one's strengths as compensations which make one "lovable in spite of", but regard one's other attributes as acceptable too.  To disregard/repress one's unlikable self is exactly the error which we should be trying to avoid.  The narrative has to change from "I don't like this about myself," to "I am this curious mix of attributes."  Stop being your own worst critic.  Accept yourself as a colorful human being.

It is to be expected that one will want to spend time with some people, and not as much with others.  A die-hard introvert, on the other hand, doesn't want to spend time with anybody.  A non-introvert might be choosy as to who he interacts with, but his interactions are more relaxing, energizing, and more open and vulnerable and personal in nature.  An introvert's interaction is more like an algebra lecture: replete with averted glances, hidden variables, unknown agendas and unsolved equations.

A movement towards accepting oneself also will mean that one starts finding others lovable.  One will no longer see others as objects ready for one's judgment and criticism and condescension, but as varied kinds of flowers and birds and apes.  Then interactions have the potential to become explorations where one can relax, be oneself, and give others the space to be themselves as well.

And for those of us who are not as introverted: when you come across someone shy or anxious, be kind, and be someone that he can regard as safe, trustworthy and non-judgmental.

Be his friend.  He needs one.  At least till he becomes his own friend.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic analysis, very deep and insightful.

Sridhar said...

Interesting analysis. However, as a man, my experience has been that women in general, at least at first are more attracted to men who seem stoic, reserved and even aloof, versus the talkative chap who wears his heart on his sleeve.

And I think we are all situational introverts and extroverts. I have noticed people who seem like strong introverts in some enivironments are a completey different person in other situations. And also, perhaps disinterested and disillusioned individuals can come across as intoverted.

Gautam said...

Interesting analysis. I too am an introvert and find myself exhibiting some of the behaviours you have outlined.

I can be an introvert or somewhat of an extrovert depending on the situation.

Please read Susan Cain's - Quiet, for some fascinating research on introverts.

Swami Aniruddha said...

I fully come under the category of Introverts exactly as you have described. But Introversion/introverts have a very deep link with spirituality/philosophy and introverts would be very spiritual/philosophical may be even 100% if their survival needs are taken care of, for their whole life since child-hood via unconventional methods of Income.

Introverts time would be spent mostly in Scriptures, Philosophy, Meditations etc. To some extent they would feel superior about themselves[Like CIA NOC Agents] over others and even consider others as retarded individuals as the gap between them & others is too far & wide. This also has some connection with enlightenment.

In this Acharya Rajneesha/Osho is the perfect example. He always stressed aloneness as a virtue. But as the same he said aloneness is not loneliness. Also introverts would be misers with money and also celibates. Because miserliness & celibacy go hand in hand.

In my personal case I have felt more lonely among people than without people. In my 57 years cavalry career I could never have a single friend only casual acquintances that too only work related .

To bear people & company would be the most difficult for introverts. Osho spent his whole life inside a Room except for morning/evening 2 hrs for darshans & discourses.