The Writer: “So…..ah…..I don’t really know how to say this but…..I want to be supportive…..and I just wanted to know how I should handle the whole ‘you going to therapy thing.'”
Me: “Good grief. It’s not a Big Deal. Just act like I’m going to another yoga class or something. Yeesh.”
Now I understand, and really appreciate, the general spirit of supportiveness that inspired this exchange, and that I live in the Deep Middlestates, where going to therapy is generally considered to be some sort of hush, hush Big Deal that people should hide, or be sheepish about, or ashamed of, or something. (As opposed to, say, the Westcoastal areas. Where people have therapists to talk about what they talk about with their therapists. And that’s okay. According to my therapist.)
But I still don’t think it should be a Big Deal.
I started going several months ago because I was stressed, and anticipating an even bigger heaping helping of stress with the upheaval and Big Life Changes I’m facing. And because I want to be the best person I can be physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, etc (I’m not going to kid myself, there is lots of room for improvement here) and therapy is a way to help with that. And because, frankly, I wanted to give my friends (whose sympathetic ears I have been shamelessly taking advantage of for free pseudotherapy for years, thanks guys, I know, I owe you) a (well deserved) break.
And frankly, it has been great. The relief of having an (actually) trained, objective, professional as my own, personal captive audience to regularly listen to all my problems and worries, cannot be understated. Frankly, I think everyone (because everyone has problems and worries, yes, even in the Middlestates *gasp*) should have a therapist. (Versus many of my peers who favor the regular, aerial spraying of Prozac.)
Not only is the opportunity for validated ventilation very helpful and otherwise fantastic, I am also starting to learn very helpful (as in ‘Holy Crap perhaps I should have started going to therapy before my mid-thirties and saved myself, and the aforementioned friends, a considerable amount of angst’) things about myself.
For example, after The Match experience, I pretty much hid from the world for several days. I shut off my phone, slept, watched an endless marathon of mindless movies, and only spoke to The Writer because they were the only person physically close enough to have to speak to them.
I do this kind of thing occasionally. Just hide. For days. Always after a really stressful event or some sort of Big Social Event. And I always feel bad about my need to do this. When I saw my shrink afterwards and told them about it, and my tendency towards this sort of hiding behavior, they were all nonchalant about it and like “Well yeah, you’re an introvert. And introverts tend to need time to recharge by being alone after something like that.”
They may have been all nonchalant, but I was all “WHAT?????” and “WOW!!!!”
Enter the epiphany.
That night I went home and decided to do some more research (i.e. Googling. Lots of Googling.) on this ‘introvert’ business. And the epiphanies just kept coming.
For example, this post about myths about introverts I found on Owl City’s blog, citing another popular post by Carl King:
“Unfortunately, according to the book, only about 25% of people are Introverts. There are even fewer that are as extreme as I am. This leads to a lot of misunderstandings, since society doesn’t have very much experience with my people. (I love being able to say that.)
So here are a few common misconceptions about Introverts (I put this list together myself, some of them are things I actually believed):
Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.
Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.
Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.
Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.
Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.
Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.
Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.
Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.
Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.
Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.
It can be terribly destructive for an Introvert to deny themselves in order to get along in an Extrovert-Dominant World. Like other minorities, Introverts can end up hating themselves and others because of the differences. If you think you are an Introvert, I recommend you research the topic and seek out other Introverts to compare notes. The burden is not entirely on Introverts to try and become “normal.” Extroverts need to recognize and respect us, and we also need to respect ourselves.”
Again, with the “WHAT???” and the “WOW!!!” I mean, that is so me.
I also liked the article “Caring For Your Introvert” by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic. It’s like these people have looked directly into my brain and read my owner’s manual. And apparently, I am not alone as both pieces have sparked intense interest and conversation about the Introverted Individual in our society.
That’s right! We’re not weird, or wrong, we’re Introverts!!!!
I decided to look into the whole ‘personality type’ thing a little further (i.e. more Googling) which led me to information about the Myers-Briggs/Jung personality typology. I knew that I, and probably many others, have taken Myer-Briggs tests before, but I’d never really thought anything of it. In fact I remember taking the test my first year of medical school. We all took our tests, and then I remember sitting in a small awkward group with the rest of the people who shared my personality type.
And that is what actually happens when you sit a bunch of introverted strangers around a table and expect something magical to take place. Only this did not occur to me at the time. I just thought there must be something wrong with us, and gladly left the awkwardness behind without further thought or investigation, as quickly as possible. To try and (awkwardly) continue to fit in in a (n apparently) primarily extroverted world.
When I actually started to read All About INFJ’s the other night, lightbulbs were going on all over the place again. Again, it was like someone has been following me around my entire life, writing down everything I do and why I do it, and then recording it on a website for me to read later. After I’ve finally gone to therapy and gained some insight into why understanding this stuff might be (pretty fricking) important in attempting to make myself, and my life, less awkward.
Well….better late than never right?
The point is, therapy has been great. It is certainly (completely, totally, absolutely, undeniably) nothing to be ashamed of, and because of it I’m starting to understand who I am and why I am the way I am. Which will hopefully make me, and my life better.
So, maybe you aren’t ready for therapy, but you would like to learn a little more about yourself. Totally cool. I suggest you check out This Website for a free, mini-Myers-Briggs assessment. I’m not advocating for it’s efficacy or veracity or anything, and I’m sure it doesn’t come close to the real MBTI test, but it’s a brief assessment that will give you your (approximate I suppose) MB personality type, and lead to information about whichever type you (might) could be.
And, who knows? Maybe an epiphany or two of your own……