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Semiformalishmaybe

E versis I

For much of tonight I've been mulling this, some random dude's thoughts on introversion versus extroversion. I'm a bit relieved to see that he doesn't seem to actually be a psych person; either the very idea of introversion and extroversion is not as much a science as we'd think, or he's pretty wrong on some bits of it (in ways that are at variance on how I've normally heard it talked about), or I'm hard to classify.

First, I'd like to think about that third reason a bit. By pretty much any M-B test I've ever taken, including some more-or-less formal ones by people who study psych, I'm very very introverted. There is, however, a big difference between me in two states: in-a-relationship and outside-a-relationship. I do have social needs, but they are significantly met by either a few very close relationships or a romantic partner. When they are met, I am fairly stable, occasionally cheery, and I don't really need people but provided I get enough alone time I'm able to be social and function reasonably. When they are not met (single and no social circle), I am pretty neurotic, very reclusive, passive-aggressive, gloomy, short-tempered (at least internally), and bitter. How I treat those around me differs considerably in both states.

Let's name those modes for sake of this conversation:

  • In-a-relationship-Pat is Pat-Alpha
  • With-a-few-close-friends-Pat is Pat-Alpha-minus
  • Otherwise-Pat is Pat-Beta
In both cases, I am shy, although this is mostly because I find it very burdensome to have too many friends, and because I don't want to need to push people away if they're not suitable to be a friend, and because I generally find people exhausting, and .. well, there's some genuine shyness in there too; I have strong inhibitions against conversing with people I don't know. There's also this fear that I will suddenly end up meeting a lot of people at once and they will all try to socially grab onto me and gahhh. I pick my friends very very carefully.

Moving into his analysis,

  • I definitely need a lot of time alone to survive psychologically. He considers this an introvert trait. As Pat-Alpha, I don't typically need to be alone from a partner, just alone from everyone else. Over the course of my life, I generally pick partners because somehow they don't trigger my territoriality/need-to-be-alone. I can be alone-with-them or without them, and get the same restoration
  • I also do find what he calls weak social fields helpful; having people around does meet some instinctual need to be around people, especially if they expect nothing of me. I do this in both modes, although I need it less with Pat-Alpha than with Pat-Beta.
  • Here's where I differ with him a bit, largely as part of a lifelong experiment. I soul-bare to a large extent with the general public. There are a few people who get a bit more stuff, but I try to generally live openly. However, this is mostly an online thing; I don't usually soul-bare in person (although I am willing). This is an area I've altered my instincts through philosophy though.
  • When it comes to that "with anyone" thing, that's sometimes true; there are times I'll talk with complete strangers (if they break the ice) and have a good conversation but also don't want to take on the burden of a friendship or obligations.
  • In both modes I am strongly drained by "strong-link social fields". Particularly with my family, but occasionally with other people's families. When dating N, I went to a very long Christmas gathering of her family, and eventually had to go hide in a bedroom for awhile because it just got to be too much. I held out longer than I should've, and was literally shaking by that point, but that was after 5 hours. Generally, my family gatherings tended to have people wander in and out from where-the-people-are; I'm not sure if this is because we all need to recharge for a bit every so often or not. My sister Lindsay is more like me than the twins are, and she often would disappear for a bit too.
  • I definitely prefer 1:1 gatherings over group gatherings
  • I differ from him on reaching maximum depth; for relationships I do generally like to very rapidly figure out if someone is right for a relationship and build things as quickly as possible (if I think of someone that way), but for friendships I generally take things slow. Well, actually, this depends. Pat-Alpha takes friendships slowly, but Pat-Beta will take friendships reasonably quickly if those friendships have a chance of being the right kind to fill the inner orbitals of a social network.
So yeah, the introvert descriptions only kinda-work. There're also some extrovert bits that kinda-fit
  • I do really like physical contact, at least with my cats and ideally with a partner. I am not particularly inclined to have it with others, but when I don't have a partner I begin to feel a bit nerotic about not generally touching another human in any way (no hugs or handshakes or anything) for months or years.
  • Pat-Alpha is generally very slow to establish close ties with a new person (see description 4 of extroversion), although this is usually because I only have so much room in my life for people
  • In both modes, very very long solitude does induce some panic. I need solitude more than I need company, but if I don't have any meaningful human contact for about a week I begin to develop issues
  • I am generally unwilling to hang out with large numbers of people at a time, and do not enjoy it.
I'm not sure about how he describes E-I ties. For me, my small number of close friends and/or significant other, when they exist, are very close and they keep me sane. I treat everyone else as either scenery or disposable (and thus to everyone who is neither in that circle nor a significant other, I would look like what he describes as very introverted). When I lack that circle, I will generally just decide to put people in it (or pretend to myself that they are in that circle), and get very very grumbly if they don't seem to create that same kind of tight intimacy. I don't feel like I have a lot of choice in this; I don't exactly exist on some level without those close ties, and I'll essentially dream people into the circle if I must because it feels necessary to stay sane to at least delude myself into feeling that I have those kinds of ties. Sometimes the burning resentment I feel towards the real-world counterparts of my imagined circle means I'm actually rude/gruff/angry at people who I deeply wish were my intimate friends, because the distance between my imagined version of them and the actual them is so great. Fortunately or unfortunately, I can mostly get by with the imagined social circle although I get increasingly loopy if I have to do this for long periods of time.

I also have a very weird "member" of my social circle being the imagined public of my online audience, which really isn't a bunch of specific people so much as a collective class of past, present, and future readers.

Those insults seem pretty off to me, at least given how I think about friendships. Would I be labelled codependent by people who don't want to be in my inner circle and aspie by people who do who I've decided are more suited for occasional contact? Both would feel pretty wrong to me (as would the idea that anyone would want to be an aspie).

The way I think about introversion versus extroversion depends mostly on that what-energises-you thing and the pattern of relationships one has; I think of extroverts having a relatively gently-sloped line between acquaintance, friend, close friend, and lover. I think of introverts having a very steep slope there. This slope in both cases being one of ratios and treatment. The extrovert does well with frequent social activity, so they can be close to a lot of people. The introvert does well with a lot of alone time, so they'll be very guarded with their time and only keep a few people in their life.

But then, I could imagine an introvert who is guarded in a different way; no close ties at all, with random rapid-depth disposable ties as their primary social interaction. I'm not that kind of introvert, certainly.

Comments

either the very idea of introversion and extroversion is not as much a science as we'd think, or he's pretty wrong on some bits of it (in ways that are at variance on how I've normally heard it talked about), or I'm hard to classify.

i've always been at odds with the "scientific"/M-B classification; it really doesn't capture a lot of the differences. the article, for me, illuminated an axis that i hadn't realised was its own thing (and here's another article that's similar-but-different and also fails to show the whole picture). you might be less skeptical of it to ignore the particular already-overloaded words he chose for his classification.

When I lack that circle, I will generally just decide to put people in it (or pretend to myself that they are in that circle), and get very very grumbly if they don't seem to create that same kind of tight intimacy.

hm, well said. i do this all the time, frequently without realising it. for me, it's nice to be able to think "i am socially well-off because look at this circle i have that's full of people", but i think it's unfair to both the people inside it and outside of it to draw a line that predetermines what i expect.

Would I be labelled codependent by people who don't want to be in my inner circle and aspie by people who do who I've decided are more suited for occasional contact? Both would feel pretty wrong to me (as would the idea that anyone would want to be an aspie).

maybe? i certainly feel like they apply to me sometimes, in a few of my different modes.

i don't think the article is trying to show the appeal of each set of traits; in fact, exactly the opposite. i think it really meant that the more interesting thing to measure is how balanced or extreme people are in either direction.