Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Alone To Find Yourself Somehow

The other day, Vox Day noted an article on introversion by Jonathan Rauch that appeared in the Atlantic. Vox used this as a springboard to come up with an interesting theory about blog writers and readers based on some of its premises.

I too found The Atlantic piece noteworthy, particularly this section:

In its modern sense, the concept goes back to the 1920s and the psychologist Carl Jung. Today it is a mainstay of personality tests, including the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.

Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses."

The statement on the absolute need for introverts to have some time alone rang true for me. I really notice this when I travel for business. After two or three days of being with people all day at work and then usually rejoining them in the evening for dinner, I reach a breaking point where the desire to spend the night alone almost becomes a physical longing. Calling this a restorative for introverts akin to sleeping perfectly captures the feelings I experience.

Usually after a night away from the crowd, my social batteries are recharged and I'm ready to once again interact in a constructive manner with my fellow humans. Not getting a chance to have this alone time however has the opposite effect and I end up feeling both physically and mentally drained. This need for occasional solitude is most definitely not appreciated by all and can potentially lead to awkward social situations. One would hope that Rauch's article helps more people understand that for us introverts it's not personal, sometimes we just really need to be alone.