Category: introverts

Don’t treat introverts like this

For a moment, I wonder if any other cultures in the world expect so much openness toward complete strangers.  It feels unnatural.  A person can’t be best buds with everybody they meet.  You have to be around them longer than a few minutes before you can open up.  You don’t really know what kind of person they are, or if you have anything in common.

While you’ve decided in ten minutes that I’m generally morose and must be taught to open up and be the life of the party, or that I’m the one making the hubby reserved–Well, you know nothing about me at all.  You sure don’t know the hubby, either.  He acts his own way, and I have nothing to do with it.  If I’m not bubbling over in laughter ten minutes after meeting you, it’s because nobody has said anything that funny, NOT because I have no sense of humor.  I’m also very shy.  It’s a natural trait, one I was born with, and one that can’t be eradicated or changed.

It gets particularly annoying to have people you’ve just met try to force you into laughter, or “jokingly” insult you, when your entire life, people have abused and otherwise mistreated you for being quiet, shy and introverted.

When people would corner you and scold you for not being “more lively.”

When guys would scold you for not being more playful/extroverted, and refuse to date you because you’re shy and/or introverted.

When an ex called you a “party pooper” as one reason why you’re a horrible person so he’s not coming back to you, even though you had always been playful and witty with him.  An ex who, by the way, turned out to be an abusive narcissist who can’t settle down with one job or one woman.  And you wonder if it’s because some creeps did nothing to make you feel comfortable at a party, and then talked about you behind your back, and the guy you liked turned it into yet another reason to scold you for acting “wrong.”

When people comment so often on your quietness in social gatherings that you started spending less and less time in social gatherings over the years.  That you have written thousands of words on the subject and posted them online.  So you have long since stopped the polite smiling and laughing you once did when people commented on you not talking.

When a couple abused and manipulated you because of your naturally quiet and introverted ways, so you had to break up with them, then spend years trying to undo the abuse and gaslighting they did on your head–while they stalked you online.

Then you go to a party and people bully you for being quiet and not bubbling over with laughter with people you just met who haven’t said anything particularly funny yet.  And get all amazed when you do laugh at something that actually is funny, as if you never do it.  When the truth is you laugh often and easily.  It’s just not funny for people to make personal remarks and try to force you into laughter when you don’t feel like it.

It’s just the way we are.  And no, we can’t change it.  We don’t particularly want to, either.  Because this is our natural state.

And no, it isn’t funny.  It’s not a joke.  We won’t have a good time.  In fact, you’ve just turned an enjoyable party into a horrible ordeal.

We aren’t sitting here waiting for somebody to tell us we have to smile or laugh or jump around or talk, and then we will just magically start doing it.  IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY.  We’re not trick ponies.

Seriously, crap like this makes an introvert turn into a hermit even if she/he wasn’t one before.  We may be polite to you to avoid a scene, but we will quietly seethe.

It’s obnoxious and rude to treat us this way.

F*CKING STOP IT.

 

Introvert shaming

I was just reading an article about introversion posted to Facebook by an introverted friend: So Apparently There Are Four Kinds of Introversion

(I was split about equal across all four kinds, by the way)

…And then, of course, in the comments to this article you find mean stuff accusing introverts who post on Facebook about introversion, of looking for pity and attention-seeking.

Sigh….

Once again, people really don’t understand introverts.

No, it’s people posting articles they find meaningful and helpful, the same as everybody else does on Facebook.  My husband’s Aspie cousin also posts lots of things about airplanes.

No, it’s about trying to understand yourself and explain it to others, after spending a lifetime of dealing with people who accuse you of being stuck up, or rude, or all sorts of other things, simply because you are quiet and introverted.

Who have abused you for it, or rejected you for it, or teased you for it, causing deep scars.

Who have scolded you out of the blue, when you were simply being yourself.

And it happens quite often.  It starts in childhood, when you have no idea why the other kids keep rejecting you and bullying you, or why you can’t please your teachers and other adults.

Most people want the approval of others, so telling us to just “shrug it off” won’t work.  No, stuff like this works deep in your psyche, a kind of introvert-shaming.

It causes you to feel like a freak, because not only can you not behave the ways that everybody keeps telling you, you “should,”–

but oftentimes you don’t want to.

Heck, I’ve just come through YEARS of fighting to recover from the emotional damage of being traumatized by Richard and Tracy for being introverted.  The whole story, the extent of how they abused me, starts here.  I recently realized that I finally made it through the darkness and have rebuilt my life again.

Another person in college, Shawn, also psychologically damaged me by criticizing all my introverted and NVLD traits.  I was in love with him, but he rejected me because of my introversion, while also sexually using me.  You can read about him here.  I had to go to counseling to untangle myself from him.  Yet years later, things he did and told me sometimes ring in my head.

If these things happen to me, then they happen to others.  I post my experiences to help other introverts and abuse victims get through the jungle of depression and self-pity, and to the point of accepting themselves–and not accepting abuse from others.

I had no such resource to help me, so I felt all alone.  But I can provide it for others so they don’t go through what I did, so they don’t feel alone.

Finally, we introverts have found a way, through Facebook, to quickly explain to all our friends that our behavior is actually normal and common.  We hope that finally, the judgment and criticism will STOP so we can relax more in social gatherings.

This is also a way to say, “We’re here, we’re introverted, get used to it!”

A way to reverse decades of emotional trauma by realizing we are OKAY.

To begin to empower ourselves.

To rebuild our confidence and become comfortable in our own skin.

To finally have the words we need and the gumption we need to tell people the next time they criticize us, “I’m an introvert, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

To STOP taking the criticism to heart and crying the rest of the day, or however each individual introvert deals with rejection and criticism.

To STOP apologizing for how we are.

To STOP trying to change ourselves and failing, destroying our confidence in ourselves.

To realize that we do indeed have something to offer, making us more attractive to employers, mates and friends.

To have a happy life of taking care of our own needs, rather than fighting against the grain of our own natures.  And that gives us the energy to take care of others’ needs as well.

…And we get accused of “attention-seeking” or looking for “pity.”

Or, another one I’ve seen, of trying to show that we’re “better,” or smarter or whatever, than extroverts.

Um, no.  This is just more introvert-shaming.  Quit it already!

(A Psychology Today article on reversing the effects of “introvert shaming,” on feeling self-worth instead of victimized, is here.  Another blog post from a kindred spirit on introvert-shaming is here.)

 

A post to make my blogging worthwhile

I just found this in my stats:

January 23rd post, “Finally, Someone Who Gets It

This blogger just found my post tonight: On Being Judged For Shyness.  After she read it, she wrote, “I’m crying internal tears of joy knowing that there’s someone out there who understands how I feel on a daily basis.  Her closing paragraph really hit home:”

My closing paragraph:

Please, don’t be that person.  Don’t expect shy people to talk.  Draw them out instead by asking questions.

If we still don’t say much, don’t take it personally; sometimes it takes a while for us to become comfortable enough with you to talk easily.  Or maybe we simply have nothing to say about that subject.  Because our brains have such a hard time coming up with conversational topics off the cuff, just give us a chance.

Let us be ourselves, and don’t make a big deal about our quiet natures.  It may take a few meetings, it may take 20 or 100, but eventually, we may begin to open up to you.  Even now I can be very quiet in a group of people I’ve known and been comfortable with for years, but one-on-one I can often be more talkative.

It does my heart good to see my posts connecting to others like this.  To know that all the clicking away I do all the time, is starting to reach out to others and make a difference.

 

NVLD: I just don’t understand people

Sometimes I have to cut out advice columnists for a while, just as in the 90s I had to cut out talk shows (such as Montel), because they can be triggering.  (I had bad experiences in college which these talk shows occasionally reminded me of.)

However, this is almost impossible because my newspaper runs an advice column, and you can’t help but read it with the comics.  Because the advice column often has bad advice, I feel forced to go elsewhere–usually Carolyn Hax–for some sanity again.

So until newspapers stop running these things, or I stop reading newspapers, I guess I’ll keep getting triggered now and then.  Just as bullies and abusers in my life tried to tell me I deserved their abuse, I’ll read what seems to say, “You deserved to be abused!”

This is why I had to drop a forum back in 2008, because people who knew nothing about the situation made it sound like I deserved to be bullied and abused.

I’ll read somebody else’s letter in an advice column and the responses, and it feels like over again, somebody is telling me, “You deserved to be abused!”  Even though it’s somebody else, and usually the situation is very different, I get shaky and distressed, like it’s all happening to me all over again.

With NVLD (nonverbal learning disorder), which is sort of like Asperger’s (though not the same thing), I just don’t understand people.

I was reminded of this again last night while reading a recent Carolyn Hax column and the responses from readers:

I read the letter writer’s complaint at face value.  When she said it was “perfectly natural” to discuss work with a co-worker, I thought, yes, of course it is.

I could agree with her that the girlfriend seems possessive and insecure to get all upset over work conversations between her boyfriend and the letter writer.

So when Carolyn and even the many commenters, on Facebook and on the Washington Post page, started ripping into the letter writer, I was shocked.

I just plain don’t get it.  I get excluded from conversations ALL THE TIME.

Nobody does it on purpose; it’s just that I’m an introvert with NVLD, and most people are extroverts without NVLD.  So they’ll be going on and on about something I don’t know a thing about, or that bores me, or somebody else makes my comment before I have a chance to.

I don’t whine about it; I only notice because often somebody turns to me and says, “You’re so quiet!”  That annoys me.  If you want to include me in the conversation, ask me a question; don’t criticize me and make me feel like a freak.

It happens in cars, just like with the letter writer and her two friends.  The other two will be in the front seats and I’ll be in the back, which automatically excludes you from conversation.

They’ll chatter on and on and I can barely hear them; if I can hear them, either I have nothing to contribute, or nobody hears me when I do.

Richard and Tracy used to do this all the time, too, when they’d drive me someplace, and they’d be up front talking on and on about their right-wing politics or some other thing, and I’d be quiet in the back seat.

Or we’d be in my house or their house, and they’d start going on about things I wasn’t interested in, or politics I did not agree with, or people I didn’t know, or make comments I found appalling, so I’d just sit quietly and wait for the conversation to change.

(Which is why her complaints of feeling “snubbed” have always baffled me.  Nobody was snubbing anybody, and if it’s “snubbing” to talk about things she doesn’t know about, then she “snubbed” me all the time. 

(It was just the normal, natural progression of conversation, and if, when other people were around, I got a chance to talk to Richard about something I actually knew about and was interested in, it was so rare and wonderful that I was darn well going to take it.  Everybody else did it to me all the time in their house; it was my turn, dang it. 

(This is also why I preferred one-on-one conversations with him, because we had a rapport and interests that could keep us talking for hours, which is highly unusual for me except with a few people. 

(Because it is so unusual for me, I see it as a rare treat, a delicacy, the caviar of friendships and social interaction.  While extroverts apparently see it as Tuesday. 

(But unfortunately, Tracy had such strict control that it was hard to see him without her, except on occasion, so when we got together, I wanted some of that rapport again for 10 or 20 minutes.  The rest of the time, we usually all socialized together, playing a game or something.)

But back to the main point.  It happens when more than two people are sitting at a table and the others inevitably steer the conversation toward subjects I cannot contribute to, or maybe I could but I can’t get a word in edgewise before the topic changes.

Or they talk about something I have no interest in, or about people they know but I don’t.

That’s why I prefer one-to-one conversations, because I can finally get a word in edgewise and talk about things I can contribute to, by helping to steer the conversation, instead of other people doing it.

Or sometimes I prefer the larger conversations because I don’t know what to say, and this takes the pressure off me to contribute.

Especially if I make a friend who I can actually talk to easily, I like the chance to just sit and chat with this person.

Introverts are like this: We don’t do well in group conversations, and just end up watching and listening.  But one-to-one, we can do a lot better.  Well, can.  I don’t always.  Often with one person, I still just sit there not knowing what to say.

But sometimes “magic” happens that I can’t explain, and I can chat easily with this person, probably because of similar interests and temperaments.

As for getting excluded–I get excluded when sitting at a meal with a group of people.  Happened all through school.  My college friends would go on and on every day about choir or their sorority, neither of which I was in.

Happened in the SCA, especially if they went on and on about something like sewing or SCA stuff (I was a newbie) or some bit of medieval knowledge that I know nothing about.

Happens every time I go to a social event and people chatter about things I don’t know about.

Happens at church every week, especially since I go to a Greek church and the people my age often talk in Greek with their relatives and older friends.  If I go to the English-speaking table, they’re mostly 30 or 40 years older than me and I can’t relate to the conversation.

And you know what?  That’s just frickin’ LIFE. 

I know people don’t do it on purpose.  You just frickin’ deal with it and don’t tell people what they can or can’t talk about, unless it’s something harmful, like making fun of someone or bringing up topics that are painful to you.  That’s being controlling and self-centered. 

(Heck, the one time I asked Richard not to talk around me about some guys who sexually harassed me, he said no.)

I think that people generally expect you to fend for yourself in conversations.  If you don’t, you just sort of disappear.

The only thing that annoys me is when people turn to me and complain that I’m so QUIET.

So I’m baffled by the Carolyn Hax column, why people have so jumped on the letter writer and accused her of all sorts of horrible things for doing the SAME THING THAT ALL THOSE PEOPLE WOULD DO TO ME WITHOUT THOUGHT IF WE WERE ALL SITTING AROUND A TABLE TOGETHER.

I just don’t understand people.  This is why I “hermit” so easily.  Why I “hermited” so much as a kid, but actually enjoyed going up into my bedroom when the house was full of relatives, or being alone all day at home during summer break.

Because people don’t make sense to me.  Oftentimes I had/have to deal with bullies, too.

Just when I think I have people figured out, they confuse me again.  Cats are easy: Pet them and give them a warm lap, and they’ll be devoted to you for life.

The researchers found that the brains of children with nonverbal learning disability responded differently to the social interactions than the brains of children with high functioning autism, or HFA, suggesting the neural pathways that underlie those behaviors may be different. —New light shed on learning disorders

UPDATE 2:02PM:

Going through the comments some more, I am greatly relieved to see at least two people who DO get it and don’t understand why the letter writer is being vilified.  They are introverts and social misfits to whom exclusion in conversation is perfectly normal and just something you tolerate.

One extrovert scolded that they may not want to participate in the conversation, but extroverts do, so it hurts them.

Er…Excuse me, introverts WANT to participate, same as extroverts.  We just get naturally shut out, which is frustrating. 

But we do not rage about this or treat them as if they did it deliberately, because everybody does this to us.  Our circles are small enough without chasing away all the extroverts we know.

One introvert, justaguy22, even sees the girlfriend as possibly abusive, possibly trying to control her boyfriend’s friendships and conversations, especially if she won’t let her BF see the LW without her, where they could talk shop!  That’s how I might see it, too–especially if the boyfriend uses the “we must pacify her” tone.

In my case, I got a lot of “Tracy’s jealous,” “She screams at the kids,” “She has to approve my friends,” “She’s emotionally abusive to me,” so seeing her reaction as controlling and possessive came from that.

I saw it myself when we were roommates for six weeks, and saw her become very hostile toward me as well, just out of nowhere.  I had no clue why.

And I was given a whole litany of things I did “wrong” around her that I could not even remember.

I said I needed help, such as her using words so I’d know when she wanted to converse with me, because I could not recognize it.

But no changes or help came from their side to help me change on my side, so I was continuously in the dark.  She continued to be displeased with my behavior, but without telling me at the time what I had done, so I had no clue.

I did not monopolize the conversation when she was in the room, mostly letting them carry it; if he and I sat next to each other, I might chat with him for a while, but usually my husband was there for her to talk to, or she was on the computer or doing some other thing.

She did not start conversations with me.  She did not even try with me, but instead expected me to come up with conversation when I have trouble with this in the best of social situations.

Most of the time there was something else going on in the room, or she was talking to everyone or to somebody else or screaming at a kid, so I didn’t see it as a time for starting conversation with her.

She criticized everything I did.  She refused to accept that I was a shy, quiet introvert with probable NVLD, who had always been that way and always would be, that making conversation with her–especially with someone who bullied me and whom I had maybe just witnessed verbally abusing her husband, kids or somebody else–was practically impossible for me until she stopped the abuse and accepted me for who I was.

Feeling pressured actually closes my throat and cuts off my thoughts.

Even then, I needed to be accepted as a quiet person who will not say much most of the time, even among my best friends.

I tried to explain all of this to Richard, hoping that he would explain it to her and they would help make it easier for me to relax around her.  But nothing ever changed, while I got blamed for everything and continuously punished for not being extroverted.

Also, after we broke things off with her, I had symptoms similar to PTSD.  As I wrote in one of my webpages on the situation, I was afraid to make new friends, constantly felt on-edge, like people were judging me harshly for being quiet.

It was always a huge relief to be among people who did not even mention my quietness, did not call me horrible for it, did not keep their husbands from being friends with me for it.

Reading this column was like, after all that, people were saying to me, “You deserved the abuse!  You deserved PTSD!  You deserve to be lonely and sad!”

I don’t know, maybe it’s just that the Carolyn Hax column is an entirely different situation from mine, and far simpler than what I dealt with, so the letter writer’s actions get a different response from the public.

I know that my husband–who is allowed to disagree with me and give the other person’s side–saw Tracy as controlling, too.

Maybe this letter writer is monopolizing the conversation, while I generally sit quiet in a corner.

I’m not sure it’s so hard to talk about something other than work, but maybe it’s the only thing she can think of at the time.  We don’t really know from one letter what all’s going on, and every letter that gets written to an advice column can get completely misinterpreted.

It happens, as we discover when somebody writes in with the “rest of the story,” whether from the original writer or from somebody else.

I believe I will now edit the full story of Richard/Tracy some more.  Apparently readers need to be more educated on introversion and NVLD, and told up front that I did try to do what I could to not “snub” her but I’m a timid person who was very intimidated by her aggressive manner.

Otherwise, people will just assume you are well-versed in social rules, an extrovert, can read subtle cues, etc. etc., and judge you unfairly.

One of the commenters on the advice column, who is used to being around geeks, complained about this, because of how people remarked on the letter writer.

Someone may have suggested Asperger’s; if she honestly cannot think of anything else to talk about, that is a possibility.  Aspies can easily fall into talking about their obsession even when you’ve already told them not to, but it’s not meant to hurt you.

Maybe I should incorporate this post into the introduction.  This is what people all over are dealing with in social situations, not just me.  All we ask for is understanding instead of vilification and writing us off.

 

Reblog: Introverts and NLD

See Socially Unaware’s post on introverts and NLD here:

Introverts and NLD

A quote:

I know that people with Nonverbal Learning Disorder are commonly introverts, but I never clued in to how closely NLD is actually linked with being an introvert until I read this article.

A lot of the socialization and behavioural attributes tend to coincide with each other so much that the line between the traits of an introverted personality and symptoms of NLD seem almost blurred.

 

More Evidence of NVLD….

Just now, I was looking through my family genealogy book, put together by my aunt, so I could put my grandma’s obituary in it.  (RIP as of Thursday.)  On the way to find her page, I found mine–and discovered that my aunt had included my worst possible high school picture!

It couldn’t have been the pretty freshman year one, with my hair pulled back and curled, or the senior picture.  No, it was THAT one, with shaggy hippie hair, where I looked like I was about to kill somebody.

(Fortunately, a very pretty picture of me with my little family in 2004 was also included, so I’m not immortalized in this book as the ugly duckling of the family.)

And yet I seem to recall, when I took THAT picture, thinking it looked like a smile.  Or at the very worst, a neutral expression.  Certainly no anger, or anything at all negative.

I know I tried to smile for it, because I always would smile for my school pictures.  Yet in my teen years, those smiles seemed to vanish in the finished product.

Also, for many years I felt my yearbook picture for senior year, which I myself chose out of several options, had a playful smile that revealed my personality.  Now, it looks more like a grimace.

What the—?  How could my impression of my own expressions change so much over 20 years?

To me, this is yet more evidence that I have NVLD.  That it has improved over the years, that I’ve gotten much better at “reading” people and their expressions, but that I had an awful time reading body language while growing up.  (See here.)

One day I might get it professionally diagnosed, if I find myself with a few thousand extra bucks (not likely).

But as I read over old diaries and revise my college memoirs for this blog, I find all sorts of evidence I had forgotten, things I struggled with in the first half of my life which are no longer big issues.  I have learned to deal with them over the years, learned to go with the flow more often, gotten better socially.  I’m not sure a professional diagnosis is still needed.  But I sure could have used one as a kid.

I think I was tested for something in elementary school, but I’m not sure what, or what the results were.

NVLD was identified but not widely known in those days, and I was good at reading and spelling, so my teacher’s solution to my social, math and handwriting problems was to scold and scold and scold.

Didn’t work; it just made me feel more freakish, because I had no clue why I couldn’t live up to her expectations, or how to change to please her.

I just knew that whatever I did was wrong, that my handwriting looked awful no matter how hard I practiced, that my middle school teachers found my work disorganized, hard to read and not according to directions, and that 8th grade math made no sense to me.

This was certainly not for lack of trying, or for deliberately defying directions.  I remember puzzling through study periods, wondering why I couldn’t get my math problems to match the answers in the back of the book.

Today’s kids have it easier because they can get diagnosed early with NVLD or Asperger’s.  This did not exist back then.  There is hope for them; they don’t have to learn the hard way, like I did, and struggle through life until they start to get it right.

I was good at algebra and geometry, but still can’t figure out how to calculate my credit card’s interest rate fees (8th grade math).  I became a clerk, then a stay-at-home mother, because I can do that well.  I can also write; at least, that’s what I’m told.  🙂

Another thing I found in the family book: a eulogy of my paternal grandfather.  He’s described as quiet and hard to get to know, but friendly and full of character.  Not quarrelsome, but won’t put up with getting pushed around, either.  Whether through genetics or other means, I see this is a family trait, because I’m the same way.  🙂

The encouraging news from Murphy’s book is that, with the right support and interventions, people with NLD cope much better as they get older….

“It can be devastating,” Lewis says, “if no one in their world is knowledgeable about NLD.”

That is all too often the case, given how frequently it goes undiagnosed. “The reason it’s very hard to get a diagnosis is that it usually exists in conjunction with other disorders,” says Sandra Newman, a learning consultant in the Hawthorne school district who diagnosed J.C. when she was in private practice in Fair Lawn in 2001.

As is the case with autism spectrum disorders, NLD is marked by deficits in social awareness or judgment. As a child who has not had appropriate interventions moves toward adulthood and expectations increase, social misperceptions and blunders occur more frequently and are more deeply felt…..

“Mike and I will be talking,” Wolin says of his stepson, “and I’ll say it’s 4 o’clock, and he’ll say, ‘No, it’s 4:03.’ So often the drive for precision in the detail distracts you from the larger issue — that we’re supposed to be somewhere at 4, and we’re late.” –Ellen Chase, Children, adults with non-verbal learning disorder develop strategies for using talents, navigating around deficits

That last paragraph reminds me of my ex Peter complaining that I would give the exact time, rather than saying “o’clock” or “quarter till” etc.  I couldn’t figure out what the fuss was about: He wanted the actual time, didn’t he?  I thought everybody did that!

 

On Women Getting Over Upsets

These videos (From “Tale of Two Brains” by Mark Gungor, DVD here) have been very helpful for my husband and me both in understanding why getting over Richard/Tracy has been so rough for me:

The Nothing Box

Men’s Brains vs. Women’s Brains

It seemed mostly obvious to me: Richard’s friendship meant a great deal to me, we did all sorts of things together, had many things in common, talked about everything, made connections.

So not only was it emotionally devastating, but every single thing in my life and in geek culture reminds me of him in some way, so I would get constant nudges pushing the pain onto me over and over every single day.

But as he explains it, Hubby put Richard into a “box” which he has buried deep in a warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant, never to be dug up again:

So he couldn’t understand why I didn’t just do the same.

Because he got over it so easily (despite wanting, every time he saw Richard at church or at the store, to go up to him and knock him out), I began to feel like there was something “wrong” with me for not being over it yet.

But the above videos explain how in a woman’s brain, everything is connected to everything else.  You can’t just categorize your life in boxes which do not touch each other.

Movies don’t just remind me of that movie, but of whomever I was with when I first watched it.  Games remind me of whom I played them with.  Cthulhu reminds me of Richard for reasons I won’t get into.  Everything about Orthodoxy, my chosen path, reminds me of Richard, because he was the one guiding me into it and helping with my questions.

And also, as explained in the above videos, when we are stressed, when we are emotional, we must talk about it, or we will explode.  Being told by male friends or family members not to talk about it, just drove me crazy because the feelings were still there, but couldn’t be released.  Hence, this blog.

Of course, there’s also the issue that introverts tend to have fewer friendships than extroverts, so we put more meaning into those friendships, and feel the loss much more than someone who has 20 other friends to fill the void one leaves.

Also the same for those of us who tend to have trouble finding dates, and can’t just find somebody else next weekend to mend the broken heart.

So on both counts, it was hard for me to get over broken hearts in college, just as it’s hard for me now to get over the loss of Richard’s friendship.  It tells me that this is perfectly normal for women and for introverts.

So those of you who are extroverts, or men, please be patient and lenient with us introverts and/or women.  We don’t mend our hearts the way you do, feel our losses very keenly, and can’t just put that bad experience into a box we never look into again.  It’s not a character failing or some mental issue; it is the way God made us.

Extroverts bullying introverts; also, Letting go of Richard because he could not accept me as an introvert

Occasionally, I’ll find a search term in my blog stats which interests me, and go look it up myself.  (These are the terms people type into search engines, which bring them to my blog.)  Tonight, such a search term led me to this page:

Me: Extrovert.  She: Introvert.  Can this relationship survive?  Should it?

The title is self-explanatory.  In reading the question and the responses from introverts, I recognized myself in the girlfriend and the other introverts.

The writer’s feelings about her introversion, reminded me of all those irritating comments I get from extroverts: Why don’t you talk?  You’re so quiet!  Smile!  And, of course, the “helpful” advice on how to change myself and be more outgoing.

Or criticisms that I’m “not lively enough,” that my quietness/shyness is a character flaw that I must work to overcome, or else I’m “in my shell” or being stubborn or not pushing myself enough.

Or the manager at work who treated my shyness as a discipline problem, saying that others were “afraid” to talk to me because I was quiet, directing me to push myself, make more small talk, etc.  (I felt vindicated later on when the president of the company complained that people were spending far too much time socializing and needed to talk about work during work hours.)

Then, of course, my favorite, Richard telling me one night that maybe my friends get tired of me not wanting to leave my “comfort zone,” even though he did not know my friends, never met my friends, never spoke to my friends, and had no reason to think this.

The comments in the AskMetaFilter article reminded me of the early days of my relationship with my husband:

When we were first dating, my extroverted husband would take me to SCA events, but then run off and do who knows what, without telling me where he was going or for how long.

I’d spend quite a bit of time either standing around alone, or with people I barely knew, and feeling miserable, or looking all over for him.  I felt abandoned, bored, awkward.

He’d want to go there early in the day and stay for hours; I got drained, overstimulated.  I began to hate SCA events; this is why I stopped going for a long time, thinking it was the SCA itself which did not appeal to me.

The same thing happened once at a wedding dinner: After we finished eating, he just got up and left.  He went to chat with friends, but didn’t say where he was going or invite me along.

So I sat there at the table, with a stranger, and neither of us spoke; I felt miserable, abandoned, bored.  It wasn’t about him chatting with friends, but about me feeling abandoned.

Over time we worked things out as he discovered how I felt to be left alone among strangers, that I enjoyed SCA events much more if I was with him, that I wanted to be sociable but could only stand an event for a few hours.

The comments reminded me of my ex Phil, who during/after the breakup accused me of being a “party pooper,” told me other people considered me one because I am quiet, shy, and (allegedly) did not want to go dancing with him (even though we went to several dances, and even though I didn’t recall him ever asking me to go to a club before the night I had a concussion).

He twisted it into a character flaw and a good reason to break up with me, because my ideas of fun were different from his!

It is so very reassuring to read through these comments, and through various other blogs and articles I’ve found about introversion over the past several years, and find that I’m okay the way I am.  That it is not at all a “character flaw” to be introverted/shy.

For a while I thought it was selective mutism, but when I read about selective mutism, it seems more like extroverts pathologizing the more extreme introverts, and trying to “fix” them because they must be “wrong” and “unhappy” the way they are.  I read that “selective mutism” is not generally caused by abuse, and that it can run in families.  So…Couldn’t it just be extreme introversion?

This comment put words to one main reason why I could not be forced into friendship with Tracy, into jumping her hoops to please her:

You seem to be unwilling to let her be her. If she’s not comfy around your friends after six months, bitching to MeFi won’t change that. And neither will confronting her about it.

Now she’ll sit there quietly thinking “these are the friends I have to be OK with” the entire time. Sounds miserable to me, I’d stop seeing your friends ASAP if you told me that. –Brian Puccio, Comment

I’ve written about this in various other posts, and here (20,000-word version) and here (summary + option to read full story), so I don’t want to rehash it all.

But the above AskMetaFilter link reassured me that my husband and I made the right decision when we ended the “friendship” with Richard and Tracy.  Because they were extroverts who:

  1. showed zero empathy to my introversion, so much so that even my husband noted it
  2. would not accept me as I was
  3. insisted I was “making excuses” and needed to “push myself”
  4. insisted on pushing, guilting and punishing me into becoming extroverted, even accused me of being a “victim” by not becoming extroverted–but when I said “STOP trying to change me” said “I’m not trying to change you” and got petulant and said I needed to get over my hurt feelings before talking to him again
  5. even went so far as to go into narcissistic rages with cussing and fury and punishments and blame and physical intimidation and threats because I could not become the extrovert Tracy wanted me to be–so everything I did, even though Tracy was okay with other friends doing them, I was not “supposed” to do, (even after I was specifically told that I could do them)
  6. accused me of “false facts” and called me crazy for writing about all these things and calling them bullies, even though there is nothing “false” or “defamatory” about the truth

Because of all these things, I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my husband and I did the right thing in severing all relations with them.  Not just romantic partners, but friends, especially best friends, need to accept you the way you are.  If they can’t, then they don’t belong in your life.

I read through the comments in the AskMetaFilter article, and recognize so much of what Richard and Tracy did, and the things I tried to explain to them, that I see that no, what I wrote is indeed what happened, nothing “false” about it.  Tracy tried to force me to change to be an extrovert to please her, I resisted because at my age I knew it was impossible, so she punished and bullied me in various overt and covert ways.

Commenters in the AskMetaFilter article suggested ways to steer the introvert into conversations rather than leaving them to fend for themselves; Richard basically left me to fend for myself, with plenty of criticisms but no actual help at the times when I was around Tracy, and trying to force and guilt me into things I did not feel comfortable with, such as hugging Tracy.

Because Richard went along with her instead of actually listening to me and realizing that introverts cannot “push themselves” into being extroverts, that we’re not “making excuses,” that our quiet and introverted behaviors are not character flaws or deliberate attempts to annoy Tracy, that we need to be accepted as we are–

–He was not a good friend at all.  I think the more I accept and realize that he was not a good friend, the more I will let go of the false dream of him as my “best” friend.

I contrast it with how my husband has responded to my explanations of the introverted brain and how social situations tax me.  It is a huge difference.