Thursday, April 17, 2014

matters of temperament

Over the past couple weeks, a few of the blogs I read have been discussing introvert vs. extrovert and also "are introverts really all shy?" (short answer: no, because technically "introvert" vs. "extrovert" relates to whether you prefer to recharge alone or with a group of other people).

And yeah, I do think a lot of things in society now kind of militate against being an introvert - you see all these people walking around talking to people (or, well, now, more often texting or doing Facebook updates) all the time. I relish being able to walk across campus to carry paperwork to an office or go to a meeting because that means a few moments when I can be alone with my thoughts. I don't have enough to say, I think, that I could constantly be texting people or doing the booking of Faces.

Digression 1: I don't Facebook. I have an account, because very occasionally I need to see a page for which I have to log in. (My town's minor-disaster-management page - when we had a boil order that seemed to go on and on, the only way I was able to find out it was removed was by registering for Facebook and looking at their sooper-sekrit members-only page. Which is annoying.) But it seems to me like a Facebook page requires an awful lot of curating - I know people who update theirs with photos and such multiple times a day. And yeah, I suppose it's a good way to keep up with someone who is in the hospital or otherwise ill (it seems several people at church know exactly what's up with the people who are injured or sick, from facebook updates) - well, I also sometimes feel like there's such a thing as too much information. It seems to me that for some people, Facebook really breeds drama. Or you find out things about a person you'd rather not know. (One reason I don't internet-stalk certain famous people I have a certain level of regard for, is that I'm afraid of running across something that will disappoint me, and will make me regard them less highly).

Anyway. As I said, I prefer to be alone with my thoughts when I have a few moments' downtime like that.

I also know that I don't like crowds. Don't like them at all, to the point where if there's some event I MIGHT want to go do (the Germanfest in Muenster, TX, is an example) and I think about how many more people will be there than what the town normally has, I kind of decide not to. Now, it would be different if I had someone to go with - another person does serve a bit as a buffer for me in a crowd situation.

And I don't like noise. Or strong smells. Or over-bright lights.

And I don't know how I got onto it, but I saw the term "highly sensitive person" so I looked it up. There's even a test. Now, granted, this is all pop psych stuff, and even Wikipedia calls it "fringe theory" - but it's kind of frightening how many things on that test I actually exhibit.  Maybe not to the degree of having to "withdraw to bed" but I admit, more and more, over my "lunch break" when I don't have office hours? I close my door. So I can eat my lunch without being interrupted or dealing with hall noise.

And this one: "When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise." Though for me, it's more "if I realize I'm being judged" - I can get up and speak or read before a crowd, no problems. But I've noticed I don't play as well during piano lesson as I do when I'm just practicing for myself, because on some level I feel pressure to do really well.

And I startle easily, and I don't work effectively when I know I might be interrupted, and I do get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short period of time.

Adherents of this hypothesis claim that some people (they say about 20% of people) process information and stimuli a little differently, and that's what leads to the traits.

I don't know. The whole "fringe theory" designation makes it seem a bit in tinfoil hat territory to me, but then again, a lot of the stuff described fits me so well. (I'm not really the "female Sheldon Cooper," as an ex-administrator claimed, but I do show a few of his traits - at least the ones as regards sensory input).

I also don't like the term "highly sensitive person" because that sounds really "special snowflake" to me and one thing I try very hard NOT to be is a "special snowflake," even to the point of putting up with stuff that maybe I shouldn't have to.

I tend to think of it more as "easily overwhelmed" or something like that. But loud noise does bother me, and it seems to bother me more than other people. (My mom has said, on talking about some event or something at church, either, "There were a lot of crying babies there, you would have hated it" or "They had amplified music and it was kind of loud, you would have been really uncomfortable"). And strong odors bother me, or even odors that aren't strong but are bothersome. (I always have to take the kitchen trash out to the can immediately after putting a chicken wrapper in it because I know if it sits over night I'll smell it all the next day). And trying to juggle all the stuff I have to do can really get me down, to the point where I snap at people if they try to change my schedule when I feel like I've carefully Tetrised in everything I have to do.

I don't see it so much as a "blessing" as some sites do, but as a warning: "Be careful so you don't annoy other people with your insistence on keeping to a schedule."

I will say I don't seem to cry particularly easily (a trait they claim), though I do have my moments.

I hope tonight is not one of them. We are doing a Maundy Thursday service, where there is going to be a complete reading of the Gospel of Mark. I'm one of the readers, because getting up in front of people and reading doesn't bother me, and I can do it fairly well. (Well, I rehearse ahead of time, so I'm not coming to the reading "cold."). I have chapters 3, 8, and 14. (There are five readers including the minister). Chapter 14 is going to be the tough one, both logistically (it contains the Words of Institution and we are doing a communion service, so I have to remember to stop at a couple places to allow things to happen) but also emotionally, because it's the one that contains Jesus' arrest and trial, and Peter's denial, and ends with the cock crowing and Peter weeping. And I can sometimes get caught up in things I'm reading....I felt my throat getting a little tight during the rehearsal last night. I really don't want to start crying because I feel like that would draw attention to me rather than to what I'm reading.

(I don't think I ever mentioned it but in a similar situation not quite ten years ago, I did start crying - it was at either a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service, and I had been asked to pray, and I referenced Jesus' arrest and betrayal and execution, and suddenly it was like the weight of all that hit me, and the idea that it wasn't the Romans or the temple authorities that crucified Him, really, it was all of humanity,  and I just couldn't keep going. It was kind of uncanny because it was one of those sudden onsets of emotion that are so rare for me - I think I can only think of one other time in my life when I was so taken off-guard by my feelings. I started to cry and had a difficult time stopping. I was terribly embarrassed but people understood. Now, granted, there was other stuff happening at that time - the husband of a colleague had just died suddenly, and one of my relatives was going through cancer treatment, and it had been a more difficult semester than this one was. But still. So I'm hoping I can get through the reading tonight okay.)

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