Dear Readers. From the bottom of my heart, I apologize to you for not being prolific recently. [As I write this, tumbleweed rolls across the screen. I couldn’t find a nice royalty-free picture of tumbleweed though, so instead you got this panorama of the Atacama Desert that represents how I am feeling inside right now: dry and empty.]
Anyhow, I’m back and I promise to keep writing stuff. As I’ve just spent two weeks working with kids at a winter equestrian camp, and it’s been a soul-crushing experience I need to recover from, hence today’s topic: introvert’s social hangover.
Normally, I work 8 hours a day and deal with equines all day long. My dealings with humans are limited to my co-workers and my boss, and that is more than enough for me.
Needless to say, I wasn’t happy about the idea of working at the camp, but since it is only two weeks, I thought I could handle that without losing my sanity in the process. Don’t get me wrong. I love people and truly care about them. I have nothing against children. They were normal, well-behaved and quiet girls. But horses don’t demand your attention all the time. This overdosage of pointless human interaction left me overwhelmed, exhausted and emotionally drained.
Social hangover is something extroverts won’t understand. These folks get energized by human presence and attention, and they wither when left all by themselves. The more, the merrier, the better. They crave excitement and need extra stimulation. Extroverts (especially extroverted sensors) rarely listen or think, because they’re busy talking about a newly acquired chandelier, nail polish, or whatever insubstantial comes to their minds. They literally suffer when alone and fear silence.
INFPs are very different creatures. Silence and solitude are our natural habitat. We don’t enjoy socializing for the sake of it. So when INFPs do socialize, we don’t like spreading ourselves thin. There is a short and very exclusive list of people I like being with better than by myself… Those are the people who have the power to drag me out of my black hole just with their silent presence. And they can be counted on fingers of an experienced carpenter. You know what I mean.
Being around humans (other than our tribe) all the time is rather a sophisticated form of torture. Shallow conversations about mundane topics bore us to death. We deeply crave for true connection, and that needs some intimacy and trust, which can only be achieved in one-on-one interactions. That’s when we socially thrive.
Sensitive to the moods and emotions of people around me as INFPs are, with too much social interactions we get easily irritated and overstimulated. INFPs’ energy stores get easily depleted and we need a lot of me-time to recharge.
That’s exactly what happened to me during the equestrian camp. I was to manage and supervise kids while they performed the duties that are usually mine, from early morning until they went to sleep. Every day, all day long. No me-time in between. I couldn’t just say “Hey folks, I’m done peopling today” and go hermit until I recovered from the trauma. Eventually (and not surprisingly, that was pretty soon), endless, repetitive questions about down-to-earth issues I’d rather do myself than explain to others, no room for genuine connection of any kind, and being constantly forced to pretend I am something I’m not left me completely drained and brought the worst out of me.
Under stress, my cuddly-unicorn-pooping-rainbows self goes underground, and my cynical, bitchy and grumpy alter ego re-emerges to the surface. Two weeks is not a life sentence, right? I tried to fight, but my strength and patience lasted only a few hours. I thought I would manage, but my repelling aura didn’t pass unnoticed (how could it?).
I cannot help the feeling that I have failed in some way and let someone down, that there’s something inherently wrong with me. That I don’t belong to this world. Remember the guy from Into The Wild, who moved to the Alaskan wilderness to get away from everyone and this consumerist world? That could be me. Only that I arrived at the same conclusion he did much earlier. “Happiness is only real when shared.” Yes, we do need people – a few humans that truly accept our weirdness and validate our feelings. Without them, even if I had everything I ever wanted, life would be dull.
We dream about the isolation from the world we don’t belong to, and we long for true connection at the same time. Only at first glance, it seems a paradox. Contrary to isolation, a harmful and self-destructive behavior that leads to depression, introvert’s hermit mode is actually an act of self-care and self-compassion.
So when it comes to avoiding social hangover, balance is the key. A healthy dose of solitude should be counterweighted with some social life. The energy spent on human interaction needs to be recharged. Usually, the longer the time spent around people, the more alone time we need to reover. I give myself the right to feel down after “too much peopling”. I just want to be on my own. Breathe. Meditate. Read. Write about it. Watch a movie. Snuggle with Toothless The Cat.
In a world that can’t stop talking, introverts matter, too.