- Are you very self-aware?
- Are you thoughtful?
- Do you enjoy understanding details?
- Are you interested in self-knowledge and self-understanding?
- Do you tend to keep your emotions private?
- Are you quiet and reserved around large groups or unfamiliar people?
- Are you more sociable and gregarious around people you know well?
- Do you learn well through observation?
How was it to read through these questions? Did you answer “yes” to any of them? Or were they all “no’s”? Most people answer with combinations of yesses and no’s – most of us are a rich patchwork of public and private space, places where we want to be accompanied, and places where we prefer a lot of choice and room to breathe. Most of us are both introverts and extraverts, depending on the situation and our energy levels. At the same time, there tends to be a dividing line that is helpful to acknowledge: the question of whether we receive our energy from being with others, or if we recharge our batteries by being alone.
Since we tend to build our internal ideas about other people based on what it is like to be us, combined with feedback we receive from them, the more we can name our own experience and acknowledge that it may be different from other people’s experience, the more accurate our predictions and understandings of others will be. With something as basic as the question of where we receive our energy, if we don’t allow ourselves to apprehend that everyone is a little different, our misunderstandings of others can be profound.
This basic misapprehension is the foundation of many arguments between couples, where they will blame one another for “being a stick in the mud,“ (being introverted), or for “paying more attention to other people than they pay to us” (being extraverted). This is also the basis for much of the panic that parents feel about their children, for example “not being focused” (being extraverted) or “not being social” (being introverted.) My family is a primary example of these intergenerational, alternating layers of panic and blame, and as I have been researching this article, I started to realize that it is one of the roots of my terror as a mom – the experience of my child being different from me.
(It’s odd to write “my child” as there is a retroactive understanding about my son Benjamin here as well – this weekend was the 2nd anniversary of his death from PTSD and alcoholism at the age of 33. It feels good in this moment to include him.)
As I have gradually let this information inform me, I find new relaxation and understanding around my child’s strategies for survival and success, new levels of warm curiosity, and a lot more openness, which is a sweet surprise, as I need as much support for openness as I can get.