Everything Quiet

21 Jun 2014

I have recently started reading Quiet, a book about introversion. I am an introvert, something that has always been clear to me, and in addition something that I have almost always seen as a positive aspect of my personality. This book in many ways is a defense of introversion against the culture of extroversion that we are constantly inundated with. I am only about a third of the way through the book, but it has been really interesting so far. The most interesting parts have been some of the explanations about how and why we have transformed as a society to value and praise those who are "sociable". I want to reserve most of my thoughts on this subject until I have finished the book, but I thought it would be good to get some of my initial impressions down before they do or don't change as I read the rest of the book.

I think the combination of Asperger's and introversion is probably pretty common, but also is very different than just introversion. The primary difference, at least in my case, is that my view of the world has always been that my personality is the best one, my way of looking at things is somehow the right way, and therefore I see most of my quirks as being positive attributes that give me an advantage in some area. That was mostly my younger self's view of the world, as I no longer strictly see the world revolving around me, but I think it helps explain why my view of introversion has never been negative. Much of this book seems to be justifying introversion to an introverted reader, to make an introvert feel like they are not alone and it is okay to have the feelings they have been trying to keep inside. I have never tried to hide my aversion for continued social engagement. In fact, I have celebrated the fact that I have the ability to be just as happy, if not more so, alone. I saw people who always wanted/needed to be around big groups of people as having a fundamental deficiency. If you aren't at your best alone, then you are forever weighed down by the burden of needing to coordinate and find people to be around. Now this is a simplistic view of the benefits and detriments of the two different personality types, but nonetheless, I have never seen extroversion as the ideal. Hence, the main point of this book is a bit lost on me because it seems to be more for the introvert who feels guilty about their introversion.

Additionally, I have felt comfortable in social situations for a long time now, as I came to terms with the different personality types a long time ago. I am comfortable in social situations because I am fine being alone in a crowded room. I don't need to be constantly pulled in to different conversations, I am fine just existing in my own head even if there are other people around. At different times in my life I have had to deal with people who are uncomfortable with this attitude and like to place some type of label to it, whether that be calling me an asshole, or anti-social, or even claiming that I am uncomfortable or scared of talking to people. I think there is a basic human need to categorize behaviour of people around oneself so as to be able to understand the risk involved in certain situations. This probably stems from a primal urge to know where one fits into the hierarchy around them. You need to know if someone is encroaching on your herd, if you need to prepare to fight someone or if someone does not pose a threat to your position in society. Things have changed, but I think people just need to put a label on people so they feel more comfortable about the various labels they apply to themselves. Thus I have experienced people not understanding the natural calm that an introvert can have simply being quiet and thinking, and therefore you get these weird ideas placed onto you. What follows is usually even more amusing because the introvert usually doesn't really care what people think about them (at least the Asperger introvert doesn't), so there is usually not the type of reaction to this labeling as expected which always leads to more confusion. I have quite literally almost been in fights for just sitting somewhere quietly. Very rare, but some people are just really uncomfortable with people who are comfortable with themselves.

So far this book has been very good at getting me to think more critically about how I view myself within a society dominated by extroversion. One part that I disagree with, I have the impression that the book is trying to say it is okay to just be yourself if you are introverted, but while nice this misses the reality of our society. You have to fake it sometimes because otherwise you won't get what you want. Most people just aren't ready or willing to understand the intricacies of different personality types that can be so far from their own. Sometimes you just have to play along so that they feel comfortable.

History -- 9a9b8cc9