I screwed up every single social interaction this year. Why? Because I’m socially awkward, no news here.
But there’s much more to it.
I’m a Myer’s Briggs INFP. For the uninitiated, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator is a leading psychometric personality assessment. I consider it to be the corporate equivalent of astrology. Much like the 12 astral signs, Myers Briggs divides people in 16 possible types based on their personality traits. I was tested by Myers Briggs practitioners in the States but you can find free tests throughout the web.
My INFP type stands for Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Feeler (F) and Perceiver (P).
INFP personalities are much better at writing than speaking. That’s why I began writing several years ago. Because if I were to meet you for coffee I’d be crap at talking about anything worthwhile.
When I come face to face with people, a number of blundering things will usually happen. Oftentimes I get bored and screw-up by becoming restless, losing focus and not contributing anything useful.
If I cannot leave the meeting (which was often the case when I worked for large corporations) then I resort to binge eating, goofing off, or when I can’t do any of the above, I compulsively find ways to piss people off with sarcastic or silly remarks.
Other times I’m tired. Fatigued. If you’ve talked to me after a yoga class you know what I mean. The first thing that shuts down when I’m exhausted is social skills. They are like a foreign language to me. When I’m physically drained I can’t speak them well. Sometimes I’m nervous. You can tell I’m nervous when my body looks like Boris Karloff and my face like Edvard Munch’s Scream. The fake smile adorning all this, adds a touch of comic tragedy.
I read a well-written piece recently about what happens when you cast Lindsay Lohan in your movie. The author talks about Lohan’s pathological fear of being alone. That, he says, explains why she parties and drinks every night, missing her morning shoots. People feed her, they give her energy. The epitome of an extrovert perhaps?
In my case, people drain me. That’s why I began to write several years ago. I finally discovered a way to confer what is in my head, without too much social interaction.
See, there’s nothing worse than feeling misunderstood. Most violence (psychological or physical) is committed by people with suppressed creativity and general inability to express their inner world. From aggressive children to belligerent adults alike, it all stems from the same burning human necessity.
Violent perpetrators have often talked about needing to make their victims truly understand what’s inside their head, and pointed to that need as a driving force behind their violent deeds.
When I screw up my social encounters or when I feel lonely, then I need to sit and write it all down. Express it. Flush it out. While writing, there is no one around to convince, impress, annoy or disappoint. It’s all quiet. In time, during this sacred solitude, various stars begin to align and the right conditions emerge. Defenses subside.
Truth oozes out and pours on paper.
On the other hand, verbal communication (aka talking, chatting, debating, arguing and so on) takes place in an entirely different realm. It happens in real-time and it’s fast. Reflexes—auditory and visual—are set in motion. Alertness levels rise to anticipate and respond.
And while those brain functions consume my grey matter, truth takes a back seat.
That’s why I take refuge in writing. Writing soothes my intellect. I organize, tidy-up and express my thoughts before they become stale and clog my brain. I let them go before they get stiff and toxic.
Then I need to get back to my neglected yoga practice. Yoga fixes the plumbing underneath. Sweat sweeps karmic junk out of my body, breath after breath, asana after asana.
Those cleansing activities are all the more crucial now, since I recently quit antidepressants and coffee.
I’ve been on SSRI’s for three years. Coffee for 14 years. I yearned to wean myself off of what I saw as two burdensome addictions. And to give myself a fair chance, I left home for a few months. I completed a month-long yoga teacher training in the UK and then traveled to Tokyo, Kyoto and then New York for more Yoga.
And here I am back to London now. No longer having those crutches to pick me up throughout the day, my social screw-ups tend to leave much deeper cuts than they used to.
Hence the aching need to resume my practice of writing and yoga. Practicing them together, with sincere and daily discipline, fills me up with visceral contentment. I feel like I’m doing something with my days. I’m achieving. It’s beautiful and it gives me peace.
What’s your medicine? Do you do enough of it every single day?
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Ed: Apprentice Livesay/ Lynn Hasselberger
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