The Ambiversion Dilemma (Alternatively: Am I Bi?)

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Just recently, a very good friend of mine posted a quick blurb about how hard it is being an ambivert.

And my head blew up. “Ambivert? What?! How have I not heard of this?”

Being the knowledge junkie that I am, I was immediately plunged into several weeks of deliriously delicious research, scouring every source I could find on the subject, covering both the reputable, and… well, shall we say the “less so” ones. The search took me so deep into the sea of modern research, speculation, and theorems, that I thought I might never emerge. But the after three days and three nights in the dark bowels of the ocean, the whale of newfound information threw me up on the beach of reality, with this unfortunate duty made firm: I have to argue that there is no such thing as ambiversion.

Please forgive me! Don’t stop reading! Don’t throw your tablet out the window! (It’s, like, really expensive!)

Please know that I am not dismissing the idea, and with it the strong feelings of my good friend and her compatriots, without a great deal of emotional duress. Still, in the murky waters that are behavioral science, it would appear there is a more accurate, and really, beneficial understanding of what these persons are experiencing.

Ambivert
noun,  
1. a state intermediate between extroversion and introversion.

Seems simple, right? It is the idea that there is a third trait in between the commonly known extroversion/introversion traits. A type of person that is neither one nor the other, but is in fact both. Most people who identify as ambiverts state that they need alone time to recharge, but really long to be around people to be happy, although there are some who feel the inverse too. (Recharging with people, but only being happy alone.) And, since, as we all know, introverts are quiet, timid little people, and extroverts are outgoing, never stopping, energy machines, these people must be a new type.

Except they aren’t.

What most people don’t realize is that the extroversion/introversion scale is, like nearly everything else in psychology, ridiculously complex. When Jung coined the terms introvert and extrovert in his work Psychologische Typen, he did not typecast introverts as mice and extroverts as lions, but rather described the process of energy expenditure and rejuvenation in different types of people.

Fast forward nearly a hundred years, and many of us (me included) are still over simplifying the scale. We see our social preferences as linear, like this:

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Truth is, there is very little about us that is linear. And when it comes to something as complex as socialization, simplifying our personality to a mere A or B question is going too far. Really, a closer model would look like this:

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I know. Gregarious Introverts?! Shy Extroverts?! Heresy!

Yet, it’s true. The traits that make us outgoing or shy (self esteem, self image, education, love of people) really have little to do with our socialization preferences (method of energy recuperation).

So, while some of individuals may identify as absolute extroverts (gregarious extrovert), or absolute introverts (shy introvert), many, many others fall into what might be argued to be the more balanced medium: what they might think of as ambiversion, but what is really just an outgoing introvert, or a shy extrovert at various levels. This too, explains the indifference of many people to the E/I scale in the first place, while we absolutes find it the most incredible bit of information we have ever found.

TO BE CONTINUED…

What are your thoughts? How do you identify? Talk to us in the comments section below!

Why Do Introverts Enjoy Watching People (Alternatively: Is People Watching an Olympic Sport?)

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It can be the most blissful of afternoons for an observationally inclined introvert: Sitting quietly in a crowded mall, bus stop, pier, or store, watching people as they swarm in every which direction, ebbing and flowing with the twisting tides of the ever ticking clock.

But wait. Isn’t that contradictory?

Why is it that introverts, who are otherwise world-renowned for avoiding gathering places of humanity, often find pleasure in observing such said places? Can it be that we secretly, deeply, primally long to be part of the world which is so intrinsically extroverted?

LOL. Nope.

To understand, one really needs look no further than the nature of human interaction itself. To truly thrive as a human, we have a basic desire to socialize – that is, to be with other people of like mindset and personality, and to communicate, one being to another. I often refer to this basic human desire as social need, and it is true no matter your orientation, introvert or extrovert. Extroverts, however, are able to fill this need quite easily, as they, by nature, seek out, and benefit from, interaction at any and all points. The result is that extroverts exert a form of coagulation in people, resulting in the basic “group” that introverts often struggle feeling left out of. Some researchers believe this might be why young introverts often struggle with depression more often than their extroverted compatriots.

Still, a healthy, adult introvert is usually aware that being part of the group is often worse than being left out. So why, precisely, are we so commonly found gaping from the sidelines?

Let’s examine a couple reasons.

Introverts still have a social need. And while this need is often filled by actual social interaction, this is costly. And so, being the spendthrifts we are, letting other people do the socializing, and simply allowing ourselves to graze on the energy is enjoyable. Really, it is a symbiotic relationship only interrupted by the occasional well-meaning extrovert who tries to “help” us join the group.

Introverts tend toward introspection. Though the level of introspection we allow ourselves varies introvert to introvert, most of us spend quite a chunk of our time thinking about the world, rather than acting out in it. Observing other people in social action allows us time to consider our actions versus the actions of those we see, and therefore, in a way, to be able to see the potential results of our life decisions (past, present, and future) acted out in front of our own eyes.

People are entertaining.  Introverts often find extroverted people quite amusing. Their actions, reactions, and everyday activities are so similar, yet so foreign to the world an introvert knows and loves, that they often find the real life activities of strangers to play out similar to a comedy of errors. Inversely, they are often quite bewitched by watching other introverts, once again veering to the previous point.

It is a state of rest.  Most importantly, tucked away in a crowded space, an introvert finds refuge and rest. Much like sitting on a covered porch and watching a thunderstorm roar past, they find a quiet place to do some thinking in amongst the chaos of the day to day.

Did we miss something? Have a story or experience? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!

5 Recharging Activities Every Introvert Should Try

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It was quiet in the house. Eerily so. For the first time this week, there was no company present, nor imminent. For a second, I just stopped, and sinking into the plush pillows of the sectional couch, found myself staring at the empty room with a profound sense of relief.

It’s not that I had hated the flurry of social activities this past week had presented; I actually had set up most the appointments, and had enjoyed them each in their own rights. (Yes  *gasp!* introverts do like social activities sometimes.) But now, with all people packed up, left, done and past, I found a headache, dull, at the back of my skull. There was that familiar sense of unease, my brain’s plea for respite, dare I exhaust my energies entirely, and risk a hangover. I needed a recharge.

As familiar as introverts are with the need to be anti-social from time to time, we also find ourselves quite often unsure what, exactly, to do to get away. All too often, I have found myself wasting an evening away thinking that I was getting a recharge, when, in fact, I wasn’t. Some activities, such as watching a movie, or playing a game, can offer a cheap fix for the moment, but in the end, are little more than a distraction. To truly recharge, an introvert needs to get away from high levels of sensory input.

Thankfully, doing so is not too difficult, with a little practice. Here are five tried-and-true recharging methods:

Books

Reading is not everyone’s cup of tea. (Come to think of it, tea is not my cup of tea. Where did that saying come from anyway?) But for those who find themselves at rest in a library, there are few activities quite as rewarding as losing oneself to the weathered pages of an age-old story. Although your head may be aflame in the story, the world around you is at rest, giving your mind and body the chance to reset, and rebuild.

A few tips from the seasoned rechargers:

  1. A tablet is nice, sure, but nothing compares to the feel of paper. Find a real book if you can. As a bonus, you wont be interrupted with notifications.
  2. Turn your cellphone, computer, and other noise makers to silent. No, not vibrate, silent. Make sure interruptions are kept to a minimum for a full recharge.
  3. If you find yourself getting bored, skip through to a better section. Not everyone enjoys the minute details, it’s okay to not read them.
  4. When you find an author you like, stick with them. Even if you have to pay a bit more money than you’d like for another of their books, it’s worth it in the end.
Introspection

When the house is already quiet, there is no better time for letting the mind wander. Whether you like structured thought or whimsical fancy, let your mind at it. You’ll be surprised at the places you can go!

A few tips from the seasoned rechargers:

  1. Mindless activities are perfect for letting your brain wander. Crocheting, solitare, or even dishes and laundry all can keep your body busy while your brain is off on vacation.
  2. Again, no noises! Turn off the ringer on your phone and other devices. Just one interuption can rip you from far off places back to the present.
  3. Have kids at home? A relaxing video game (think Open Ocean, Animal Crossing, etc.) can allow you to zone out while still playing with your little bundles of joy. (Or whatever else you may call them.)
Music

Very few activities can release the range and complexity of emotion that music can. Find a style you like on Pandora or Slacker, and let the computer choose the songs. Invent a new dance, play the air guitar, drum on the table, cry your eyes out, or sing along. What you do is none of anyone else’s business. Being real and being yourself will let your mind decompress like few other things can.

A few tips from the seasoned rechargers:

  1. Don’t be afraid of volume. The goal here is to drown out the world. Turn it up!
  2. One second your screaming your lungs out to AC-DC, the next your balling to some stupid Back Street Boyz song. Don’t try to control it. Just go with it, it’s the only way you’ll get some rest.
Nature

We big city people. We no need nature.

Yeah, right. When it comes down to it, our “civilized” world is failing us. Stress levels are through the roof for everyone, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. So step out of it. Get out in the fresh air. There really is nothing better.

A few tips from the seasoned rechargers:

  1. Bring along sunscreen/bug repelant/coats/blankets, etc. Nothing fun about being sick in bed the next day.
  2. It doesn’t take much to make a picnic out of it. Forget the big lunch, and grab a loaf of bread and some lunch meat. Being away from people is the big thing.
  3. Duck ponds are awesome. Seriously, you gotta try it. If you find one, mark it on the map, and go back regularly. (Just one note, take along a bag of corn, lettuce, oats, or seed, but try to avoid feeding the birds bread. They will love you eternally.)
Art

Artistic abilities be darned, get out pen and paper, yarn and darning needles, or your fourth grade harmonica, and make some art. Simple projects, like cutting pictures out of a magazine, can be every bit as much fun as something more time (and budget) consuming, such as scrapbooking. The big thing is to explore your creativity.

A few tips from seasoned rechargers:

  1. Try to keep it simple. You are going to have more fun making paper snowflakes than re-painting your livingroom.
  2. In this case, the recharge comes from the process, not the end result. Even if you end up throwing your creation away at the end of the day, you will have succeeded in getting some well-needed relaxation.
  3. Check out the dollar store. Seriously. You’ll find hundreds of projects for pennies on the dollar.

Stay tuned for next week, when we’ll publish five more of our favorite recharging activities. In the mean time, any additional tips on these five? Any activities you’d like to see added to our list? Let us know in the comments!

A Beginner’s Guide to The Social Hangover

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The day was passing slowly – too slowly – each second oozing by with the slow, sticky pace of honey sliding down the side of a glass bowl. The same honey-drenched bowl I seemed to be stuck in, sounds muffled, vision blurred, movement hampered.

Well, it wasn’t really that bad.

But from my perspective, information was simply coming in too quickly to be processed, tasks too numerous to be completed, and people too draining to be considered. What really was another day, exactly like every other at the office was quickly turning into one giant thunderstorm of a mess. And as the pressure in the back of my skull kept building, the headache growing stronger, I found myself blank staring at the clock, wishing I had just called in sick.

No, it wasn’t alcohol. Nothing that fun.

A social hangover, is – at its simplest – a form of exhaustion. Introverts, as a general rule, have a set amount of social energy, which builds up during alone time (pets, books, television, and certain good friends excluded), and is expended when engaging socially with other people. The rate at which this energy dissipates varies drastically based on the type of social interaction, the personal preferences of the introvert in question, and is a subject for another day. Suffice it to say that this energy is much like a phone battery. As long as it stays above, say 15%, the world will never know that we are tired.

Then there is that day.

You know. The one where you thoughtlessly booked one too many social activities, and you find yourself in bed, cursing the alarm clock, knowing that you do not have the social energy you so desperately need to get through. The day where you hit 15% at noon, and start loosing the ability to have any form of meaningful interaction with people by two in the afternoon. By the time you get home, and collapse against the deadbolted door behind you, you feel nothing.

Oh, it’s just getting started.

The thing most of us introverts take for granted is the aftereffects of a dead social battery. You know how you are never supposed to let your phone die completely? And, if you do, getting the thing back alive and charging takes little less than a presidential mandate? The same is true with your social energy. Once it hits 0%, your are dead wasted drunk, and you are going to pay for it tomorrow, and likely for a couple days after that too.

What gives?

Let’s talk a bit about the introvert’s power grid. All healthy humans have some (even if only a miniscule) need for interaction. For this discussion, we will refer to these as our social needs. Deprived of this base human desire, we will go full stark, raving, lunatic, mad. So in order to fulfill this need, and therefore avoid insanity, we have social energy. Extroverts have it easy. As they fulfill their social needs, they gain social energy, resulting in a high that they often find intoxicating, making social interaction a form of drug. Highly addictive, highly sought after. Introverts, on the other hand, almost always find themselves incapable of gaining energy from socialization. (There are exceptions to this, and we will discuss those soon.) Instead, to fill their social needs, they have to expend social energy, resulting in a tired state that they find vexing, making social interaction difficult. Very expensive, to be avoided if possible.

Hold on, we’re getting to the point.

 Normally, an introvert can afford to expend a small amount of social energy, and thereby refill their social needs. They stay healthy, happy, and avoid becoming a lunatic. But when an introvert is compelled to go beyond simply filling their social needs, and especially when they must completely exhaust their social energy, the status quo is broken. They are no longer healthy or happy, and they begin slipping towards a depressed state.

So, just refill your social energy!

It’s that simple, right? Wrong. For many introverts, refilling social energy requires considerable (read: ponderous, massive, extensive, etc.) alone time. This can take on many forms, such as introspection, extrospection, quiet time, time with family, time with pets, movies, music, or even time to write, as well as many, many more activities. Once again, we will discuss this further at a future time. However, thanks to our rapidly devolving, and massively extrovert-centered society, time is not often a luxury we possess. This leads many introverts into devouring the quiet, dark hours of the night, when the world is naturally more suited to introverted lifestyle, sacrificing sleep. And as the nighttime hours are sopped up by our hour-hungry social energy, our total energy begins to fade. Now we are tired, as well as unhealthy, unhappy, and possibly depressed.

This is the social hangover.

What is the solution? As with avoiding all types of hangovers: know your limits. Learn to say no, or be honest, and call in sick. (If you were coming down with a cold, you would. A hangover can be worse.) Sometimes it is better to have a few peeved friends, a inconvenienced boss, or a missed party, than a pissed introvert.