Saturday, November 2, 2013

Introvert Self Abuse

While not all of my readers may view this space as a platform for psychology theories and discussion, I believe that in a way it is. I do primarily write about games and music here, but I feel that both of those media - games especially - are bound very closely to psychology. So I am officially opening the content on this blog up to some of my musings about the human mind and various behaviors I have either come across or studied. Today, the topic is a theory of mine about introverts who engage in self abuse through extroverted behavior.

Aside: I shouldn't have to have the disclaimer that this is just speculation for the interesting thought of it. There is probably merit to what is written here, but I have not done enough research and experimentation to back these ideas up as guaranteed reality.

Since I am theoretically writing for a wide audience, I think I should clarify what exactly I mean by "introvert." Introverted personality tendencies enable a person to restore themself by spending time alone or with very close friends. These sessions of restoration are usually not physically active, and may include meditative introspection, artistic creation, and typical forms of entertainment (like that one person who will never go see a movie with you, but will watch the same movie alone, or the one who always sits alone in their room reading a book while you're out partying). On the other hand, extroverted personality tendencies enable a person to restore themself through other people. These sessions may include various forms of socialization, communal entertainment (like that one person who always talks over the movie you're watching, or the one who keeps trying to get you to let them into your movie times), games that involve participation of multiple people, and big ceremonies or events.

According to someone I have a lot of respect for (who may or may not be myself), introverted tendencies are inversely proportional to extroverted tendencies. This does not mean that the variance is 1 to 1, or that these tendencies cannot change over time. A 40% extrovert can be a 80% introvert, or a 50 % extrovert can be a 40% introvert. It merely means that more prominent extroverted tendencies mean less prominent introverted tendencies, and vice versa. Introversion and extroversion have nothing to do with shyness.

So now that we have that out of the way, we can move on the the concept of self abuse. For the purposes of this discourse we shall be using self mutilation -specifically of the superficial cutting type- as part of a parallel. In this case, one who becomes addicted (or forms a compulsion) to cutting themself does not engage in the act for the act itself. They do it because of its effects. They may not even like the shock, the pain, the expression, or the blood (even though self mutilation victims have cited these, and they are valid parts of the motivation). By the time the compulsion or addiction has formed, the victim has not only tuned in to the dissociation (A psychological defense mechanism in which specific, anxiety-provoking thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations are separated from the rest of the psyche) or... resociation (whatever the opposite of dissociation is), but tuned in to the state of light shock that the body goes into. This shock includes the rush of energy, the release of pain relievers, and even the stimulation (direct or indirect) of the pleasure part of the lymbic system as a counteraction to the pain/trauma.

In a similar way, an introvert can stand up in a crowd of sitting people and intentionally give a boisterous address, throwing them into a state of panic. As in self cutting, an introvert can inflict something that is negative overall on themself because they want the side effects that the resulting panic brings.

Just like a self cutting victim may do it partially because it helps them to dissociate, extreme extroverted behavior may force an introvert to dissociate due either to fear of expending all of their energy or actual sudden loss of much of it. Have you ever heard the advice given an introvert or shy person to "Just pretend they're all in their underwear," or, "Just act like you're not in front of a crowd?" These pieces of advice endorse the kind of controlled dissociation that is considered beneficial by many, but I posit that when put  through situations like this the results for an extreme introvert can border on full derealization or depersonalization because of a defense mechanism similar to (or the same mechanism) that which is related to physical trauma. And in the same way that the body can release adrenaline when cut by a self abuser, the mind and or body can get a similar "rush" from a similar mechanism when suddenly forced into a social situation that is very negative or "dangerous."

Of course, there are many more similarities. Self mutilation victims sometimes do it because they've shut themselves off from feeling and the cutting is enough to make them feel something again, like how an introvert who has dissociated from social situations can engage in extreme extroverted behavior to force themselves to pay attention to one and thus feel like they're connected to the environment and or the people there. A self mutilation victim may do it because they want to be the one in control of when they're traumatized, and cutting themself is a choice they make, thereby asserting their control, much like an introvert who engages in socially detrimental acts of extreme extroversion to put themself in control of their social exposure. A self mutilation victim may do it because they need something urgent to concentrate on to distract them from something they don't want to think about or feel, much like how an introvert may act so extroverted in order to force their mind and feelings away from more disturbing issues. The list goes on, but I will stop here so that we can move to the next topic.

Perhaps I have shown the connection I believe to exist rather well, but that connection brings up an interesting problem. All observation indicates that when a person immerses themself in extroverted or introverted situations for an extended period of time, their tendencies sway in the direction of whichever they are immersed in. First they stop losing energy in those situations, and then they eventually begin to gain energy in those situations. The human body can become accustomed to various levels of trauma and require more extreme action to bring about the same panic (which is why so many self mutilation cases end in such an ugly way), but the mind adapts much more quickly to panic level extroverted situations than the body does to such invasive trauma, and the upper level of extroverted situations tends to be reached relatively early on in these cases. That means that in order for this connection to be useful the introvert in question must be a very strong introvert (so that these actions are sufficiently traumatic or panic inducing), have minimal extroverted tendencies, probably also be extremely shy, and have some kind of recovery period between outbursts that may lead to an identifiable cycle. Additionally, people tend to find self mutilation much more disturbing for some reason. I don't cease to be amused by the fact that everyone can tell there is something wrong with someone who intentionally hurts their body, but they openly endorse intentional wounding of the mind.

So that's it. The application of this article is more than just that you should think about a bunch of interesting things though. You will hopefully see how people should be more open to some introverted or shy people's refusal to use certain popular coping techniques or enter certain situations, and you will hopefully be more open to the idea that mental self harm -not only of this particular type- can be every bit as wrong and or serious as physical self harm.

I would like to conclude with a quote from someone I was in communication with. My interaction with her triggered the creation of this article, even though I'd been kicking this idea around in my head for awhile. (I can't tell you who she is. Patient confidentiality and all that... even though she wasn't my patient and I'm not a registered-SHUT UP) She was a recovering self mutilation victim who had started out with the same type of introvert self abuse explored in this article before she turned to self physical abuse. When refusing to enter an extroverted situation and confronted with an example of a different introvert who had already done so in a very boisterous manner, she said "I'm not doing that. I used to do that, but it's just too much like cutting yourself."


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