Hello, ZU. Last night, I returned from a three-week program for high-schoolers at a special needs---wee, brain stuff!---college in Vermont. All of the students there (myself included, of course) had at least some sort if learning difference. From 2004-2010, I attended a special needs sleepaway camp each summer. The kids at the camp tended to be lower-functioning than the students at the program I attended this summer, and I easily got along with and was even easily liked by most of them. Not the case at the high school program from which I have now returned.
But let's back up for a second. Here is a fact that you probably would not have guessed from my posts and presence here on ZU: I am an introvert. No, that is not the whole story. I am what I like to call an extreme introvert. I actively try to avoid direct contact with people on a regular basis. Even being in others' presence can become physically draining after some time (depending on how many people there are and who the people are). And yes, I do mean literally that being around other people may exhaust me, regardless of whether or not I am even talking/listening to them. Group and partner activities in classes are torturous for me---I also simply work better alone. I grow tired of interactions with friends after a few hours at a time, too.
Okay, back to the high school program. So the program was set up so that there were specific boundaries beyond which the high school students were not allowed to go. During non-class times, we were barred from going to about three-fourths of the campus. So we were all essentially confined to this small area (all 147 of us or something like that). Because I had a roommate (who also seemed somewhat introverted), there was basically nowhere for me to be alone. (It got to the point at which, on the 13th, I had an actual nervous episode.)
In addition, I never made any actual friends. Nobody to vent to. The staff members were mostly unhelpful, some of them even coming off as cold and impolite (especially, disturbingly, some of the program administrators). And the worst part? I identified the vicious cycle that I am going through.
The vicious cycle is this: I am very introverted, and so I isolate myself from others, but because I isolate myself from others, it is harder for me to make friends and harder for me to feel appreciated by others. And because of this, I feel little or no connection to others, so I isolate myself from them.
Now, I have always been...proud, I suppose, of my introversion. I have always been this way (although I used to be less introverted). I don't feel that it is necessary that I change it, at least not much. However, this vicious cycle is part of what made the past three weeks so miserable for me.
Are there any other so-called "extreme introverts" here on ZU? If so, how do you overcome the challenges that this trait brings you? Any general advice from anyone?
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Hm, I'm in the same situation as you (there are other reasons as to why I'm caught in the cycle, but they'd take forever to list, as I'm sure you have others too).
I think when faced with a social situation, the best thing to do is distance yourself from the crowd entirely. Search for the kids who seem like you could become friends with whether they're the quiet type (I'd go with this one when faced with a time limit like three weeks just because they're probably in the same boat as you) that seem nice enough or the person who's clearly friendly. Then, socialize with them and hopefully something will become of it. Honestly, it doesn't always work, but I have made nearly all of my closest friends throughout life using that method. So I'd use that for any time you're faced with a social situation and just need a friend.
As for the problem of actually getting closer to people after the initial friendship is made, I can't really give any advice. I'd say I only have about four friends in real life who I actually care deeply about, and I've made all of them using the method above. After the initial bonding, we just became close mainly in school and the internet over a period of time. So I guess just work on it, and when it seems like you've made a genuine connection with someone and want to take it above a 'normal' friend, occasionally force yourself to socialize with them when they *need* to talk/make sure you don't make it a 'this relationship exists for the benefit of me alone' by only talking to them when it's convenient for you. Eventually, it'll progress to the point where you'll want to talk to them anyways, I'd imagine. I can't say using it will make you many friends, and to an extent, I do wish I could break the cycle for some other people that I think I could become friends with too. Hopefully this all made sense.
I am completely uninteresting. I've been doing nothing with my life for as long as I remember, and that's not a metaphor or a hyperbole. I literally do nothing with my life except for go to school when I need to (which just makes things worse during the summer holidays when I have no school).
This has a "snowball" effect on the rest of my life. Doing nothing makes me uninteresting. Being uninteresting makes it harder for me to make/retain friends IRL. Difficulty in making/retaining friends plays havoc on my self-esteem and self-motivational skills. Having few friends and no self-motivational skills leads to me doing nothing, etc.
I definitely understand the idea of a vicious cycle of self-isolation. You have my support, brotha.
It's strange. For the last few weeks, a close friend of mine has been telling me advice that goes along the lines of "just force yourself to do stuff and meet people". My brain agrees, but my body doesn't want to. Is this similar to what you've been going through?
I'm pretty much in the same boat, so I wish I could offer advise, but I can't.
I isolate myself from people because, I'll be honest - I'm not fond of people. The people I have come to grow fond of, I've either lost contact with, or they went away, or any number of things. It seems every person I grow to like IRL ends up leaving. So I've pretty much given up. I don't see the point of socializing, making friends, etc, when I run the risk of separating from them, one way or another, down the road. I don't want to become attached to someone just for them to leave, like everyone else. I have no friends IRL. I don't even have anyone I talk to IRL, besides my family, and my views on my family are not flattering ones.
I wish I could say "just force yourself to talk to someone, about anything! Just walk up and introduce yourself!" But that's not as easy as it sounds. I admire anyone who can do that, because I've never been able to. But, small steps count. The next time you go somewhere, make a point of at least saying hello and making small-talk with someone, anyone. You never know, they could end up being your best friend later! If not, well, no harm done, right? What's the worse that can happen? If it doesn't work out, just say "It was nice talking to you, but..." and go on with your life. Try again.
Hi, Ezlo. I am actually pretty introverted myself. I have developed a more social side, but as you say, it's usually very draining. No matter how much energy I have beforehand, it drains the F outta me and can even lead to a headache.
I guess it stems from a lack of trust in other people. For me it's like deep down I'm thinking "I don't trust these people" yet I still socialize with them because it's "good for you" and all that. But it's not always good for you if you don't trust them. Unless of course you learn to trust people better I guess.
Where I was raised, in this suburb, ya learn to be wary of people, atleast I did. Plenty of people here can be pretty nasty and have no life so they cause misery to those who do.
What do I do to be more social? I do spontaneous stuff usually with someone I've known for a longer time. Like, I just randomly call them and say hey, let's do <insert something>. Usually it's an old friend that I can trust to some degree.
I guess trusting others and trusting yourself makes it easier to socialize, so perhaps you could work on that. or atleast think about it
I can imagine having spent time with untrustworthy people in one's life can lead to a sort of shutdown, as an attempt to shut out the unpleasant people. And then I guess it becomes a reflex/defense mechanism that sticks with you even when it's not needed.
I'm an "extreme introvert" as well. I also feel like social interaction is draining, including talking to others and pretending like I'm interested in what they have to say or what they're feeling. I prefer to be alone, and it's been that way for a while. I've gone out of my way to avoid interaction, even lying or ignoring people.
My ability to connect to others has just been getting harder and harder. Understanding emotions has gotten harder too. I've seen people cry in front of me and all I could do was stare blankly at that person.