Monday, February 06, 2012

Meet Angsty McBroodypants, Highly Sensitive Introverted Dweller-on-Things

One of the traits of being an introvert is a tendency to dwell on things. We mull over things and will angst about things we say or do for quite some time, where an extravert would've shrugged it off - if they even noticed at all - ages ago. If you're not only an introvert but also a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), it's like brooding but turned up to eleven. That's when a fairly positive trait turns into something you'd rather kick yourself about sometimes.

A HSP can probably worry about things for years. When I was about ten or eleven, we saw a musical in Stockholm. Afterwards, when the audience gave the performers standing ovations, I kept seated, as I was holding a bunch of stuff that would otherwise have fallen to the floor and got lost. I tried standing up, but standing up and clapping didn't really work. This still bothers me, twenty bloody years later. What if I offended them for not standing up after such a great performance? I meant to stand up, really! I meant no disrespect! And the thing is, I doubt any one of the performers even noticed me sitting there, in a dark, crowded theatre, and even if they did, they would've forgotten about it as soon as they left the stage. Yet it still bothers me. Not on a daily basis, but from time to time.

If you take other things, day-to-day life for instance, it might not be something dwelled upon for years, but at least months. Made a joke some time last year, or before that, which was more of an observational in-joke with Darling Husband, and when said to people outside ... well, it's less observational comedy and, hrm, a lot more prejudiced. It wasn't meant as something actually nasty, but it didn't quite work as a lighthearted observation outside the home. Do I worry about if they now think I was being serious when it was just a little joke that really didn't pan out? You betcha. (It was an observation about the night shift at Asda. The joke writes itself, right? ...Right?)

You can also be let loose on things which you know definitely caused a problem, at least at the time. These things are actually seriously worrisome, especially if I'm left to brood about them by doing something that doesn't require writing or reading. Put that smartphone game in my hands and I'll go over the scenario again and again and again and again, ad nauseam:

Did she really get offended? It wasn't meant to be offensive, but she sounded like she got offended, maybe even hurt. That wasn't the intention. Well, if she can't handle a simple comment then it's her problem! But what if she hates me now? I don't want that, she's one of my dearest friends, like a sister to me, I don't want her to be angry. Is she angry? Should I apologise? Sod apologising! Why should I apologise for her misunderstanding?! Aww crap, I feel terrible about this. Will she even speak to me? Should I just go back and forget it ever happened? She's probably forgotten about it now and I'm just dwelling on this unnecessarily again. But what if she hasn't? I wasn't angry at all, even if it came across that way because I couldn't stay and explain. I didn't leave because I was pissed off, I left because dinner was ready and I had to put the computer down and set the table. Surely she can understand that?

You get the idea.

No wonder we get easily overwhelmed and exhausted, if that's the sort of stuff that keeps going through our heads every time there's even a hint of an incident. It sucks. If it was easy to let things go, it would be a lot better. Sometimes I envy extraverts, because at least they'll get on with things, as far as I know, and only stop and dwell on things if they really need to. Not dwell on everything because they can't bloody help themselves and then really have to force themselves to tell their inner voice, let's call it Angsty McBroodypants, to stfu and let you get on with your life like a normal person.

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