Sometimes solitude runs away with us and becomes unhealthy and unhappy isolation. It can take discipline to break free of inertia. Read More
Sophia, I can totally relate to this! I work from home, and while I really enjoy it, I'm aware of a tendency to get "stuck in my own head" -- especially if it's a week in which I don't have a chance to interact with colleagues or clients.
This week, my spouse is out of town for a few days. I haven't even had the luxury of our usual end-of-the-workday conversation. It's making me a little stir-crazy. Fortunately, I have a meeting tomorrow that'll get me out of the house.
But I struggle with my lack of a social life, outside of Facebook. I don't really like talking on the phone; unless a friend calls me, I rarely initiate contact. I have to push myself to get in touch with people and participate in activities other than work.
I agree. I'm married and work from home. My wife works away from home. The minimal interaction with my co-workers is mostly via chat and an occasional phone call.
I find that discipline in making phone calls is a real help. It gets you in real conversations and also helps to keep you in the loop. People know that you are "around" even if they don't see you much. You'll get those invites from which you like to savor the thought process of choosing which to attend ;-)
I really don't like talking on the phone that much but it is an effective way to throttle solitude before it crosses into isolation.
Socializing for introverts is like going to the gym. We may not look forward to it, can find a million excuses not to, but if we do it end up feeling so much better at the end of the day.
GREAT analogy. One I need to remember...
When I go out socializing out of obligation, I just feel like I've wasted a very good day (especially if it's a day off). If you were a true introvert you'd know better than to generalize like that.
Being an introvert can be challenging and create obstacles in life, but what about the challenges of being an extrovert? An introvert can isolate themselves and cause a type of social phobia, but with extroverts they may get a bit too close (relationship wise) or they may take people off guard. Taking people off guard by being too outgoing; making people feel as if they are being intruded on or just plain uncomfortable. This could also lead to a type of social isolation where people do not really want to interact with you, but they are in turn still considered to be extroverts. In my mind it would seem that a type of social isolation against the individual would make the extrovert carry some introvert qualities, just due to the social isolation. The only difference with this scenario is that with introverts it is the individual against society and with extroverts it could turn into society against the individual. Is it a double edged sword?
This is only effective if your isolation is fairly recent. After a while, when your social circle is well and truly adrift of you it's incredibly difficult to just go phone them up out of the blue.
Worse yet, if you're an introvert, chances are most activities you like doing are solitary ones, so even trying to find social groups is difficult enough.
This is very true.
Add widowed and retired. Trying to adjust to being very much alone (with pets) in the country. It's beautiful and where I want to be, but didn't plan on such isolation. I'm not a total introvert and enjoy getting out, but most things are an hour drive away.
Why doesn't someone write an article telling extroverts to come out of their comfort zone, shut up and listen once in awhile? Yet they go on yapping, all day and forever and no one seems to care. If, after working with people *all day* I want to come home to my cat, my books, internet and TV, it's nobody's business. Most people are overrated anyway...
Ruby, you read my mind!
Ruby, you're one for me! Everything you said!
What happens if you try to engage with the world but everyone constantly ignores you no matter what you do? I can't interact socially to save my life because everyone's too distracted by everyone else.
No one wants to acknowledge the ugly fact that it doesn't matter how much we try engaging the world if it doesn'reciprocate.
I don't have friends, either. Despite my persistant efforts.
For introverts, it takes quite awhile to make friends. Sometimes years. The problem is if you're a military spouse and you never live anywhere long enough to make friends.
Signing up for classes & things you're interested in? It might take MONTHS to find something in your new city. If you're in a small town you might never find anyone with the same interests. I think I was the only parent in our last town who was not involved in the local hockey association. Two moves ago I we were the only family in our area that spoke English.
Phone calls to friends far away are expensive. You no longer belong to their social networks so you fall out of mind very quickly and when you do re-connect you find you no longer have anything in common.
In some ways it is actually easier NOT to make "in person" friends because you're going to move in a few years anyway so what is the point.
I'm not in the military but have had to move around a lot since my mid teens (back in the day when, introvert that I am, I did have something resembling friends and a social life, limited as it may have been) and I agree entirely.
Hi Military Spouse,
I am a respectful extrovert who, if I met you while out shopping for example, would strike up a conversation if I read your body language correctly. I find it nice to have social interaction with someone if we smile at each other. There's no need to tell the story of my life! I ask innocuous questions and keep it simple, if they are the indicators, and often crack a joke. Other people standing in line will sometimes join in too. It's a transient thing and fun. A little humour can do wonders. It's so nice to see people leave with a smile.
I'm aware there are many introverts who feel quite lonely. If people lift their heads and look around, you can meet people's eyes and they will pass the time of day for a little while. Who knows, it can lead to coffee...
Other introverts who may like to engage, don't be frightened that people will pounce and you won't cope. You only have to smile and look or walk away. We get it.
I have many great friends, am not a predator or a 'yapper' and find that previous comment slightly offensive, to be honest.
Having worked in the community for many years, being small and middle aged I feel I am not 'desperate' or threatening. People can sense that a mile off, including me. If you don't want to answer, I'll back off. But I'd also be inclined to give you information about activities in the town (or city) that may be of interest to you if the conversation went in that direction. Ask. Seek info from friendly people.
I am married to an introvert whose personality is diametrically opposite mine:) We have always given each other the space we need to live our lives comfortably. One is not 'better than' the other.
Reading this back, I can see I have used "I" a lot; that does not man I am egoistic - I can only speak from my own perspective.
Vive la difference. All the best.
Not sure it's good to emphasize this given that introverts are viewed negatively in this country. It's true that excessive isolation is bad...but I would think that would be obvious and not necessary to point out. I'm afraid you might be giving people who view introversion negatively additional ammunition.
I really enjoyed this article, and it rings so true for me!
I live on my own, and usually it feels great to come back to silence and quiet after a day at work, but after several weeks of lone weekends as well (I can literally go between 4.30pm Friday to 8am Monday without talking to anyone...), I do miss conversation and some interaction...
I do need to discipline myself more, sort of "one weekend with meeting people for 2 or 3 alone", because I know I will enjoy them in the end.
By the way, does anyone know of a net forum, preferably UK-based, for introverts? Where we can chat about these things with people who feel the same?
It's not exactly a forum or UK based, but there are lots of introverts hanging out on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SophiaDemblingWriter
Thank you so much for this reflection. This resonates very deeply for me. Definitely had (in the words of Oprah) an a-ha moment when I read this. It's encouraging to hear my reality reflected in this way, and to recognize the solution. Much appreciated.
I'm a 50 yo UK male 'innie', I'm divorced and literally have no friends. Sure I have acquaintances and belong to groups outside of work, but 'friends'? All the people I called friends in my teens, 20s or 30s I've lost contact with, are married and/or live miles from me (some overseas) and my only family is now overseas. When my kids aren't with me I can go through a weekend without speaking to a soul so I know all about solitude becoming isolation. I've tried to maintain contact with people through FB and tried organising meeting up, but when people pull out, are too busy or you get no responses from 'friends' what's the point? It's hard enough for an introvert to make true friends, so saying that you have to have discipline to get yourself out there, to me, sounds like the terrible advice you'd get from an extrovert.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much this article helped me... and the comments. Just knowing that I'm not alone. Thank you!
What if you were single with no children, no family, and no close friends? You might actually feel *real* loneliness and despair. It really irritates me to read people's accounts of solitude when they have a strong support system. There are caring people all around you. Some people don't have that luxury. Stop whining.
Just finished reading 'The Introvert's Way' and found it to be almost autobiographical - my own - and not just Ms. Dembling's.
Accurate, with familiar shades of funny & sad my book review. Too, that I enjoy reading less today than younger days, did not put it down until finished.
My sense is non-introverts would not easily be able incorporate the gist gleaned beyond book knowledge...I say this having read some 'extrovert' reviews that seemed to validate said. Good for us, too bad for them (should not wish for our exclusive club to become over-crowded or anything : )
As for this blog's topic 'Solitude and Isolation' - yes please! - at least generally speaking.
Nod Shakespeare, 'to be (with anyone) or not to be (anyone), that is the question'... here's my answer:
I started an 'Introvert's Club' once but (of course) no one showed up. My preference, hindsight; that I did not advertise outside the boundaries my own imagination likely raison. Like feeling the mood for exercise, only to lay down for a bit careful consideration the benefits/drawbacks; discover there is no need, and I am ok again.
'Not', in answer Bill.
Limited internet paper prevents rambling any further, so end with these my own pecadillos:
When I tell some people I am happiest while driving on a two-lane road the middle of nowhere, no traffic preferably, and am totally at peace to the extent feel as if could live there in that moment, forever, happily, curious expressions present. Yet, it's true.
Do you ever find that it is hard to watch credits rolling by very quickly at the end of a tv broadcast, on-screen? I must look away, for if I do not it's almost the same feeling in my stomach riding a roller-coaster (or even a merry-go-round) gives me, the 'I have to sit down now for X minutes and then go home/maybe throw up.
Have also shared with others (who reciprocate their feelings same in the affirmative) that it is often/usually enough to just 'know' a human being is present (i.e., 'hear' them) rather than having to actually see/meet/greet them.
When married (past tense) I would be known to exit the living room and 'hide out' in the back/bedroom until the intruders (say wife's family/friend) departed. Hard on a relationship to be certain, but my point is that for me the mere 'knowledge' that a human being(s) was present sufficed for my own purposes... I had little need most usually to actually interact with anyone other than my (ex)wife.
I guess that's why she's now an ex... it didn't work so well for her, whereas for me (nod the tv detective 'Hunter' and his catch phrase/line, "works for me."
Thank for this blog and your book(s), Ms. Dembling.
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Sophia Dembling is a widely published Dallas, Texas-based writer. Her latest book is The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World.
When and how should we open up to loved ones?