I am an introvert. This is what I have told myself and everyone for a long time.
In this "long time," I have lived a very split life, one in which the divide between my inner world and “everything else out there” (there's so much of it) has been especially unmistakable. While this existence might have been based in an intention of self-preservation that was applicable in my youth, to continue living this way now will only hinder my expansion. Of this I am certain.
What does this mean for my introversion?
AM I REALLY AN INTROVERT or DID I JUST BECOME ONE TO FEEL SAFE???
What am I hiding from?
So, what was such a threat to you, Bard? You grew up in a middle class household. Your father always had a good income and was never drunk. And he even gave you regular physical affection and told you he loved you. Moreover, you were moralized by the Christian church. You got braces and went to university. You had access to regular health and dental care. Just like so many American white men from your generation, you had plenty, if not too much, to eat, among other opportunities...
The list goes on and on and on. Indeed, in so many ways I have been blessed with a great abundance. I have been protected and cared for, and I am grateful for this.
And, yet, I - I - have been under threat.
While I was given so much, and cared for lovingly and affectionately in ways many children might only see on TV, I was never asked what I wanted.
No one ever came to me first before "submerging" me in a component of their preconceived structure. It's bath time! No ifs ands or buts, mister! (The spell of naivety is an enduring but mutable human legacy.)
Just a Child! Ha!
Ah! But you were just a child! Children don’t really get to choose because they are too naive to understand the true consequences of their actions.
Does this mean that children are incapable of knowing what they want until they are told? This would certainly imply that humans themselves derive their desires from their conditioning, that, without being given options, they would not be able to choose.
While it is true that conditioning comes from an obvious need to give a framework for expressing and acting in a world where ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, this does not mean that, once the child has adopted the framework and can express itself, that such expression should continue being discounted. It does not mean that the child should live under the threat of the mandating Dichotomy: do this or there will be grave consequences.
In fact, a very different type of conditioning could (okay, should) be implemented: coaching the child to express itself in a way that allows it to interface with its reality as an equal, not just as a subordinate.
This is what my introversion was. Incessant subordination. Secrecy. Shame. Self-sabotage. Wishing for more freedom. Ignorance that I was responsible for my own freedom, and so, copious amounts of anger and resentment towards those I believed to be the keepers of the key to all that I am...
...or could be.
You think I just sat around and took it, though? Nope! I would be happy, one way or another. I started getting in trouble for my efforts to find joy on my own terms. Because I was not conscious about what was really going on, it felt like I was getting in trouble for wanting to be happy. It's not like my parents or teachers were really trying to figure me out. It only got worse when, at the age of eleven (1994), my mom committed suicide. This gave every adult that knew about it an easy way out: "oh, he has just been so troubled since his mother passed." So glad your sympathy left me a little wiggle room.
Whatever it was they told themselves in order to justify continuing their agenda for "rearing" me, I did not stop wanting to derive genuine satisfaction from life, and I was willing to risk even greater and greater punishment to continue experiencing it.
Some kids in these situations lash out and become violent, sometimes going as far to end up in lock-down of some sort. This is where what I might call my natural tendency for introversion (before it was corrupted by Control) might have actually served me: instead of getting myself in the kind of lock-down situation that would really reduce my options for experiencing joy, I just learned how to become very quiet and secretive.
I became invisible. First to my parents and teachers - they were the most looming and vigilant authority - then, as time went on and the behavior became natural, to darn near everyone else.
It was imperative that they know as little as possible about me. The less they knew, the less they could suspect. All they needed to see was that I was a good student, I appeared to follow the rules without causing much trouble, that I was eating my vegetables, saying yes sir, yes ma’am, please and thank you, praying before bed, and washing my hands before meals. Sure they knew some other things. They knew the cartoons and video games I liked. They knew that I sometimes punched my little brother, or that I was curious about fire. They knew I loved playing in the woods. And they knew I was pretty apathetic about organized sports and church.
But they signed me up for football, basketball, and baseball every year. Church every Sunday. No joke.
More than they knew me, they knew what was good for me. They knew so well that they didn’t bother asking me. They just made the decisions and I did it. None of the decisions they believed to be for my own good brought me much joy. Or, rather, my joy was secondary (and self-generated), especially if it went against their BELIEFS. Most of the time, everything I wanted was like some kind of excess, some luxury that only came on very special occasions. Wow, I used to love Christmas for this reason.
They wanted so many good things for me. They wanted me to be well-rounded with strong morals and a healthy body. And they didn’t want me to go to hell. They wanted me to get good grades. They wanted me to do what it took to be successful. Surely it would make them feel good about themselves if they succeeded. The pressure was on!
But I was "too young" to be able to allot for their intentions. (And even then, their good intentions still paved the road to my own personal hell.) All I knew was the world was full of people who seem to have no intention of doing anything for me with the TRUE me in mind.
And I was not happy. (Surprise!)
And, yet, I was happy. I was happy when the adults were not around. I was happy when I was in my room and they couldn't see me. I was happy when I was so far in the woods I could imagine I was on my own and never coming back. Most of all, I was happy when I knew that I was - at least in the moment of execution - getting away with doing something that defied "the rules" as I understood them.
This last kind of freedom was the greatest of all, because it gave me the illusion that I was not only winning, but outsmarting them. It became transcendental bliss to break the rules, so much so that more and more of my joy started being derived from THIS and not (always) from doing what I really wanted. I barely knew what I wanted anyways, since the only time I was asked was when we were at the ice cream shop (You've earned it!), or around Christmas. I guess I thought people only wanted food and things, based on what I was allowed to want.
Living a (secret) life in defiance of those who try to shape your entire existence comes with a special price.
The farther you go, the more effort you must devote making sure you cover your tracks and get your story straight. The "story of you" you tell "the world out there" (whether or not that world actually is "unconcerned with you," or you just assume so) becomes not about who you are, but about who you aren’t. What do you not want them to know? Paranoia grows with time, and the monumental (emphasis on the mental) nature of the work is so overwhelming you resort to broad generalizations to save energy.
One very helpful generalization I used was in my application of distrust.
It became my standard that everyone was guilty until or unless proven innocent. There was me, then there was everyone else. There was my private life, and the life I wanted to show everyone else to keep them from even thinking about telling me how to live.
And the more I became used to operating in this way, the more unconscious and automatic it was. Really, it was always unconscious, as, at the time (I imagine) it was adopted, I could only perceive the Dichotomy that produces such overt self-protection: either this or that; there is no other way. The reaction was expressed through me without me having to plot anything out. It was just an organic development and incorporated itself into my being and became “normal.”
This was the true root of my "introversion," and it is why I have spent the last fifteen years actively trying to make some changes.
Because the isolation...
Imagine, if you haven’t experienced this, wanting so bad to connect with all the world by showing it how wonderful you are and reaping the joys of mutual adoration as you equally celebrate the wonders of it, yet finding yourself incapable of achieving this because there are these embedded unconscious mechanisms that keep “causing” you to sabotage yourself over and over and over again. It is a problem that is almost everywhere and all you want to do is strategize your way into extrication and (yet) every approach you take is always and only an almost. Ugh!
There has been a part of me that "knew" it was safer to withhold than to risk rejection. The problem was, I still experienced rejection by people who could not understand why I was so "distant."
I am sure the experience is much like being born paralyzed in some parallel world where medical science has figured out how to cure ALL paralysis...except that to do so requires not so much a mending of neural networks and the subsequent stimulation to activate them, but being able to perceive hidden (non-physical) mechanisms that are (as if from some other dimension) preventing the mending of these networks. Each combination of hidden mechanisms is different for each “patient,” and is based on their own life story. So the process discovering and deconstructing them is very time consuming and requires the patient to do far more work than the doctor. In fact, the doctor can only provide vague suggestions that are meant to trigger Remembering in the patient, who then must proceed to mend the networks themselves with tools they are expected to design and produce from their interior, since no one else is qualified to do so.
It's not just the human condition. There's vested interest in programming the labyrinth of Control. But it's not inescapable.
The True Light
Indeed. I have, for as long as I can remember, wanted to be a master at connecting with others not only because I was sick of the awkwardness, but because, in spite of this awkwardness, I couldn't help but fantasize that such connection is the pinnacle of human experience. It has been how I envisage enlightenment.
Relatively speaking, I have only just begun to experience a life in which seeing and being with others energizes and empowers me.
But, again, it was NOT because "the doctor" finally figured out how to fix me.
No one did anything for me.* It happened because I started learning to trust before I was given any reason to do so, so to speak. I have had to learn how to trust even after all the times I have experienced betrayal and abandon (often by people who did not understand the me that I did not share with them).
I have, in essence, had to learn to see my life for the thing that it really is outside these wounding incidents and take a greater responsibility for my Eternal Nature. I have had to envision my Highest Self and act as if It is real until its realness finally became apparent to me.
I am the bubble, and I am the sea.
Yeah! It's that simple! Ha!
No, okay, so...
Merging with the World and Letting Go
...To get to the point, no amount of blame is going to heal us. No matter how loud we scream at the ghost-memories of those that participated in our wounding (intentional or not), they will only stop haunting us when we take responsibility and change our mindset.
If you suspect your Intro-version is a version much like my own, and you are just dying to get out there and be awesome with and for the world, it starts with Forgiveness. Forgiveness by understanding. By forgiving, we transmute pain into wisdom. We find in pain the gift it has come to bestow upon us. We find this gift by holding the following assumption: that it is always there if we are willing to accept it.
This way, we allow ourselves the blessing of being able to see beyond blame.
Forgiveness is the gateway to Trust. It is the gateway to knowing when we can really trust, and to having the discernment to trust instead of just unconsciously responding to everything as if it is guilty until proven innocent.
When we relax the gripping and guarding that accompanies this unconscious self-protection, all of our dreams come true. We don’t even have to blame our parents or teachers for messing us up. We won’t want to if we have really come to wholeness because we will see and know/feel just how to appreciate what they have taught us.
If we, as a collective, don't want to repeat this behavioral Cycle for raising the next generation, a New Paradigm must be adopted. In this New Paradigm, children, being given opportunity to determine their destiny, grow up with a strong sense of self, and so, an accurate internal guidance. They know what they want and are celebrated for living a life that honors that. Their hearts are opened by the assurance that they are supported in their path to self-realization. And what a relief it will be for parents and teachers to not have to deal with maintaining the grip of Control they've kept for so long, trying to get it all right.
In Forgiveness I am given access to the present in all its fullness. I see at once I have every reason to be happy just as I am, and the joy is let loose as all restriction dissolves. This way, introvert or not, the world finally gets all of me.
Straight from the Heart.
Stay tuned for part two of this article, where I will elaborate on the benefits of operating from Trust.
*This is true beyond the metaphorical meaning. Most people knew so little about me that they never even had the chance to deny me help. This really has been a solo journey for a long time. That said, the more I have opened up and accepted help from others in recent years, the more accelerated has been my spiritual/personal growth.
Copyright © 2018
Greetings! I am Svarupa Bard. I love to write about things I find meaningful and important, things such as dissolving conflict, self-acceptance and knowledge, and yoga and meditation. I have written two novels, a collection of short stories, and tons of essays. In 2014 I moved from the USA to Chiang Mai, Thailand where I now live full time. I have done, and am doing, the work to take responsibility for my life and make it the best I can. I know I am not the only human who wishes for this kind of life, so I wish to share what I learn with others. I love you!
Copyright © 2018