introversion and emotional currency
Imagine your emotional reserve is money, in an internal piggy bank. Being introverted means any interaction costs you something, and draws from this bank. How much it costs depends on how introverted you are, and the particular situation.
I was trying to explain this to my extroverted brother. Fortunately, spending time with him, his girlfriend, or a few other close friends, is neutral - it costs nothing.
People who I like, that are extroverted and/or loud, cost money. People I don't like cost more. Being polite, holding back what I'm really thinking, costs money. Social situations - all of them, including ones I love, like church - cost money. Talking to people I don't know costs money. Making small talk (a broad category which includes topics I don't care about, things I think are stupid, or the truly banal. WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THE WEATHER AGAIN IT RAINS IT SNOWS IT GETS COLD IT GETS HOT SUN COMES UP SUN GOES DOWN SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME HAVEN'T WE EXHAUSTED THIS) costs money.
What doesn't cost money? Serious, thoughtful discussion about topics that matter. Being listened to, and then, in turn, listening to someone else. The liturgical part of church actually puts money back in. Alone time is imperative. I get desperate for it. I can be doing things, yard projects, cleaning, cooking - but I have to have this time to process everything else that's happened. Maybe some introverts like surprises. They make me panic. When you're put on the spot, there's no chance to process.
I've gained the unfortunate reputation of shooting so straight some people are afraid to talk to me. "You're so harsh!", folks tell me. Yes. Sorry. I'm cutting you off because I have only pocket change left by Friday nights, my work week has cost me almost everything, and I can't risk going out and talking to anyone, because then I will be bankrupt for church.
It's not agoraphobia, I'm not afraid to leave the house, I want to stay there because it's quiet and controllable. The chance of music playing that I hate is fairly low. I can invite people that I like into this environment, and we can talk about things that matter. It took me years to realize that the reason conversations frequently lag is that I was failing to ask the questions back. If someone asks "what do you do?" I will politely tell them. And then I forget to ask what they do BECAUSE I DON'T CARE. This makes it hard to make new friends, let alone date. It's almost like we have to have a pre-existing relationship in order to make the small-talk that helps build relationships. Sigh. On the bright side: if you make it through my defensive layer, I will be the most loyal friend you've ever had. Your chances of making it through, though, are not great.
I'm an INFJ. There are a lot of articles about "us". There aren't many OF us. I know a couple others. For me, being this way means I have to be careful about who I talk to, and about what, because I absorb their emotions. Their problems literally become mine. This costs a LOT of money, and yet they in essence get a free counseling session. Therefore, this is a service I can only afford to provide to people who are close to me. Yes, to a certain extent, if we're close, I know what you'll say before you say it, I know what you need before you ask for it. If you tell me your problems, it's likely I do know a good way to fix them, or I'll be able to tell you something you hadn't considered about the situation. This is empathy, but beyond the ordinary definition. The corresponding spiritual gift is discernment of spirits. I don't use this to play the lottery, I do use it when I enter a room. I've learned the hard way that if I have a bad feeling about a person, a situation, a place, an event, to pay attention. This isn't superstition, and nor is it a party trick. The Quakers refer to this feeling as a "stop", the Plymouth Brethren I grew up with would have called it a "check in the spirit".
My crazy doctor jestingly referred to me once as "the sin-eater". The stress I feel, both personal and transferred, contorts my neck, back, and ribs so severely, I have to get a chiropractic adjustment weekly. People I've never met start confessing things to me. It's been like this since I was a kid. They make a comment about my face looking trustworthy, and then I'm hearing about their third divorce, or why they felt justified cheating on their taxes. I cannot give these people advice or counsel, because I cannot compartmentalize their stories in a way that would enable me to walk away without being affected.
I'm not telling you that all INFJs are like this. If there's one thing we hate, it's being branded the same as everyone or anyone else. Nor are all introverts alike. If you're extroverted, be aware of the feelings of the introverts around you. Go easy, don't push, we'll love you for it. If you're introverted, build in your alone time, and fight to preserve it. We need this alone time as much as extroverts need to be around others.