This Blog Is About

This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Take a Look


Circumspect, thoughtful, and reserved might be other words to describe what might usually be called "shy" as in a shy person or shy behavior.

A surprisingly high number of people would, if honest, describe themselves as shy. Certainly many of us feel shy at times. In the Western Culture this is usually experienced as problematic. Why is that?
Partly because we are a culture that values extroversion. If you are invited to a party and you don't want to go, it requires that you have an excuse. The best excuse is another social event that you are already obligated to.
The common question preluding an invitation, "What are you doing Friday?" feels a little uncomfortable. If you don't have something already scheduled, are you going to be suddenly stuck doing something you don't want to do? What if you wanted to spend Friday puttering around in your yard and relaxing alone in the evening? Might be difficult to say that to someone who is asking for your company. If you say you choose to spend that time alone rather than with this friend or friends, they might be insulted.

There are cultures that value introversion--some Eastern Cultures, for example. I once saw a Japanese documentary about a woman who was a cancer patient. The doctors in the hospital where she was being cared for had to hold a big meeting about her. She was causing a problem: She was going around the hospital, engaging other patients in conversations. Worse yet, she was sharing her diagnosis and her experience with it and asking the other patients what they were hospitalized for, how they were feeling and so forth.
It occurred to me that in America, this story would be the exact opposite.
We do seem to consider an ill person quietly spending time alone as isolating themselves. A person alone, for example, dining out alone, can be cause for concern.

Carl Jung, one of our wonderful theorists in psychology coined these terms, introversion and extroversion,which are now in common usage. But, they have taken on a flavor which he did not intend. To describe someone as an extrovert is usually complimentary and introversion is often equated with depression. Actually, what these terms refer to is how an individual is stimulated and relaxed. Introverts receive much stimulation from inside. That is, they can be excited, interested, entertained by their own thoughts and solo activities. It is relaxing for an introverted type to have time to themselves. Extroverts get restless with too much time alone and thrive on outside stimulation from other people or exciting events. Their thinking is stimulated by others and they enjoy solving problems with others. Relaxation for an extrovert is a party.
It would be a mistake to assume that introverts are always quiet; an introverted person can have excellent social skills. One misconception is that extroverts are always noisy or talkative or just out-there. However, there are all kinds of extroverts, including Reticent Extroverts. They still prefer the outside stimulation but may be shy.

Many ideas have been written about how to combat shyness; they are probably well-known to you, the reader (such as, make the other person talk about themselves or, if you have to do a presentation, imagine everyone in the audience in their underwear, etc.). Of course, these notions pre-suppose that shyness is viewed as a problem.
As the human genome continues to be researched and understood, we will undoubtedly find some combinations of genes that create a predilection for shyness. Hopefully, we will move toward realizing that this is just a variation of part of a personality type. It's not bad or good. It's one way to be. That's all.
My thought is, if you feel shy, don't let it stop you from doing what you want to do. Just do it in a shy way. A shy person in our sometimes frenetic social world can be refreshing. Shyness can be charming. Shy people balance flaming socialites.
We need both in the world, the warmth of the socially comfortable and the calm of the quietly shy.

When I began graduate school,it was some years after I had finished college. I felt very unsure about whether or not I would be able to succeed. When I began, I found myself in small seminar settings where class discussion was an expectation. At first, I couldn't participate. My silence made me more and more uncomfortable. So, I had to deal with my shyness. I decided finally, that at the next class I went to and every new class I took, I would say something, anything, right away. It worked. It 'broke the ice' for me. However, my voice was quiet and I certainly was not entertaining or dominating. In other words, I did it in a shy way.
Carl Jung thought that we came into the world with these tendencies, toward extroversion or introversion and that we were roughly divided by half and half. He presented these two ways of being as natural and equal.
Do you know a shy person who brings value into your life?

A Suggestion:

In Berkeley, California there is a place called the Center for the Development of Peace and Well-Being. Their very worthwhile publication is titled, Greater Good. You might like to visit their website. It is:
My opinion: This is a non-moralistic, scientific, compassionate effort to make a positive contribution.
These people are on a quest for kindness and on a mission to figure out how we can all be better-ourselves and, to one another.
The genuine article.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Geography of Your Friendships

"A man's growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends."  Ralph Waldo Emerson
 Each of your relationships has a different degree of importance to you. Some may be almost equal, some may be quite different and yet, still, both valuable. An interesting exercise is to create a diagram of you in your relationships: You do this by drawing on a piece of paper concentric circles with a space in-between each circle, like a target. In the center circle goes your name. In the space between the line surrounding your name and the next circle goes the people closest to you in your life---your 'inner-circle'. The next person or people can go on the next line or in the next section. Some lines may have more than one name on them, and the circle design allows for that. As you continue, you will eventually get to those on the outermost circle who would be called acquaintances.
This is about the relationships; the question to ask yourself to determine who goes where is: How important is this relationship to me? Of course, you must listen to your true inner response for this diagram to be useful. Some of your answers will be obvious, some may surprise you.
When you finish, you will have a sort of map of yourself in relationship to others at this moment in time. Of course this picture evolves over time, for all of us. Or, once you have the picture, you may have some thoughts about purposely changing how this is working in your life.

It seems that we have a choice about whom we allow into our life or, if that doesn't seem to be completely the case for you, at least, there is always a choice about the degree of importance that you, yourself, assign to any particular relationship. It is my contention that we ought to seek out and nurture relationships with others who are encouraging to us, who, perhaps embody a quality that we find lacking in ourselves, or who in some way represent a positive force in our own life experience.
Have you ever lost a friend because one of you moved or some other happenstance occurred, and, surprisingly, found life was better without that individual's presence? Or that you felt relieved? Sometimes we fall into relationships out of convenience or propinquity or because that person pursued us. It is interesting to note when that happens.

Psychological theory tells us, however, that most of the time, we will naturally choose friends or become close with relatives, or partner in our work lives with others, who are functioning at about our own developmental level. We are usually attracted to people who are our equals and relationships with others who are more 'needy' or more defensive fall away naturally. But it is possible to do this with awareness.

As a child, if you were fortunate enough to have thoughtful parents, they did this for you. Most parents encourage their kids to be pals with other children whom they deem to be a 'good influence'. Part of being an adult is to be a good parent to yourself.
Wouldn't it be self-loving to seek out others who raise our spirits? Or who challenge us intellectually or athletically? Or who seem to draw the best out in us? It may sound too calculating to have your thinking cap on when you are making decisions about friends. But, I think that this process is going on anyway. Why not do it consciously?

Did you do this exercise?  Let us know what you found out.